The Church for Today

Summer Projects

Use the summer to make improvements

by Richard Hong


We are almost at summer. Time to exhale, right? Relax – a little. But September is coming, and now is when we should start making the changes we want to have in place for the new program year.

I don’t know where I first heard this question (so I don’t know who should be credited – only that I didn’t come up with this), but I think it’s a great question to consider: “When someone visits your church, what do you hope they don’t notice?” Whatever that is for you, fix it.

Social media and publicity are great, but first your church needs to be ready for visitors. If you owned a restaurant, your first job is to make sure the food is good. You don’t want people to visit your restaurant until the food is excellent. You don’t want dishes on your menu that you aren’t proud of. Summer is a good time to improve. If you can’t think of a place to start, I’ll offer two suggestions.

Idea #1: Declutter. Clutter makes a church look sloppy. As pastor Andy Stanley says, “Your house is cleanest when you’re expecting guests. If your church isn’t clean, you look like you aren’t expecting visitors.” In our own homes, we live with that pile of unread magazines on the coffee table, until we’re expecting guests. We stop noticing that broken chair in the corner of the room, until we’re having company.

Rent a debris container from a waste management company. We rent a 20-yard container at least once a year. Everything that accumulated during the year – the chair with a broken leg, the table with a cracked top – it all goes in the container. A container costs a few hundred dollars. They’ll deliver and haul it away a few days later. Let teens or Scouts looking for service hours help provide labor. We are unsentimental about discarding items. If it doesn’t have a present use, it goes. What about things that are really in good shape? We offer them on, a website that connects people who want to get rid of stuff with people who want to take it.

Ask a friend who doesn’t go to church to come with you on a weekday and simply walk through the facility, telling you everything he/she notices that is unattractive. Which friend should you ask? The one whose home is always impeccable. They will tell you what needs to go.

Idea #2: Nursery. Today’s parents are very particular about where they leave their children. If your nursery isn’t clean, safe, and well-stocked, you won’t attract those parents with young children that every church wants. Too many church nurseries have been used as dumping grounds for old toys. You don’t need a thousand toys – you need a handful of high-quality toys that are safe and clean. We store clean toys in plastic storage bins, and once a child takes it out of the bin, it doesn’t go back until a nursery worker has cleaned it with a disinfectant wipe. Pro tip: a laminated sheet works like a dry erase board. We laminated a sign, write the day’s snack items on it with a dry-erase marker, and thus the parents know (and can ask to avoid) the snacks their child might be offered.

When I was in grade school, the standard fall question was, “What did you do over the summer?” This is a question we should be in the habit of asking in our churches – and every year, let’s have a good answer.

The Rev. Richard Hong is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Englewood, New Jersey. He is excited to be blogging about his passion for the church for Presbyterians Today. Hong’s areas of interest are church technology, leadership and church growth. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to for him to address, contact him at