It happens every year about this time. I don't know why it should surprise me. After having a record attendance in worship in Easter Sunday, the Sundays following Easter have a skeleton crew in attendance. The four Sundays following Easter so far have had dismal attendance numbers and it always makes me wonder what is going on with people on those weeks. Does coming to church on Easter Sunday with the masses give people the impression that it is that way all the time and they will have to negotiate the parking lot to find a parking place and squeeze into a pew each time they come? Do they dread the crowds so they stay away just in case the place should be full and they may encounter large numbers of worshipers? Maybe spring fever has set in and people just want to be outdoors in nature at the lake or the park rather than spending one hour in a more formal and structured setting.
Church attendance is a very personal matter. No one can persuade, convince, or even apply enough guilt to get someone to attend church services unless they really want to do so. It has to be at the heart of who they are to want to be with God's people in worship. They have to have a desire to go with the expectation that going will make them a better person than they would be if they did not go.
When I was growing up, I had two opposite and extreme role models in my life when it came to church attendance. My father never went to church. He did not see a need to do so and he would stay home and grill or cook the meat for our Sunday dinner while we were gone. He would read the paper and enjoy his couple hours of quiet time with no one else around and greet us with a meal nearly ready to be eaten when we returned. He was a good person who did many good things for others, as was testified about him at his funeral four years ago. My mother was a religious addict. She went to church every time the doors were open, literally, and dragged her three children with her. I was required to go to church 3-4 times a week for all of my growing up experience, even missing football games on Fridays during high school years because our church chose to have "Youth Service" on Friday nights in competition with our football games. My mother continues to be involved in church activities and services every day she can and it is an important part of her life.
One would think that I would never have chosen to be a minister after being subjected to the intrusion of the church into my life as it was in my youth. As some have said, I had enough church to last me for a lifetime after all the times I went when I was growing up. I did not choose to become a minister though. I was called to fulfill that role in life so my being in ministry is something that I do because of that calling. It is an important part of my life that has little to do with the church of my childhood and youth. It is what God wants me to do to be of service to other human beings.
If it were left up to me, I would want every one of my church members to be present for worship every Sunday of the year. I would want them to be active and involved in the church and striving to live out their Christian faith in mission and service. I had to decide long ago that whether they are in church to worship on Sunday or not has little to do with me. It is their life and they have to decide what is important in life. I continue to hope that the majority of our members will want to be present on a regular basis and will continue to encourage them to do this but when the numbers get low, as they do after Easter and in the summer, we continue to offer opportunities for worship and mission and involvement in the life of the church and pray that God will convince those who need to be here to join us. We are co-workers with God and plant the seeds where we can and allow God to bring about the harvest in God's own time and way.