Eddie Cochran belted out the memorable lyric in 1958, “There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues!” Summer presents unique challenges to the preacher. The calendar is ruled by the school year and summer is the time for vacations, weekends at the lake, and a less structured approach to time. Church attendance can take a major hit. We don’t want to let the Summertime Blues get us down. How can we keep people engaged in worship? Well, besides teaching the fundamental Christian commitment to worshiping the Lord on the Lord’s Day, we can utilize a little creativity from the pulpit.
A great summer series idea is “Hot Topics.” I have to give credit to my preacher friend, Dr. David Calhoun (now teaching at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky) for the idea. Hot Topics come from the congregation. What would they like to hear addressed? About what subject are they curious? What’s burning in their hearts and minds?
I elicit responses by announcing the concept of Hot Topics and placing cards in the bulletins for folks to write their questions or subjects and place in the offering plate and including an article in our e-newsletter with a link to my email. This works great, plus it’s amazing to see what’s on people’s minds. It’s enlightening to read the things that have been grabbing their attention and potentially causing them anxiety.
I’ve done this little experiment before in earlier pastoral appointment and it’s interesting to look back over what was on hearts and minds in 2004: the war in Iraq and the “DaVinci Code” were big topics back then. This time around the cultural debate on gay marriage and the presidential election are weighing on people’s minds. Talk about hot topics!
Serious Reflection on Real Issues
This gives the preacher pause to reflect, pray, and think about what does God really want me to say to my congregation on these important issues? How can I handle them with grace and sensitivity to the diverse group of people who will gather on Sunday to worship Jesus Christ? Is it possible to speak the truth in love concerning difficult subjects that divide people, even people in the pews?
Hot Topics must be handled with kid gloves and not tossed away too quickly like hot potatoes. Our sisters and brothers in Christ have real concerns that we may not be excited about addressing, but in humility and with solid study and compassionate language we can help people hear and experience God’s grace.
There are always too many topics to address in a given series like this or subjects that simply won’t work in a sermon or aren’t as relevant to a large percentage of the congregation. This is where the blog comes in. I will use my blog to speak to the issues I don’t get to in the pulpit. This helps ensure all concerns are addressed and everyone is heard.
This year’s topics include: homosexuality, which of the Ten Commandments are important today, the Revelation of John, the Problem of Evil, Marriage, Religion & Politics, Roman Catholics & Methodists, and the Fruit of the Spirit.
Give it a spin in your context. There may be some overlap, or you may be dealing with a whole different set of issues. Whichever it is, your people will be more engaged this summer and you might not have as bad a case of the Summertime Blues.