So often, we come to the end of the summer with little to show for it (except maybe some unsightly tan-lines). Christians have historically been a people marked by diligence and intentionality, so I’d like to offer some things that we might do to use our summer wisely. Whether your family is big, small, older, younger, grown and gone, or just beginning, you can greatly benefit from investing intentional time in one another.
Here are FIVE things you can do to make sure you don’t waste your summer:
1. Read a short book from the New Testament.
It is no secret that many Christian families do not read their Bible together nearly as often as they should. However, you can take advantage of the summer schedule and add Bible reading to your family routine. No apologies necessary for neglecting this essential aspect of Christian family discipleship… Just get started, and make summer the occasion for kicking it off.
You can read together as a family on weekday evenings after dinner, mornings (before everyone goes their separate ways), or gathered together just before bed. Choose one of the short books from the New Testament (like Ephesians, Colossians, James, or 1 John), and read a chapter each day. It shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes to read a single chapter, and if you read it each day, you’ll be done in about a week. At that point, you can celebrate the family accomplishment and choose where to go from there. I think reading the same book a few times in a row would be fantastic, but you may also move on to another short book and enjoy the reality that you are reading the Bible together as a family.
2. Pray for and write a letter to your church family.
Summers are notorious seasons of lower attendance and lacking involvement in the weekly church schedule. Additionally, some of you church family may be going through a difficult time with their health, causing them to be unable to participate. It is also quite likely that there are several single moms, older couples, and some widows among the people who make up your church membership. You can be an encouragement to these, you can help them sustain a sense of connectedness to the church family, and you can pray for their benefit.
Ask your pastor or church administrator for a list of names and contact info for those with whom you especially want to connect. Don’t try to contact every person or family on your membership roster (especially if your church family is a large one), but prayerfully select a handful of people that you want to engage over the summer. Initially, write a letter of encouragement, or send a card to let them know you are praying for them. Ask them if there is anything of special concern that they would like you to include in your prayers. Share your own joys, and let them know how glad you are to be part of the same church family.
3. Invite your neighbor’s or coworker’s family over for dinner.
Who doesn’t like the taste of just about anything fresh off of the grill?! Summer is a great time to invite others over for a time of outdoor activity and simple hospitality. Think about a coworker that you know has an aversion to attending a church service. An invitation to Sunday worship might not be welcomed, but an invitation to Saturday lunch at your house is sure to get a great response. Maybe you haven’t really gotten to know your neighbor very well, and you need to have deeper conversation with them than their dog or lawn care issues.
Christians are supposed to be the most hospitable people in the world (Rom. 12:13). Don’t let this summer go by without opening your home, your yard, and your life to others around you. You (and they) will be glad you made the effort to connect more deeply.
4. Learn about and pray for an “Unengaged” people group.
Did you know that there are some people groups (see definition below) in the world today that have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This is a tragedy, and as Christians this reality should be unbearable. I don’t mean that it should cause us to despair; I mean that it should irresistibly rouse us to action.
The International Mission Board (the missions arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) has categorized the various people groups of the world into 3 designated segments. A people group is labeled “Reached” where there is a professing Christian population of 2% or more. The expectation is that the Christians among this group will be actively engaging their neighbors and friends. “Unreached” people groups are defined as those who have an active Christian influence, but the population of Christians remains less than 2%. “Unengaged Unreached People Groups” (UUPGs) are those who have no known Christian activity at this time. People in UUPGs are born, they live, and they die without ever hearing about or knowing of a Savior.
You and your family can select one of these groups and make these people the focus of much prayer and investigation. Some creativity may help, but simply searching for information should be fairly straightforward. Pray for the people, pray that God would send missionaries, and consider what you might be able to do to encourage and support Gospel efforts to these people. The minimum effort you can give is prayer, but God is able to do exceedingly more than we can imagine when we cry out to Him. God delights in giving good gifts to His children, and I can think of no greater gift than the salvation of a lost sinner.
*A people group is an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members.
5. Do something different, and point to the goodness of God in it.
Summer offers many things, but one of the simplest things the season offers is a change of pace. Kids are out of school, days are longer, and the general speed of life often slows a bit for many people. During this time, take the opportunity to do something different – maybe even spontaneous.
Go get ice-cream or a slushy, and ask your kids 100 questions for a change. Stay up late, and play games or have a slumber party in the living room. Go camping, and eat smores by the fire. Drive a little distance with the windows down and the radio loud, while you listen to songs your kids enjoy. These and a host of other things will be memorable joys for your family, and you can take a moment to remind them that God delights in His children even more than you do. These object lessons will go further than you think.
What are some things you have done to make the most of summer?