“Summer” for churches is over

Debbie and I have learned a lot about growing vegetables this year.  We learned that mulch under your raised beds acts like a big sponge and makes the beds too wet.  But, we also learned when you remove the mulch and create drainage that the beds return to a productive, healthy state.  We learned not to fertilize beans because you get more vine than beans.
We also learned that plants start to play out as the season progresses.  Tomatoes get smaller, insect attacks increase, and the general quality of the veggies is not as good as the first harvests.  I think we picked the last of the tomatoes last week.  We pulled up some plants a couple of weeks ago, and the rest will go this week.  We also learned that voles like potatoes, especially russets, and that they will chew on as many potatoes as possible, without actually eating a whole one.  We lost most of the russets that way.  But apparently voles don’t like red potatoes because they didn’t eat the Cranberry potatoes.  Or maybe the voles had so many russets to eat they didn’t make it to the red potatoes.  But, either way, we harvested some late red potatoes that are delicious.
The garden looks pretty sad right now.  All the lush cucumber, watermelon, and cantaloupe vines are gone. The sugar snap peas gave out long ago.  The remaining tomato plants are stalky and almost leaf-bare.  The bean vines are drying up, and the compost heap has grown dramatically.  To look at it, you might think that the garden was dead.
But it’s just the end of a season.  We have already received our lettuce and celery seeds, plus we’ll plant more spinach, too.  As you know, these cool weather crops don’t like the July and August heat.  But, this fall, if all goes well, we’ll have fresh salads again.  Plus, the freezer we bought this year is over half full of frozen tomatoes waiting to be made into soup and sauces; frozen apples that we bought locally; frozen blueberries picked in July; some beans from the garden; and, frozen peaches.
My point in all this is that seasons bring changes to gardens and churches.  What works in the garden in the summer doesn’t work in the fall and winter.  Experienced gardeners know that and adapt.  Experienced church leaders do the same.  Our culture is changing, and so must our churches.  Church attendance nationwide has fallen from about 40% of the population to only 17.5% on any Sunday.  “Regular church attendance” is now considered to be 3-out-of-8 Sundays. Older adults are more likely to attend church than younger adults.  And the list of changes goes on.
We can bemoan the fact that it isn’t “summer” for churches anymore.  But, like the garden, that won’t do us much good.  Instead we can figure out what will “grow” in this new environment we find ourselves in.  Like our experience in the garden this summer, we’re still learning.  Some things will work and others will not.  But churches, like gardeners, are optimists.  We believe that next year will be better.

5 thoughts on ““Summer” for churches is over”

  1. Statistics are good as is the comparison to gardens.
    What I don’t see is practical advice…what will grow in this enviroment???

  2. Chuck, since scripture often refers to God as a farmer, gardener, vinedresser, and to us, his people, as a sacred planting, I wonder why we are so surprised when God prunes us? I believe that God is doing some big-time pruning to the church in North America and Europe. It’s not fun now, but for those who trust him, it will lead to new life, new growth and new fruitfulness. Beautiful small gardens on God’s big estate will bring forth fruit, thirty and sixty, and a hundredfold. It just might not look like what we expect.
    Blessings, Mary Todd in NC

  3. Greetings from the Glenwood Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. I enjoyed the thought-provoking “Summer is Over for Churches” and found its message very poignant (as did several others, I see). Our church in North Carolina is a small congregation struggling with some of the same types of issues that I see described on your blog. Now, as part of a promotion of our church’s new website among our own membership, and as a means to encourage our folks to explore the informative, instructional, and motivational posts readily found on other church blogs, we have linked our church website to yours, and here I’ve taken the liberty of “bribing” certain of our members in the direction of this particular article by depositing a special “mystery clue” that they happen to be searching for as part of a Glenwood activity this month. That clue follows:

    “Cobwebs glisten in the morning.”

    Okay, Glenwood, you found it. Consider posting a word of thanks, or apology, for our intrusion onto Chatham Baptist’s site. And be certain to ponder the message of “Summer for Churches is Over” (consider its relevance to our church) and then explore some of the other great articles and posts found here at “Confessions of a Small Church Pastor.” You are encouraged to return to this site often, and to pass along the bits of wisdom and truth that you may find posted here.

    Pastor Warnock, wishing your membership all the best, I am

    Very truly yours,

    Kevin Smith / Instigator at Large at the Glenwood Presbyterian Church (an unofficial position)

  4. Kevin,
    Thanks! I’ve visited your site before, too, and find what you guys are doing to be really encouraging. We’re only about 65 miles from Greensboro, and get down that way several times a year. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the link. -Chuck

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