As the summer months roll in, everything changes. Normal routines are jostled free from their rut and suddenly the calendar is filled with words like “vacation” and “beach” and “camping” and “reunion”. Weekends taste like burgers and watermelon and smell like grills and campfires. The days last longer and the nights invite star-gazing and drive-ins.
It’s a different rhythm.
And in that rhythm some things that characterize the regular schedule of a family during the rest of the year, like bedtimes and limits on sweet treats, fall to the wayside. For those who attend church, it can also lead to what I call “Summer’s Dilemma” where sometimes there is a tension between choosing time with family or choosing to go to church (read more about that here).
Some churches have come to recognize that tension exists and have begun to seek ways to engage the families and keep them connected to the faith community even when they are not in the church building.
These activities are not intended to replace church or the gathering of a community of believers; rather these are ways to help families keep their identity in Christ and as a member of that community wherever their summer adventures take them.
If you are looking for a way to keep your kids and families plugged into community throughout the summer or if you are a parent looking for a way to disciple your kids all summer long, these ideas may be exactly what you are looking for!
Many thanks to the people who shared what their churches were doing for families this summer.
FAMILY KINDNESS BAGS – “We are taking the ‘we’ seriously this summer by preparing a Family Kindness bag with items for families to offer random acts of kindness and generosity throughout the summer, then post/report back when and where and what’s happening. I’ll take my connection however I can get it!” – DeDe Rally, GA
Want some ideas on some ways to show kindness? Check out this post with a printable list of 100 Acts of Kindness for Kids.
FAMILY ON MISSION – “At my church we have adopted the phrase “Family on Mission”. Challenging families to see what it means to live out “church” every day (even at travel baseball tournaments! Ha) and not just on Sunday mornings.” – Hannah James, KY
Read more about the idea of Family on Mission by checking out the book written by Mike and Sally Breen available on Amazon here.
PRAY AWAY BAGS – These simple bags invite families to gather in pray together wherever they go by including items that help them engage a variety of ways to pray and things to prayer for like balloons, smiley and sad faces, candles, and even play dough.
For an example of a great and easy to assemble Pray Away bag, check out this blog post that includes a list of items along with prayer suggestions.
TAKE OUT CHURCH – This fun idea shared here by Gail Jenkins, Family Formation Coordinator in Houston, TX, actually uses a pizza box to encapsulate some familiar faith practices like prayer, worship, and faith conversations. Inside the box, her church had the following message:
“In this box are ways you can build God’s Kingdom while on vacation. Just as we do on Sunday mornings at St. Cuthbert, you will have opportunities for laughter and fellowship, to praise God, pray, learn God’s word, give thanks, and serve. Through it all, we want you to remember to take Jesus with you. He is the most important thing in this box. Color Flat Jesus and then take him with you everywhere you go. Snap a picture and email it to church so we can see where Jesus vacations this summer!…Have fun, be safe, and take church with you this summer!”
SUMMER FAMILY ACTIVITY BOOKS – The intention of this fun activity book for parents from The Village Church is to help families “to be intentional with your time together as a family.” It includes helping families set a rhythm, to capture God moments when they are out and about, activities to do as a family and other milestones. You can download a digital copy here and modify it to fit your context or family.
WHERE’S MR. ADAM? – My church this summer is having fun with our Kids Church worship leader (and 4th/5th grade small group leader). We made “Mr. Adam Heads” by taking pictures of his head, pasting them on styrofoam, and putting them on a stick. Each family got a Mr. Adam to take with them this summer and told to post pictures on Facebook of their family’s summer adventures, hashtagged #WheresMrAdam. In addition to creating a fun online community, all summer long, “Mr. Adam” will be offering the families brief video devotionals, fun ways to engage Scripture, and activities to do together. In the first week, we actually ran out of Mr. Adam Heads and had to make more. Why? Because many adults wanted their own even if they didn’t have kids in the children’s ministry.
Interested in seeing what it’s been like so far? Check out this video trailer from our first week of following Mr. Adam and connecting with families.
As stated earlier, I recognize that these things cannot replace the face-to-face time with the congregation and the time spent in corporate worship; loving, leading, and learning with one another. But these strategies can give us ways to stay plugged in and connected to one another and our continuing faith conversation while enjoying family vacations, trips to the zoo, times at the pool and picnics with friends and family.
Do you have some fun ideas not mentioned here? Please share in the comments and Happy Summer to everyone!
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.