Summer is a time of baseball games and concert festivals, gardening and landscaping, swimming and riding roller coasters, lemonade and cookouts. But it is also is a special season for Christians—think of all the church picnics and vacation Bible school programs, youth camp, and mission trips.
Indeed, the summer season provides lots of unique ways in which we can devote ourselves to God.
Here are 10 summer-specific ways to connect with God and practice your faith.
Pray Outside. One of the biggest challenges in maintaining a healthy prayer life is distractions such as the television, computers, video games, and household tasks. (How often have dishes in the sink or stains on the carpet kept you from giving your complete attention to your daily devotions?) But those are indoor distractions! Summer weather gives us an opportunity to step outside and away from many of the things that disrupt our relationship with God. This summer, spend time outside praying, reading Scripture, and being attentive to God’s voice.
Enjoy God’s Creation. When God finished the work of creation, he looked at the heavens and the earth and declared all of it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). If God enjoys the forests and mountains, seas and skies, and plants and animals, we should, too. Summer offers many opportunities for us to spend time outdoors enjoying God’s very good creation.
Spend a day this summer navigating the hiking trails at a state park or enjoy a long weekend camping. Pay close attention to the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Listen to the birds that “sing among the branches” (Psalm 104:12). Take in the scents of flowers. Look out on “the work of [God’s] fingers” (Psalm 8:3). Then give thanks for all that God has created.
Donate to an Organization Feeding the Hungry. Feeding was an important part of Jesus’ ministry, and he made clear to his followers that their responsibility to feed the hungry was non-negotiable. (See Matthew 25:31–40.) During the holiday season November and December, countless churches, schools, and community groups organize or participate in efforts to provide food to hungry individuals and families. But hunger and food insecurity are problems year round, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This summer, consider organizing a food drive through your church or workplace. Or simply make a cash donation. Because food banks can purchase food in bulk at a discount, cash donations go further than donations of non-perishable foods.
Grow and Tend to a Garden. Genesis tells us that God put the first humans in a garden so that they could “till it and keep it” (2:15). While our role as keepers of God’s garden involves being good stewards of all that God has created, summer gives us the opportunity to till and plant an actual garden. Many gardeners do a lot of their tilling and planting in the spring, but there are plenty of vegetables—such as beets, turnips, and several varieties of beans—that you can plant well into June. Some leafy veggies have a second growing season beginning in late summer.
Tending a garden provides your household a supply of fresh, healthy, and environmentally friendly vegetables. It also gives you a sense of the work that goes into growing and harvesting the produce that is so conveniently and inexpensively available at supermarkets. If your garden takes off, you can share the fruits of your labor with others.
If you don’t have the land or the resources to till a garden of your own, volunteer to work in a community garden. Community gardens usually occupy a public space in an urban neighborhood and give residents of the neighborhood (particularly low-income residents) access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many groups that till and keep community gardens draw inspiration from scriptures such as Leviticus 19:9–10 and Deuteronomy 24:19–20, which instruct farmers not to pick a portion of their harvest and to leave these fruits and vegetables for the “poor” and the “alien.”
Head Out on a Mission Trip. Early in his ministry Jesus sent his twelve disciples on a mission trip, instructing them to “proclaim the good news” and to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (Matthew 10:7–8). Since then missionary work has been an essential part of the Christian experience. And summer is prime time for church mission trips.
Check on the mission opportunities available through your congregation. If it lacks the budget and the resources to organize mission trips on its own, look into mission opportunities through your diocese, district, conference, or presbytery, or check with mission-oriented congregations in your community. Churches and Christian organizations send missionaries all over the world, particularly to developing nations, to perform all sorts of tasks: building churches, building schools, treating ailments, training church leaders and teachers and doctors, digging wells, and distributing supplies. While many missionaries initially plan to serve others, they soon discover that the job of a missionary is to work alongside others, to learn while teaching and to receive while giving.
There is much work to be done throughout the world, but some of the most meaningful and effective mission experiences take place only a few miles from the missionaries’ home. Churches that invest in mission and outreach close to home can forge lasting relationships with their neighbors and make long-term investments in their communities.
Take Sabbath Seriously. God commanded the ancient Israelites to “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). This commandment applied to everyone in the household and to the livestock. Leviticus adds a Sabbath year in which even the land would be allowed to rest. But the practice of setting aside time for rest has become counterintuitive in a culture that never stops and places a premium on productivity. Since many people, especially in the West, grow up in school systems where “summer” is synonymous with “vacation,” summer is a natural time to think about rest.
Taking Sabbath seriously isn’t about doing nothing or spending long hours watching television or playing video games, but about restoration and a renewed focus on one’s relationship with God and others. Worship, restful time with family and friends, and time outdoors enjoying God’s creation, all are healthy ways to honor the Sabbath.
Get Involved in Vacation Bible School Programs. Vacation Bible School is a beloved summer activity in many North American churches. For one mid-summer week, children (and sometimes adolescents and adults) gather for Bible study, games, crafts, and snacks, all geared toward teaching important spiritual lessons. This summer, check with your congregation’s vacation Bible school leaders and find out how you can get involved.
Even if you don’t have the gifts or disposition to spend five consecutive evenings teaching a group of second graders, you could lead a game or a song, provide a snack, or help with decorations and setup. All of these contributions help create an environment where young people can learn important faith lessons and experience Christian fellowship.
Turn Off the Television. Once upon a time, people had little reason to watch television during the summer. All of the prime time sitcoms and dramas went into reruns after May Sweeps. But with summer reality shows, cable networks with irregular prime time schedules, TiVo, Hulu, and Netflix, there’s always something to watch. But just because there is enough quality programming to last the entire summer doesn’t mean that we need to tune in. This summer, turn off the TV and spend that time praying and reading Scripture, in fellowship with family and friends, or outdoors enjoying God’s creation.
Host a Cookout. Throughout his ministry, Jesus relied on the hospitality and generosity of friends and acquaintances who invited him to come to their homes for dinner. When he appeared to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee following his resurrection, Jesus had a cookout on the beach (John 21:1–14). Cookouts are as much a part of summer as lemonade and baseball. This summer, emulate the hospitality and generosity shown by Jesus’ hosts by hosting a cookout. Drawing inspiration from Jesus’ parable of the great dinner (Luke 14:15–24), go out in your neighborhood and invite anyone who is willing to come. (And, if you’re serious about following Jesus’ culinary example, serve bread and fresh fish at your cookout!)
Be a Good Steward of Money. Summer is a time of abundance. It is a season of expensive vacations and pricey trips to amusement parks, of blockbuster movies and three-day music festivals. June, July, and August provide ample opportunities to empty our bank accounts. In light of recent worldwide economic woes, many people have found creative ways to have summer fun on the cheap. But Christians should use money responsibly and faithfully regardless of the state of the economy.
This summer, find ways to get by with less. Spend a day at a state park instead of an amusement park. Take advantage of free public entertainment (such as concerts, plays, and outdoor movies) instead of spending money on concert and movie tickets. Instead of going out for dinner, cook out on the backyard grill. All of these money-saving activities allow you to save and be more faithful and generous with your income. By making some minor sacrifices and changes of plans, you can avoid debt and have more money to use in service of God and God’s kingdom.
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