When Worship Leaders Go on Vacation, Churches Get Creative

Acoustic sets, recorded tracks, and alternative setups can offer volunteers a break and invite congregants into new spiritual practices.

When you imagine the summer attendance slump at church, you probably picture empty pews, not an empty stage.

But with around 20 percent lower turnout during the vacation months, the seasonal slump also affects the availability of the volunteer musicians that many churches rely on for worship each week.

In the midst of vacations, camps, conferences, and other activities, assembling a worship band—especially over a holiday weekend like Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Labor Day—is harder when more people head out of town.

In Owosso, Michigan, it’s not uncommon for folks to spend almost every weekend between May and September at cabins on the Great Lakes.

“Many of our volunteers either go up north, or just don’t want to commit,” said Glenn Rupert, pastor of worship and creative arts at GracePointe Church, a Wesleyan community of roughly 200. “If we don’t have significant depth on our team, certain times of year are hard. Sometimes it’s just me and a piano.”

Megachurches with multiple bands or large teams of musicians can usually make it through the summer without any noticeable interruptions, but small and mid-sized churches like Rupert’s can find themselves scrambling to put a band together or to find an alternative—maybe even skipping corporate singing altogether.

On Memorial Day weekend this year, when Rupert went out of town, GracePointe opted to skip live worship and play instrumental music (William Augusto’s album Soaking in His Presence) during a “Come and Go Communion” service.

Members could come and participate in a written guided meditation on Joshua 3–4 (the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River and building a stone …

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