Churches stay busy during summer

June 11, 2004|HERB BROCK

There's an old saying often related by pastors when the summer months come along on church calendars. It goes something like this: "Christ doesn't take off summers, so why should Christians?"

Well, the reality of the matter is that a lot of Christians do take summer vacations and also tone down their church attendance in June, July and at least the first part of August. The summer break especially applies to those families with school-age children and the people who teach them as well.

Many churches that have at least two Sunday services from September to May go to one service in June, July and August. Also, several churches may suspend or streamline their education programs for children and adults on Sundays and during the middle of the week.

But despite offering scaled-back calendars for the summer months, churches aren't closing their doors. In other words, there is more to summer church calendars than Vacation Bible Schools, although they are important programs.


Activities include youth camps and mission trips

In a survey of area churches, ministers mentioned a variety of programs, from recreational and educational youth camps to mission trips to programs for seniors to projects for members of all ages.

"It is true that we tone down some of our regular activities, but we also crank up others," said the Rev. Keith Stillwell, minister of education at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church in Danville.

In addition to the VBS that the church puts on every summer, Lexington Avenue Baptist offers several camps, including one that features swimming, Stillwell said.

A staple of the church's summer activities - and one also on the summer calendars of a lot of other Kentucky Baptist churches - is a trip to Cedarmore, a youth camp that mixes recreation and religious education, he said.

"We also arrange for mission trips, and they often include children, youth and adults," Stillwell said. An example is a trip in late June to Owsley County, he said.

Camps and mission trips also highlight the summer calendar at Cornerstone Assembly of God in Danville, according to the Rev. Tom Lane.

"While a lot of churches may trim down their service and Sunday school programs during the summer, we keep our regular service and Sunday school schedule," Lane said. "In addition, we have youth camps and kid camps and several other programs to occupy our young people, plus a few programs for adults," said Lane. "We want to make sure our people have church-related options during the summer months."

Parishioners exercise family-related options

Lane realizes a lot of parishioners exercise family-related options during the summer.

"Our attendance does go down in June, July and the first part of August, until school starts," he said. "This is mainly due to the fact that we are a young church with a lot of families with fairly young parents and young kids.

"Because we are a young church, that means a lot of our members go on trips to visit grandma in the summer months. And while we want as many of our folks in the pews and in our programs and camps here, we appreciate and we totally support our members visiting their families."

For the Rev. Ronnie Ping, minister of missions at Southside Christian Church in Harrodsburg, the summer months are a busy time of the year. He spends much of the regular church year organizing mission trips and other activities for parishioners of all ages for the summer.

"Overall, we do take a break from our normal activities and programs in the fall, winter and spring, but that doesn't mean we totally shut down in the summer," Ping said.

"In addition to putting on our annual VBS program, we offer a lot of important educational, recreational and religious opportunities for our members."

Those opportunities this summer include a youth mission trip to the impoverished barrios of East Los Angeles and a trip by a work team to the Dominican Republican, whose collapsing economy is making jobs and food scarce.

In addition, more than 150 youths and 20 adults will go to a major denominational youth conference, and a large number of young people will attend Camp Calvary, a denominational youth camp in western Kentucky, said Ping.

"Attendance is down some, and we don't have the full range of services, programs and activities that go on during fall and winter, but it's not like churches take off summer. I know we don't."

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