Summer can be a challenging time for a congregation’s education ministries. The end of the school year brings with it a vacation mindset that can draw people away from regular participation in Bible study and corporate worship.
Where I live in New Jersey, summer weekends are spent at “The Shore.” In Washington State, you might lose families when they retreat to a cabin in the mountains. In Oklahoma and elsewhere, it’s trips to the lake. Summer is the season for road trips, family reunions, destination weddings, exploring the great outdoors at national parks, and other adventures that draw our members away from home.
Vacation Bible School may be one big Christian education program happening during this season—but what if your congregation doesn’t have a VBS? How can we encourage people to get connected and stay connected to God’s Word throughout their summer breaks?
One way we can start is by helping people take their faith with them, wherever they find themselves. Imagine what it might look like if we could provide a meaningful, intentional ministry of God’s Word, to go.
Here are a few ideas that might be fun to try this summer—whether you’re in New Jersey or Washington, or somewhere in between!
Road Trips With Jesus
Perhaps the simplest idea. Encourage your members to mail a postcard to the church from their vacation locations. Decorate a bulletin board in a well-traveled hallway or fellowship hall and add the postcards to the display as they arrive.
Use some space and time in your weekly announcements (in print and in person) to tell members about the LCMS app for smartphones. Demonstrate how to use the app to find a local congregation they can visit for worship. Have them bring back a worship bulletin from any congregations they visit, and add those to your summer bulletin board, too!
Summer Service Projects
Schedule a “Service Fair” at your church for late summer, before school begins in your area.
Invite church members—in family groups, alone, or together with another member—to choose a service project to complete over the course of the summer. Have a list of ideas ready, to help them get started, such as:
- Working at the local food bank
- Helping with outside landscaping at the church or a local community garden
- Making greeting cards, then delivering them to a local nursing home or rehab facility
- Participating in a township cleanup day or other environmental cleanup (beach, trails, etc.)
- Hosting a neighborhood canned food drive—create flyers to share the event with your neighbors, hand out plastic bags (you could reuse plastic shopping bags), and set a date for pickup. (Bonus: You’ll get to know your neighbors!)
Once they’ve completed their project, groups and individuals can create a trifold display to tell the story of their service. Using pictures, a brief write-up, brochures from the organization(s) they helped, and other visual aids, they can share their project with the congregation.
At the “Service Fair,” project participants and other church members can visit the various displays, hear the stories of what each group did, see pictures (videos?) and more from their projects, and learn how they might connect with that same organization or do a similar project with their own family or group.
Make it a day to celebrate being the church together! Host a picnic, invite all congregation members to come, and give positive feedback to the families and individuals who take this step of faith together, to serve their neighbors in love, following the example of Jesus Christ.
If your congregation is like mine, you don’t have the volunteer base or the number of kids needed to make a traditional Vacation Bible School happen. So what can you do, when this standard of summer Christian education and outreach is out of reach?
Equip families, moms, dads, grandparents, and high school and college students to host a backyard VBS for their own kids, younger siblings, grandchildren, and their friends and neighbors!
Using a ready-to-go Vacation Bible School curriculum, or finding ideas on Pinterest, you can make up Backyard VBS boxes with a song CD or DVD, a Bible story resource, craft supplies and instructions, simple games, a video or children’s movie suggestion, and snack recipes (try to have an allergy-friendly option).
Encourage your Backyard VBS leaders to start small and plan for a single day. Have the kids over for the program, and invite their parents and/or grandparents to stay for a backyard barbecue at the close of the day. Kids can share what they learned, display their craft projects, and teach their parents some songs while you all gather around a fire pit for s’mores.
Worship To-Go Boxes
What prayer and worship resources and educational helps do you already have in your congregations, that could be assembled in user-friendly Worship To-Go Boxes for summer travelers?
Take those resources, as well as a hymnal or CD or DVD of hymns and songs, and package them in a shoe box or reusable tote bag—along with a brief explanation for how to use them!—and place them in an easy-to-find location. Use some of your announcement time to show off what’s in the Worship To-Go Box and explain how they can be used.
Encourage your members to share their experiences using the Worship To-Go Boxes by posting a photo on your congregation’s Facebook page. Share those photos in your slideshow on Sunday mornings, or in your newsletter, as a way of affirming their faith practice even when they’re traveling and apart from their church family.
Hebrews 10:24–25 asks us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I pray these simple ideas might stir up love and good works in you, and in your congregations this summer!