It's Summer Time! What Are You Doing With It?

School's out for summer (Cue theme music). For my family, it couldn't get here fast enough. The trouble is that if we aren't intentional, the entire summer can slip away without us experiencing what God has in mind for our kids. Here's three things you can do to make the most of your summer:

1. Remember

In order to make this summer truly count for your family, remember what God has called you to do. He's called you make disciples (Matt. 28). As parents, God goes further. He instructs you should to make disciples of your children. As their primary spiritual influence, you must show them what it means to be a believer. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 makes how to do this crystal clear:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children

First, have a living, growing, and vibrant faith. The only way to teach it diligently to your children is first to possess it yourself. Then, and only then, you can do what God has called you to do: teach them diligently in everyday moments of life.

2. Routine

Families benefit from structure. Just because it's summer doesn't mean there should be no routine. But the structure should look different than it does during the school year. Include some unstructured time in your schedule, but don't forget to make plans. Put that trip to the pool or baseball game on your calendar before you miss the chance. And be sure to make time to go outside.  

Create routines where kids can grow in spiritual disciplines. Help them to start reading the Bible regularly on their own. Help them create a routine of keeping a prayer journal. Create routines where they can ask you questions. Above all, make it fun!

3. Rest

School is out for a very simple reason. Teachers and students need a break. They need to rest ... and so do you.  Take a vacation. Take a staycation if you have to. Put your work and e-mail away and make some intentional memories with your family.

Don't let this summer come to an end with the guilt of what might have been. Be intentional this summer. You never know what God may do.

Three Disciplines for Teaching Grace to Kids

A young girl will read books and work for good grades so her parents will take her out for ice cream. A boy will spend hours in a batting cage hoping for an ‘attaboy’ from his dad. 

In the Fall of 2015, I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s children’s ministry conference, KMC 2015. I talked with leaders in the session about how our kids grow up in a performance-driven world. Kids can grow up thinking: “Intimacy is earned,” or “I am who I am because of what I do or have failed to do.”

The world’s message of performance is different from the Bible’s message of redemption.

The world’s message of performance is different from the Bible’s message of redemption. The Bible tells us that intimacy with God is a free gift. Jesus came to be with us even when we were his enemies (Romans 5:8; 10:6-8). Because Jesus came, kids can help shape the culture rather than being shaped by it. They can radiate with a new identity, one that’s not based in earning or deserving. Like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10a, kids can say, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.”

Sometimes we are better at teaching the truth about grace to kids than we are at living it out. In that breakout, I talked about three spiritual habits that can help grace stick with kids (and adults!) for a lifetime. Here they are…

1. Remember.

We are all aimless, directionless sinners. We choose to disobey and follow our own plans. Ultimately our plans leave us lost. But God has never gotten lost. Before God created the heavens and earth, he had a plan. God has lovingly mapped out his people’s lives even though we struggle to remember it (Psalm 139).

Ultimately our plans leave us lost. But God has never gotten lost.

Here is one of the ways we teach the discipline of remembering to elementary kids. We ask each child to map out the most significant events in his life. We ask the child to include his birth, his first time riding a bike, the birth of siblings, his first day at school, meeting best friends, and favorite activities. We encourage each child to include years and locations. Each child shared their timeline with their small group. We encouraged the teachers to point out evidence of where God has been at work in the child’s story—evidence of His grace. A few of our teachers came to me afterwards and said, “I need to do this,” or “This is the kind of thing we do in counseling.” It’s true. God’s plan of grace is a comfort. We need to practice remembering.

2. Be Vulnerable and Practice Repentance.

Kara Powell and Chap Clark put together a team at Fuller Seminary to study church kids and what happens to them after high school. They discovered that young people who run away from the faith have a tendency to equate Christianity with a list of do’s and don’ts, what Dallas Willard calls “the gospel of sin management.”  Powell and Clark also discovered that whether kids stayed with the faith after high school or not, they all struggled equally with the do’s and don’ts. But what those who stayed with the faith discovered is that the vibrancy and life at the heart of Christianity isn’t found in keeping the rules perfectly. The heart of Christianity—what separates it from every other religion—is grace.

The heart of Christianity—what separates it from every other religion—is grace.

Here’s the truth. Kids practice what they see. We must let grace abound in our homes and ministries. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences or discipline, but we parents need to demonstrate what it looks like to give and receive grace by talking more freely about our mistakes and apologizing to our kids. We should ask our kids to forgive us when we lose our temper or raise our voices with them. If apologizing is a hypothetical in our homes, we may be out of touch with our own sinfulness. But when we come to see that we can do nothing good on our own (Romans 3), we will also come to see that one of the first steps forward is simply acknowledging and admitting when we blow it… repenting before our kids and asking for forgiveness.

3. Lean Into Passions with Gratitude.

We’re all passionate about things. Every home is oriented around something. Maybe it’s gymnastics or academic team or football. I meet parents who have a lot of anxiety about their kids’ passions and interests. They might ask, “How do you not let a typical American pastime become an idol in your home?”

Show interest in what interests your kids. Then as Augustine said, ‘trace the sunbeam up to the sun.’

At a family discipleship weekend where I spoke a couple of years back, one parent voiced concern about her child making Minnie Mouse into an idol. She said, “I’m just so worried. My daughter wants to wear mouse ears to church. What do I do?” I said, “Let her.” I believe we should look at our kids’ passions with a slightly different perspective. Let’s ask instead, “How can my child’s passion become something that builds family relationships and faith in God? How can I lean into my kids’ passions, abilities, and interests?”

Show interest in what interests your kids. Then, as Augustine said, “trace the sunbeam up to the sun.” Talk about how it’s God who is the giver of every good gift (James 1:17). Give thanks to God for giving your children those passions. You may discover that He is at work using those interests to teach them about himself.

Grace is opposed to earning, but it’s not opposed to discipline and effort. These are three disciplines that I’m hoping to come back to again and again.

This post originally appeared on the family channel of the Verge Network.