When we returned home after his last day of school here at Grace our son, Owen, proudly announced that he was officially a first grader and that summer vacation had begun. He just as resolutely asked for my tablet device in order to begin what, in his mind, was an unlimited amount of play time.
“But it’s summer vacation now!” he moaned when I declined to yield the tablet.
“Maybe so,” I said, “but that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit around like bumps on a log all summer long.”
It is tempting though, to slip into uber-relaxation mode when school ends and summer plans begin. Many of us find many ways to occupy our summer weeks while children are out of school. Camps, vacations, and part-time jobs are just some of the ways we fill those hours and days.
As you begin or continue to make your summer plans, I encourage you not to neglect faith-building practices. Just because Sunday morning education opportunities have taken a respite or just because you may be away from home on a Sunday morning doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful opportunities to continue living into our call to love God, pray for others, and serve as Christ models.
Here are some ideas for individuals and families to continue growing into the Christian faith and life – faith steppingstones throughout the summer:
- Visit another church while traveling. Worship within the Lutheran tradition is diverse, worship within the larger Christian tradition even more so. Find a congregation near your vacation spot, search their website for worship times, and go! If you go with family, ask the younger ones what was similar or different from Grace’s worship. Children love to pick out patterns – keep a bulletin and compare the order of service with our own.
- Keep a simple “God Sightings” journal. Reserving a single page per day, keep note of where you see God at work in your life, in the lives of others, or in the world around you. Younger ones might enjoy drawing in their journal. Adults may appreciate a few moments of reflection before recording their reflections. Try to pick a time of day when you know you will be able to consistently add to your journal.
- Make a “New School Year Resolution.” If you can’t help but plan the busyness of the fall, then use the summer to discern how you will continue to develop faith in your own life and in the lives of others around you. It’s easier to start with what you will do differently when you aren’t already in an established pattern. Perhaps you could commit more of your fiscal resources to generous giving, come to worship and education hours more regularly, add table prayers before meals, read Scripture, pray for coworkers, etc.
- Schedule intentional moments of silence. We’re often afraid of silence because our minds have tricked us into thinking that silence means we’re missing something, or something isn’t quite right. It is in silence, though, that we are more likely able to hear what we need to hear – able to hear what God is saying, how God is directing, how God is comforting, how God is confronting. Experiment with varying lengths of silence. Try different environments – both busy and still. Perhaps reflect upon the silence in your God Sightings journal.
These are just some of the ways one can use the summer to continue a trajectory of faith growth. Summer is, indeed, a natural time to pull back from many of the things that occupy our time, energy, and resources throughout the school year. In that ebb, though, your pastors encourage you to invest in ways that draw you even deeper into relationship with God and others. The grace and love of God, after all, never stop flowing towards you!
Pastor Dave Wegner
P. S. Pastor Lauren has a wealth of resources suitable for individuals and families who desire to incorporate daily faith practices in their lives. She is happy to recommend any of them to you!