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Forming faith rituals: Summer holidays
What word would you choose to describe summer holidays? Wonderful? Relaxing? Memory-making? Long? Stressful? Childcare? Expensive? Exhausting?
Whatever the age of our children and our unique blend of work and childcare, summer holidays change our regular dayto- day lives. Our routines are different, our goals are different and we face challenges that don’t exist during term time. However, I believe there are perhaps unseen opportunities for nurturing faith at home, so let’s explore what these might be so we can make the most of those summer weeks.
For some families, summer can be more hectic with less routine, which can be a challenge for those of us who nurture faith at home as part of those term-time routines. Daily or weekly family devotions may need rethinking or perhaps doing in a different way. Why not try exploring the Bible together outside, perhaps themed with the Bible story, eg stories involving water by a lake. One mum shared with me how they read a book of the Bible together as a family in the holidays, taking it in turns to be the ‘leader’ (children as well). This could be done over a week spent away together or over the whole summer period, depending on what works in your family.
For other families, the routine becomes more stressful as different childcare options are brought into play each week. The changeable routine takes more time to plan, and for children who find change more difficult, there isn’t much time to adjust to one routine before it changes. One parent spoke with me about the guilt she feels knowing her child finds this kind of constant change difficult, as she isn’t able to spend much time with them over the summer. She longs for the routine of September (which also makes her feel guilty!).
The opportunity these difficulties can offer is a chance to take very specific anxieties and concerns to God and to ask him to be with us in a different and real way in the times of transition. It’s a chance for both parents and children to experience help from God with both the practical concerns and the emotional challenges. You could maybe also share your specific concerns with Christian grandparents or godparents for prayer.
Something which may also help families (adults and children) experiencing constant change over the summer is to consider using some good transition strategies. These are used by missionary families who experience lots of relocation changes, but are really helpful when used in any transitional moments. Using the acronym RAFT reminds us to:
Reconcile with anyone we’ve fallen out with, or bring a degree of completeness to any un-dealt with difficulties in relationships at school or childcare placements, so as not to take that ‘mess’ into the next place.
Affirm relationships, taking time to tell people we like them and will miss them as we move into a time when we won’t see them. We can perhaps also plan ways in which to keep in touch (we love using TouchNote postcards which can send photos from your phone as a picture postcard) and remind each other that friendships will continue even if you don’t see each other as much or in the same way for a while.
Farewells are intentional ‘goodbyes’, something we can use at the end of term or a holiday club week such as celebrating the end with something special. The leaders of clubs may do this, but it’s also possible to do this as a family.
Think transition by looking ahead to what the next or new place is like, the good things to be looking forward to, the things to prepare for. If you’d like more details on this, see Bob Mayo’s ‘Bridging the gap’ article on page 30.
Pressure to have fun
A challenge many parents face is the pressure we feel to ‘make the most of each moment’ and ‘make memories’ in the time we have with our children, be this at weekends or weeks in the summer. Many parents constantly ask themselves: “How will I entertain them?” The challenge and pressure to set up enough ‘amazing stuff’ is huge.
Obviously, we want summer to be a good time for our children, but the good times may be simpler, cheaper and easier than we might imagine. Spending time with our children playing, being outside and enjoying having fun together can be as easy as a bike ride to the park with a picnic, or a shared film evening with popcorn. Time spent together doesn’t have to be Bible or prayer-based to be faith building. Developing strong, healthy relationships within our families is one of the key ways we can share our faith together. This is where we first learn to trust, an integral element in faith. This is where we see faith modelled, not just how to spend time with God, but how to live generously, joyfully and wisely.
“The main thing for us in the school holidays is that we have so much more time and so much less pressure!” says parent, Ruth Younger. “I love holidays and love the chats we have about everything including faith, I love that they get their instruments out and praise God and we put worship songs on, I love that we can go out to the Lakes for a day and enjoy God’s creation and also we have lots of opportunities to forgive each other and love each other!”
Bible stories outside
And what of the unique opportunities the summer holidays bring? Even the British summer brings many more opportunities to be outdoors, and these bring chances to share faith in different ways. Have you tried sharing Bible stories outdoors? Try it - you’ll be amazed at the difference location makes! Read Bible stories in the garden, a den or a tent or a wood or by a lake or the sea. You can even have some fun pairing up Bible stories with relevant locations: Jesus calling the disciples, calming the storm, teaching from a boat or walking on water could be told near a lake or the sea.
Opportunities to bless others
Being outdoors gives us more opportunities to serve and be generous, such as leaving messages in the sand, writing on rocks for others to find or making things to sell and raise money for a cause we care about. We’re more likely to meet people at the park who we can be kind to or encourage. There are also specific charities doing good stuff we can join in with, such as MakeLunch, who help feed children during school holidays who usually get free school lunches.
Christian clubs and camps
The summer is the busiest time for Christian clubs and holidays, both for children and teens to go to and for families to attend together. These give great opportunities for us to spend time with other Christian children and adults, experiencing different ways of being with God, as well as coming into contact with Christians with different theology and ways of living for God. They can be amazing opportunities to grow and mature in our faith.
So what are your challenges and opportunities? Make this a summer where your faith and that of your family grows.