Knee High By The Fourth of July: Making Summer Productive

By Dick Loizeaux 

Growing up on a dairy farm, I never wondered why school let out for the summer. I knew why. I had to work. I had to work hard cultivating, harvesting, and storing the hay and corn.  You see, harvesting is time sensitive.  If the hay or corn is harvested too early you reduce the volume, the quantity of the harvest. If it is harvested too late you lose the nutrients, the quality of the harvest. If the corn isn’t “Knee high by the 4th of July” you won’t get a good corn harvest. Because harvesting is time sensitive, we didn’t get a summer vacation from work. We just switched from school work to field work.

The same is true of ministry. Spiritual harvesting is time sensitive. In the summer, even if some ministries take time off, pastors who want a harvest don’t work less, they just switch to a different kind of work. There are three kinds of summer work to consider if you want to maximize the harvest of your church: Reach farther, Dig deeper, and Plan smarter.

Reach Farther: Plan a Fall Growth Thrust. A “Back to School” outreach emphasis. If you missed Gary Rohrmayer’s article in the last Converge MidAmerica newsletter, you can find out everything you need to know about planning and implementing a growth thrust by clicking here.  A well executed growth thrust can bring a good harvest this fall.

Dig Deeper: Many pastors scramble week by week to find the time they need to create quality sermons. The demands of urgent work crowds out the important work of sermon preparation. The solution? A Summer Study Break. Take a week or ten days to do nothing but sermon research --pouring over the texts, letting God speak to you. Then mine the commentaries or other pastors’ sermons. Finally, let all that input percolate in your soul until the main teaching points become clear, and possible outlines and illustrations come to mind. Stop there. Then, the week you are to deliver the sermon, all you have to do is fine tune the outline possibilities, dump in your research content, and select your illustrations and applications. Because you shifted some of the sermon preparation back to the summer, the quality of your sermons will be higher, and your workload a little more balanced.

I personally found that when I also used the study break to “dig deeper” in my devotional and prayer life, it not only recharged my spiritual batteries, it also had a powerful effect on my sermons. God used the things I was learning in my devotional life to inform and shape my sermons, giving them a greater spiritual depth, and more personal illustrations. A larger part of my sermons came straight from the heart as a “Here is what God just taught me from this passage…” quality. Digging deeper in summer can bring a harvest of transformational teaching for the fall.

Plan Smarter: We all know that summer is the time to plan out the next ministry year (or years). The smarter we plan, the better the harvest. Smart plans are simple plans. Why? Because simple plans are more likely to be understood by the congregation and executed by the staff. May I recommend a simple approach? Take the time to identify two things: the one factor you think is most holding your church back, and the one opportunity most likely to have significant spiritual impact toward achieving your vision. Once you have identified those two things, share them with a small group of advisors. It may be your board, your personal dream team, your staff, or your Spiritual Health Team. See if they agree on the core issues. Invite them into developing a plan to fix the problem and to seize the opportunity in the next ministry year. So focus on just two things. Keep it simple.

That is why May is a great time to take the NCD (Natural Church Development) survey. It not only identifies your “Minimum Factor” to fix, but also your highest factor you can leverage in order to seize the opportunity. And if you work NCD regularly you may already have a Spiritual Health Team in place to help you plan and execute.

So this summer, for a good harvest next ministry year, reach farther, dig deeper, and plan smarter.

You say “But Dick, I missed the ‘Knee high by 4th of July’ date. It is too late.” No it isn’t. Let me ask you: Which one of those three things (reach, dig, or plan) can have the greatest impact on your church? Then choose that one thing. Make it a priority. Rearrange your August schedule to make it happen. As any farmer will tell you, a small harvest, or a late harvest, is better than no harvest. Maybe instead of “Knee high by the 4th of July” this year you should say “One Top Thing Before School Begins.”






Evangelism, Outreach, Sermons, Dick Loizeaux