The following is my monthly column for The Clinton Chronicle in Clinton, South Carolina:
Summer cometh once again. Many people are planning a family trip, Vacation Bible School, and pool fun. But before long, if not careful, it’s easy for families to fall into a summer slump. The good intentions of projects we hoped to get done, the books we planned to read, or the family bonding time we envisioned might slip through our fingers.
June is a good time to take inventory. Almost six months have passed since the New Year tolled and we confidently made resolutions. The holidays seem like eons away from these hot days. Children and teenagers may fall into a rut of accomplishing nothing and vegging out on television and video games.
Moses prayed that the Lord would teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. (See Psalm 90:12.) Even in the lazy days of summer, let’s not become sloths. We can model for our children how to use our time productively. Here are four ways we can live intentionally this summer.
Evaluate and organize.
Do a midyear assessment. Are we still on track for any of the goals we set in January? Realistically, what do we hope to accomplish in the second half of the year?
When the heat drives us indoors, we can spend time tidying our lives. Pick a project. Maybe the digital pictures need to be sorted, filed, and saved several times. Make a big stack of clothes to give away.
Set spiritual goals for the remainder of the year. Each summer I evaluate what I hope to accomplish at church in the fall as well as what writing projects need my attention.
Connect with your church.
Though your church’s schedule may be toned down in the summer, don’t let your connection with the Body of Christ wane. The Bible says Sunday is the Lord’s Day — it belongs to Him. Prioritize worshiping with your church family on Sunday when you are in town. Don’t forget to give financially to your fellowship. Summer tends to be the hardest time for a church’s income. Look for ways to serve in your church during the hot summer days. Substitute Sunday School teachers or small group leaders may be needed as families take vacations.
Attempt to get to know people in your church. Plan to go out to eat together on Sundays. Invite a senior adult or widow in your church over for a meal. Host a short-term prayer group or Bible study in your home. Linger after the worship service and talk.
Take one-on-one trips.
My wife and I schedule same-gender trips with our children one-on-one during the summer. We try to make the get-aways fun without spending tons of money. One summer, my 14-year-old and I kayaked on the French Broad River in Asheville, N.C., through the Biltmore Estate. Another year we went to the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte for some fun.
We also intentionally use the trips to discuss any pressing issues confronting our children. When my son was 11, we had the “birds and the bees” discussion on our overnight trip, using James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence. We try to talk with them about things that matter without making the time too heavy or pushy. It’s one of the few moments during our year that we can leisurely spend time together with no real agenda other than connecting.
Don’t forget to play.
Someone said the family that prays together stays together. But it’s also true that the family that plays together stays together. Without the routine of school, ball practice, and music rehearsals, summer provides margin for families. During the school year, parents have to be responsible for keeping our kids on task for all of those engagements. So for the summer, let’s be responsible for making sure our family plays!
Find local points of interest to visit. For years we took several Saturdays each summer to find waterfalls in upstate South Carolina. They provide cool refreshment on hot afternoons. Have “no electronic nights” when you play board games and charades or tell stories.
Get friends together, cook out, eat watermelon, and stay up late chasing fireflies. When our children are adults, they won’t remember much about our work and responsibilities. They will remember times when we played together as a family.
Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.