31 Summer Worship Ideas to Level-Up Your Ministry (Part 1)

31 Summer Worship Ideas to Level-Up Your Ministry
(Part 1)

June + July + August x Worship Ministry = 😞

Leading a worship ministry in the summer is like driving a car with only three wheels.

Or trying to win a 100-yard dash wearing wingtips (or high-heel pumps).

Or trying to FaceTime someone with dial-up internet.

When it comes to summer worship ministry, you’re probably fighting a battle on three fronts:

The first battlefront is your team.

They’re tied up with all sorts of stuff:

  • Summer Sports
  • Weekend getaways
  • Vacations
  • Family reunions
  • Home improvement projects

And like most people, your team members probably have the desire to slow down the pace of life after the hectic school-year months.

The second battlefront is your congregation.

They have all the same stuff going on as your team. But to make it more frustrating, many of your congregation think nothing of disappearing for most of the summer.

The third battlefront is you.

That is, you, your family, and your leadership.

In the summer, you have to plan worship around a diminished team, while leading a diminished congregation. That can become discouraging.

And just like everyone else, you’d like to slow your pace, go on a vacation, and have a Sunday or two away. Not to mention that your kids are out of school, and your spouse is probably wishing you could be home more.

Oh, and two more things:

  1. The fall ministry kick-off is only thirteen weeks away and you need to be ready for that.
  2. Christmas planning will ramp up shortly after that.

You want to be able to go into the autumn months strong, right? So how do you get there…

  • without burning out, and…
  • with all the challenges of summer worship ministry stacked against you?

That’s what this 3-part article series is here for.

You’re going to get thirty-one summer worship ideas to help you…

  • Embrace and overcome the limitations of summer ministry…
  • AND continue to build your worship ministry…
  • AND give you and your team the rest you all need.

Now, you won’t (and probably shouldn’t) do all thirty-one of these ideas. But pick a combination of at least six or seven to implement or try.

Also, with each idea, I’m going to designate them with one or more of these four topic tags:

  • Rest & Restoration
  • Ministry Growth
  • Future Prep
  • Embracing Summer Limitations

Here’s the first 10:

1. No new songs.

[Embracing Summer Limitations]

Implementing new songs is an investment for you, your team, and even your congregation.

Spend this summer rotating your church’s favorites, as well as all the new songs you introduced this winter and spring.

By fall, your church will be ready for a new song (and they’ll be singing out your current songs even more).

You may need to remind your musicians of this truth:

When the worship team starts getting sick of a song, the congregation is just now catching on.

Besides serving the congregation, this new song moratorium has a side benefit: your band won’t need to invest as much time into practicing this summer.

Win-win.

 

2. Build your new song list for the fall.

[Future Prep]

If you’re doing number one, definitely do this one, too. Spend some time on PraiseCharts, CCLI, Apple Music, or Spotify exploring new songs you’d like to introduce between September and January.

Let me give you some tips for this:

  • Find emerging songs.
    A great place to find new and emerging songs is in Planning Center’s Top Songs Box. Since PCO likes to change things often, this article will show you where to find the Top Songs Chart.

 

When you click into that box, you see the Charts:

When you click “Next” at the bottom, you can continue to go through the rankings. To find new and emerging songs, look for the “New” or for big jump up in the charts.

Remember, this is a tool to find new songs, not a mandate to keep up with all the hip, new songs. So make sure you heed the next two bullet points…

  • Take time to vet new songs. Share potential songs with your team members and others who have a finger on the pulse of your church’s musical culture. You have a much better chance of picking a song that sticks if others weigh in.
  • Don’t overdo it. It’s too easy to throw in too many new songs, especially if you haven’t introduced any for a while. And remember, your congregation doesn’t learn songs as fast as you and your team.

3. Schedule and plan your fall training event(s).

[Future Prep; Ministry Growth]

Planning your events now gives you a headstart for two things:

It gives your team plenty of time to block those dates on their calendars.

It also gives you time to plan the event, book the trainer, or develop the content yourself.

  1. Map out the school year.

[Future Prep]

If you created a master plan for 2024 in January or before, summer is a great time to revisit, revise, and extend that plan.

(If you didn’t, now is a fantastic time to map out the rest of 2024 and 2025.)

Look out over the landscape of September through next May:

  • Note the holidays and special events that occur within your church.
  • Pencil in personal retreat days, team training events, and conferences you might attend.
  • Work backward from significant events like Christmas and Easter to schedule rehearsals, planning days, and create deadlines for setlists, graphics, videos, and other elements needed.

Here’s an easy and free way to view the whole year. Download the free printable calendar from this site. You can set whatever range you want and include holidays.

 

5. Host a Christmas Planning Party.

[Future Prep]

It’s beginning to look a lot like…July.

Pull your core leaders and your senior pastor/teaching pastors together for a “Christmas in July Planning Party.”

Bust out the Christmas decorations and ugly sweaters, whip up some wassail, and spin a vinyl of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.

Then, map out what Advent 2024 will look like at your church.

If you’ve never planned Christmas this far ahead, it may seem ridiculous at first. But when October’s edging into November, you’ll be so glad you laid the groundwork this summer.

You probably won’t be planning all your Christmas songs this summer, but it will help to start seeing what’s out there.

 

6. Get real about real barriers.

[Future Prep; Ministry Growth]

The lull of summer is a great time to think about what challenges you want to overcome or growth areas you want to break through over this next year.

Schedule a two- to three-hour block and go somewhere that’s conducive for uninterrupted work.

Think about all the challenges, barriers, or frustrations that are holding your team back from growing or affecting you as the leader.

Don’t worry about finding solutions to those barriers at that moment. Just prioritize them. That is, which obstacles or issues are the biggest to overcome?

And then determine which barriers, once you break through them, will give your team the most growth potential.

Once you determine your top barriers or issues, then you can start to formulate a plan to tackle each one.

Important: As you plan your attack on these barriers, don’t tackle more than one at a time—two at the most. Attempting to fix too many issues at once dilutes your efforts (and will frustrate your team members). 

7. Prep for team member reviews.

[Future Prep; Ministry Growth]

Doing annual team member reviews (the right way) will both deepen the commitment of your team members and accelerate their growth as a team member.

However, most worship ministry leaders don’t do team member reviews. They’re time-consuming and can be emotionally draining for the leader.

And to do them right requires planning several months in advance.

Don’t know where to start with team member reviews? While we don’t have space here, let me give you two things to help.

First, here are a few critical questions to ask in a review meeting:

  • How committed are you to serving on the team over the next 12 months?
  • Are you feeling burned out or in need of an extended break?
  • What areas do you feel you need to improve in, musically, relationally or spiritually?
  • How can I serve you and the team better as your leader?

And second, here’s a resource to help you create clear team standards AND train your team in those standards.

Get access to the Worship Workshop class, How To Be a Healthy Team Member.

It not only trains your team in seven, short video lessons, but you also get a team member self-assessment tool you can use for reviews.

 

8. Plan some team social events.

[Ministry Growth/Embrace Summer Limitations]

Spend time with your team members off the platform. Plan one or two outings where you invite all the team members, like mini-golf, go-karts, outdoor concerts, etc.

And consider doing at least one event where their families attend as well.

But don’t kill yourself trying to get everyone together at one. If a big event is impossible, look for ways to connect socially with individuals or small groups within your team.

It could be as simple as a backyard fire with s’mores. There’s nothing like talking around a fire to get to know people.

9. Plan your fall/winter recruitment and audition events.

[Future Prep/Ministry Growth]

Auditions and other recruitment events take more time and work than most leaders expect.

Besides you and your team’s preparation for an audition, you need to allow enough time to spread the word. If you spring an open audition on your church with one week’s notice, that will work against you.

Some people need time to muster the courage to submit an application. Others might just miss it with everything else going on in their lives.

So take time this summer to schedule and create one or two events in the fall to add to your ranks for 2024.

If you’re a church of over 250, you could probably benefit from an “open house” event—a pre-commitment step towards joining the team. We called one of ours “The Backstage Pass.”

We invited people to join us in a backstage area for donuts and coffee after the service.

  • Members of the team were there to talk with people.
  • We had info sheets outlining the steps to join the team.
  • And then we showed them around the platform, the booth, and the backstage area. This can help ‘demystify’ the platform and help them see themselves as a part of it.

This Open House event is just a beginning step in helping someone find out if the worship team is a good fit for them.

You need multiple steps to move people from “I might be interested” to “I’m committed to this team.”

If you don’t, it’s like going from “Hi, my name is…” to “Will you marry me?”

So mapping out a process now for the fall will ensure that you have new (and qualified) team members on the platform in January.

 

10. Be off-platform, but in attendance, at least twice this summer.

[Rest/Restoration]

For some leaders, this is a regular (and, I’d add healthy) practice.

But too many worship leaders only take time off the platform when they’re dragged away on a family vacation by their spouse, or they’re too sick to stand up.

Don’t be that leader.

Attending and not leading is essential. And if it means the quality of the worship service might suffer some, so be it. You need the perspective of the congregation again.

It’s also a vital step toward multiple worship leaders. When you don’t lead, but are in attendance, it signals to your church that it’s OK to be led by different people with different styles.

Bonus Tip: This summer, set some “off-platform” goals for yourself for this coming fall and winter.

That’s the first 10 Summer Worship Ideas to Level-Up Your Ministry. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll go through 11-20. 

 


This article was originally published in Worship Musician Magazine, June 2024 issue and has been modified from the original. 

Matt Miller