Don’t Waste Your Summer
3 Strategies to Maximize Your Summer
What do sunshine, snow cones, and an empty school yard have in common? SUMMER.
I, for one, have a love/hate relationship with summer. Why the hate? Well, it’s supposed to be 106° here on Friday. Only a lunatic would look forward to that. Yet laying just beneath that hate of scorching, skin-melting, profuse sweat-producing heat, is a deep love for this season. Many of my best memories in life are from summer. In fact, we have entire photo albums in our home devoted to summer memories.
Summer is a special time—there is no doubt about it. Much of the reason for that is the public-school calendar. Schools shut their doors for over two months across the United States, freeing families to plan various activities and experiences with one another. Some make for the mountains, others bum out on the beach, and still others tour the country from city to city in epic road-trip fashion.
Many families may not prefer such adventures. Perhaps your family opts for some down time at home, taking the opportunity to recharge the batteries in more subtle ways. Whatever the case may be, there is a uniqueness to summer that must be considered, because there are critical opportunities to be seized.
What are those opportunities? They are spiritual opportunities.
It would be a great tragedy to end this summer with a book full of memories and a heart empty of spiritual growth.
With that in mind, here are three spiritual goals for your summer:
1. Invest in Relationships
God created humans as communal beings. In other words, we are at our best when we are in community with one another. For the believer, relational community is manifested in three common realms: the family, friends, and the church. Make an intentional spiritual investment in all three areas this summer.
Do you have a spiritual development plan for your family this summer? Spiritual growth in the life of a family does not happen passively. It must be an active pursuit. Husbands, how will you wash your wife with the water of the word this summer? How will you sacrificially serve her as Christ has served the church? Wives, how will you honor and respect your husband? Parents, how will you discipline your children? In what ways will you train them up in truth? Singles, what ways will you bless your father and mother, brothers and sisters this summer?
Summer almost always equals more family time. How can we, as believers, strategize to maximize this time for the glory of God and the spiritual good of our families?
Let me give you a few ideas for a start:
If you are not already doing family devotions in your home, now is the time to start. These don’t have to be complicated. Pick up the short and immensely helpful book Family Worship by Don Whitney for some guidance. In that book, Whitney lays a foundation for a regular, easy pattern of family worship in which you simply read the Bible, pray together, and sing. It is not difficult, but it will leave a lasting imprint upon your family.
Maximize your family vacation. This could be a blog post unto itself, but let me be brief. For all the planning that goes into pulling off a family vacation, far too many Christians put too little spiritual thought toward them. How will your summer vacation be a spiritual blessing to your family? Pray this over and be intentional. Consider reading a book of the Bible together and discuss it as a family. Redeem the car/plane time by having meaningful conversations. Set some clear standards for technology usage. Maybe go crazy and do the entire vacation without devices. Your kids won’t hate you for that as much as you think they will. In any case, the point is to be intentional about giving spiritual purpose to your vacation time. Parents, you may not have Matt Papa leading live worship in an emotionally charged environment like youth camp, but I guarantee you that your family vacation can have just as much spiritual purpose to it. Don’t you want that for your family? I know I do.
Ritual can be a funny word. Some of you may be imagining painting up your faces and dancing around the firepit in your backyard right now. If that sounds exciting, then go for it. But that is not what I mean by family ritual. I am using ritual in the sense of those practices or habits that you do as a family. Summer time is a great opportunity for family rituals.
Build rituals into your summer that cultivate meaningful relationships within the family. Do what you like to do here but make the effort to do it together. Perhaps make a habit of sitting out on the patio every evening, or doing a regular activity together, or having pancakes and breakfast chats once a week. Little regular rituals can go a long way towards strengthening a family, and summer is an excellent time to instill them.
My perception is that true friendship is on the decline. Recent studies on younger generations have found a 37% spike in depression and loneliness over the last 5 years. That is a remarkable, frightening increase. Sociologists, psychologists, and theologians alike are in agreement that technology is one of the primary drivers of this change. As people retreat into their devices, searching for the promise of satisfaction in digital friendship, they find themselves more and more lonely.
We need real flesh and blood friendships in our lives. The church should be leading the way on this teaching. We do, after all, believe it is significant that God has given us bodies in which we are to fulfill his purposes for our lives. One of those purposes is relationship. Humans thrive when we are with other flesh and blood people having flesh and blood relationships. We struggle and fall into loneliness and depression when we do not. The studies are only affirming what the church should have already known. Friendship happens most truly in the flesh.
Summer is an ideal time to cultivate friendship. Let me give you a few encouragements for how to be intentional with friendship this Summer.
Make a friend who is different than you.
If you are a believer, this may mean spending some significant time with a nonbeliever. This ought to be a regular practice for those who are followers of Jesus. Let me remind us that our Lord did get called a, “friend of sinners.” Obviously, don’t just make friends with nonbelievers for the sake of saying you did so, but do it with missional purpose. As you relate with them, relate the gospel of Jesus to them. One caution here is to not see them as a project. They are not your summer project; they are a person. But they are a person in need of salvation. Perhaps the Lord might use your friendship with them to see that happen. Pray it may be so.
Plan activities with your friends.
We all know how quickly the summer can get away from us. Everyone is traveling, doing sports, or engaged in other activities. Connect with your friends and get something on the calendar. Perhaps it would be good to work in a routine meeting to ensure connection is happening. Whatever works best for you, the point is that most of us need to schedule our time with friends to ensure it happens.
Go deeper than small talk.
True friendship is vulnerable. It is willing to lay oneself on the line and to trust in another. That is the kind of friendship we all need. It is great to do stuff together as friends, but don’t let the doing distract from the caring. Make it a regular habit to confess sins to one another. Be completely open and honest about what you are struggling with when you are talking with your friends. Pray for one another. Truly care. Christian friendship should feel more like trench warfare than rainbows and unicorns. We are at war, after all. Fight for one another. Battle for holiness together. Make sure your friendship is meaningful.
2. Feed Your Mind With The Word
Christians are people of the book. We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The Word is our food; it is our nourishment. Focus your Bible intake in the following two areas this summer:
In The Church
Continue to sit under the preaching of the Word and solid Bible teaching in the church. Throughout church history, one of the most important means of Bible intake has been preaching. God, by his Spirit, has accomplished incredible kingdom advancement by this sacred work. God did not send Jesus into the world to establish a bunch of individual Christians. He sent Jesus to save and establish a people, his church. We see throughout the New Testament that Christ’s church advances through local gatherings of believers, who sit under the Word together, pursue biblical community, and advance the gospel with one another. Brothers and sisters, summer is not a season to take a break from the church. No such season exists.
There will be weeks and events that you will miss due to travel during the summer, but make every effort to gather with the church when able. Christ loves his bride (the church) such that he gave his life for her. If Christ loves his church to such an extreme end, then we should love his church too. Feed your mind with the Word this summer in the church.
Summer is a great “reset” time of the year. There is often a lot of energy and excitement associated with the warmer weather, the outdoor activities, and vacations. Put that energy to good use by doubling down on your Bible reading. If you have fallen off from wherever you hoped to be at the beginning of the year, then get back on the horse and get going. Spend your early mornings soaking in the quiet on your patio or porch with some time between you and the Lord in the Word.
3. Keep on Learning
The summer brain drain is real. Our brains have great plasticity, and if we don’t keep working them out, they become stagnant. Push your brain this summer. It is far too easy to let the changing routines of summer negate the exercise of the brain, but don’t let it be so. Try to challenge your brain this summer. Here are two straightforward ways to do so:
Read a book a week.
Challenge yourself to read a book a week. Vary your reading as you do this. Don’t just pile up a bunch of fiction and roll with it. Read some fiction, but mix in some theology, history, science, business, or whatever else piques your interest. Read material that will challenge you, and read with spiritually critical eyes. Don’t just settle for what is easy.
Listen to podcasts
In the last couple of years, I have grown to fully appreciate the value of podcasts. I’m sad to say, I hardly listen to music anymore. If I can be listening to anything, 99% of the time I am choosing a podcast. I look forward to yard work, shop work, driving and any other occasion when I can be devouring a good podcast. The value of a podcast is that you can listen on demand. With radio, you have to tune in at the right time to catch something of value. In some senses, you have to get lucky. With a podcast, I can find content that is valuable for my current needs and listen to it whenever I want. There are several solid Christian options out there. Plug in and enjoy them.
May we all press into this summer to come out of it sanctified by the will of God, as he wills to work in us for his good pleasure.
Brendon is Associate Pastor of Student Ministry at First Baptist Church in Canyon, TX. He has been married to his wife, Julie, for 5 years and is the father of 3 daughters, all under the age of 4. Brendon is a native of Amarillo, TX where he graduated from Amarillo High School before going on to complete his undergraduate work at Boyce College in Louisville, KY. He then went on to study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville where he completed his Masters of Divinity. In his free time Brendon enjoys getting outdoors by hiking, backpacking, and camping. He is also passionate about beards and coffee, two of God’s glorious gifts to the world.