By Susan Lawrence
Summer is often viewed as break time. We get a break from school schedules. We get a break from being confined indoors. And we get a break from many ministry activities. But let’s be honest. We’re often more busy in the summer than any other time of the year, because with the perceived break comes a sense of being able to fit more and more into our days—vacation, camps, pool days, VBS, gardening, summer sports leagues, family reunions, and the list goes on. Among the busyness, we can too easily take a break from our relationship with God. It’s certainly not our goal, but without intentionality, we miss out on the opportunity to use the summer months to grow spiritually.
Be intentional this summer.
All By Myself
Prayer and Praise Walks.
Why not combine spiritual and physical fitness? Take regular walks with God. Share your day with Him. Look around and notice Him in nature and life. Plug in your headphones and sing along to worship music. So what if your neighbors think you’ve lost it! Little do they know, you’re becoming more “found” than you imagined possible.
Read and Speak.
How can you avoid getting out of the Bible reading habit over the summer? How can you keep your Bible reading fresh or begin a new routine? Read out loud. You don’t need to set a word-per-day record. Just read something. If one verse stands out, repeat it several times, emphasizing a different word each time you speak it. If you’re home with your children, and they enjoy listening to you read, settle into a play area and read as they play. They’ll be soothed by your voice, and you’ll be soothed by God’s.
Vacation with God.
Consider all the time and energy, not to mention money, you pour into vacations. Even if you keep it simple, you do so with intentionality. Be just as intentional, if not more, planning time with God. Challenge yourself. Take a 24-hour retreat by yourself. Read through the entire Bible (a 90-day reading plan is available at BibleGateway.com). Keep a journal of blessings every day, numbering blessings to correspond with the day of the month (one blessing on the 1st, two blessings on the 2nd, and so on).
Just Me and My Friends
There’s an App for That.
Choose a daily reading plan or devotional and have it delivered to your phone. A few free options include YouVersion, Jesus Calling, and Streams in the Desert. Commit to texting one word to your friends when you’re done with each day’s reading for accountability. If someone doesn’t text for a day or two, be sure to call and ask what’s going on in her life that might be crowding out her commitment to stay in God’s Word.
Circle in Prayer.
Slow down in your straight-line rush through summer to circle up with friends in regular prayer. Meet at the park on a weekly basis, taking turns watching children as the rest of your circle prays. Create a private Facebook group where you post prayer requests, praises, Scripture verses, and written-out-loud prayers to share the intimacy of prayer journeys. Do life in prayer together.
Real People, Virtual Place.
Choose a Bible study to work through online together. Of course, it’s better to meet face-to-face, but connecting through a private Facebook group or Google hangout works well for summer schedules. Be sure to choose a study that doesn’t require everyone to purchase videos (many studies offer videos that enhance the study but aren’t an actual requirement). Consider Vicki Courtney’s Ever After, Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon, or Angela Thomas’ Stronger. If free is a better option for you, sign up for the 90-day Praying through Psalms devotional series through PurePurpose.org, which includes reflection questions and Live Out Loud challenges.
My Church and Community
Open the Doors.
Of course, we want to welcome everyone regardless of the time of year, but summer seems to consistently be the time when we hear, “I’m too busy. Let’s take a break.” Don’t listen! You will welcome women you might not reach at other times of the year when you host a Bible study, prayer group, or other consistent gathering through the summer. Women from other churches throughout your community will often attend because their churches aren’t offering anything, and you can intentionally include leaders from other churches, who are usually busy pouring into others more than feasting on God’s Word. Choose a study that may be used by your area churches in the fall, such as Beth Moore’s Children of the Day, so it allows leaders to personally prepare before leading a group of their own. It’s okay that everyone will not attend every single gathering due to summer schedules. Follow up when women miss, and encourage them to jump in as often as they can.
Cultivate People not Programs.
You don’t have to do all the planning and coordinating alone. Encourage women to connect with each other. Cultivate a culture in which women care for and disciple one another. Lead well by sharing ideas and challenging them to choose something—an idea from this article, an adaptation, or a creative idea of their own—and commit to it. They can pair up and hold each other accountable for the summer, or they can write notes of encouragement and challenges to themselves and seal them in self-addressed envelopes that you send at several times throughout the summer.
Keep it Biblical.
This seems obvious, but if you take an honest look around you, you will find it’s not as obviously lived out as you’d like to believe it is. Social networks are riddled with soothing advice that is intended to encourage but doesn’t speak the truth of Scripture. For example, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” It’s not biblical. It sounds good, but God most definitely gives us more than we can handle, because He intends for us to fully rely on Him through every high and low. We even use Scripture out of context because it sounds applicable to a situation, and we choose to help someone feel better temporarily over seeking and revealing truth for the long run. Be a consistent voice with a social media presence through the summer. Ramp up your women’s ministry page posts. Get several women involved to share posting duties—seven women each taking one day of the week or multiple women signing up to facilitate one week at a time. Be sure to communicate guidelines to insure consistent reflection of God’s Word.
Tweak these ideas to fit what you need most. Remember it’s not about choosing something that’s comfortable. Growth rarely is. It’s also not about becoming legalistic in your spiritual growth process. God wants a relationship with you. He doesn’t want to be checked off your to-do list each day, as if you can accomplish your relationship with Him through tasks. He wants you to pursue Him.
God doesn’t take a summer vacation. He’s always available. He’s always pursuing you with passion and purpose. You can claim the summer days simply get away from you and you never intended to leave God out of them, but it’s all about priorities. You have enough time and energy in each day. You have what you need, because God gives it to you. If you’re slighting Him, it’s not by His choice. Run the race He has set for you. It’s the best journey you’ll take this summer.
Do you find it difficult to follow hard after God, especially through the summer months? Do you need some inspiration? Some reading material to keep the flame burning? How about a fictional account about those closest to Jesus? Or an incredible, true story about a Chinese family overcoming intense oppression to raise its family in America? Or maybe some guidance about raising a family in the busy ever-changing world today? Or a how-to book about praying with and for your family? We hope these resources will help you stay hot on God’s trail this summer and have some reading fun.
The Family of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury. In her first Bible study, Karen Kingsbury offers a fictional view of six of the family members of Jesus, all anchored by Scriptural truth, creating a life-changing and unprecedented emotional connection to the Bible. The characters in these short stories were among those closest to Jesus—Mary, Joseph, Jesus’ brother James, John the Baptist, Zechariah, and Elizabeth. Each has a compelling tale to tell. Kingsbury intersperses fictional, emotionally gripping details anchored in Scripture with historical and theological insights and questions that will guide soul-searching and reflection. The Family of Jesus not only provides a deeper understanding of the relatives of our Savior, but also helps readers acquire tools that will draw them closer to Christ, to the Scriptures, and to each other.
Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family's Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption by Vinh Chung and Tim Downs. Through a series of miraculous events, a Chinese family, living in Vietnam, joins the ranks of "boat people" and overcomes oppressive struggles to raise its children in the foreign culture of America. At three years of age Vinh Chung and his family of ten fled communist oppression in Vietnam. As legendary "boat people" they were attacked twice by Thai pirates and left for dead, adrift on the South China Sea. A World Vision mercy ship stumbled across them and rescued them, eventually relocating them to the tough frontier town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, where they faced poverty, ethnic discrimination, and an almost insurmountable language barrier. The Chung family's inspirational story, gives the account of three remarkable women who shaped the lives of Vinh and his father. All royalties will go to World Vision for their relief efforts.
Faith and the Modern Family: How to Raise a Healthy Family in a "Modern Family" World by Craig Jutila. Times are changing and so are families. Today’s modern family is facing challenges that rarely, if ever, crossed our minds just a few years ago. Most families today are long on commitment and short on time. They are being pulled in many directions that make it difficult, if not impossible, to connect relationally. Smart phones, mobile technology, work-life balance, relentless hurry and stress seem to be woven into the fabric of their lives. In this much-needed new book, Craig Jutila gives sound and practical advice—drawn from biblical principles, personal family experience, and expertise as a Children’s Ministry leader—on how to raise a strong and healthy family in a modern world, and move from a family that simply survives to a family that really thrives.
Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children by Mark Batterson. In this book parents will learn how to: Create prayer lists unique to their family. Claim God-inspired promises for their children. Turn their family circle into a prayer circle. Discover their child's life themes. This new version contains 15,000 words of brand-new content.