The busyness of getting our kids ready for school, going to work, and shuttling them to extracurricular activities seems to speed up the short time we have with our kids. We know teaching our kids about Jesus is important, but we don’t often have time to plan or walk through family devotionals. Thankfully, there is the summer.
You may not think of how perfect the summer is for discipling your kids. The season gives us both the space to consider how we disciple our kids and the time to set good habits before the busyness of fall.
When we think of summer discipleship, our minds may race to big events like summer camp or vacation Bible school. But discipleship doesn’t have to be a production. God transforms lives at summer camps, but he also works powerfully in little moments of faithfulness throughout a normal day.
Like Paul says in Ephesians 5:16, “making the most of the time because the days are evil.” The original Greek literally tells us to “redeem moments, because the days are evil.” As a parent, all you have to do is use little moments throughout the day to teach your kids about Jesus.
The most impactful testimony to your children about Jesus will be the way you follow him. During the summer, they will likely be with you more than usual, watching how you live out your faith. Can they see your daily spiritual habits? Do you show them grace when they act out or when airline delays mess up your vacation plans? Your interactions and reactions can teach your children far more than sermons.
But be ready. Your kids will do more than watch you. They will ask you questions about the way you treat others, the Bible, church, and God. You are their most trusted resource. But that doesn’t mean you have to know all of the answers to their questions. Be willing to admit when you don’t know something, and make sure that you follow up by seeking answers with your kids to their big questions.
Having no homework and too much free time in the summer can result in our kids over-indulging in video games or social media. Unplugging and taking a break from technology can create space for more meaningful connections and conversations. Instead of getting buried in your devices after dinner, make a summer habit of enjoying an evening walk with your family. You could even make the car a screen-free zone, choosing instead to listen to redeeming podcasts together or talk about the day with your kids.
The summer presents a welcome chance to untether from our weekly commitments. But while we may be thrilled to be done with after-school carpools, there are some weekly staples that we should make a point to hold on to. Even if the summer is busy, prioritizing family dinners, church attendance, and time together is well worth the effort. Everything can change during the summer, but what stays the same is often the most impactful.
The summer is a perfect time to invest in your children’s spiritual growth by sending them to a sleep-away camp, vacation Bible school, or a mission trip. But what they learn at camp shouldn’t stay at camp.
You can help your child take what they experienced at camp or on a mission trip and let it influence the rest of the year. Talk to your kids about what they learned and help them apply it to their everyday lives. For example, if your child memorized a Bible verse, have them write it on a notecard and tape it to the bathroom mirror as a daily reminder of God’s love for them.
Summer offers us a space to get out of the regular habits of the school year. It can be a nice reprieve and an excuse to get very busy. But no matter your schedule, you still have little moments every day to influence your children toward Christ. God can turn our little moments of faithfulness into a lifetime of our kids following him.
If you struggle to know how to talk to your kids about spiritual topics or how to answer their questions about God, check out Natasha Crain’s series, Talking with Your Kids about Jesus in the RightNow Media library.
As teenagers and young adults, my peers and I were often encouraged to think ahead regarding what sort of qualities we wanted in a future spouse.
Loves Jesus Check.
Rich Has potential.
Similar interests Amazingly, he/she loves all my favorite activities!
The List had levels, of course. Spiritual qualities ranked above physical attributes (or did they?), followed by all things we would have in common, along with more “mature” characteristics that would enable us to succeed in life. Our lists hid inside journals or got lost in computer files. Some of us tried to forget them entirely.
Eventually, my friends and I graduated from mere daydreaming and began experiencing the adult dating life, for better or worse. The older we got, the more we evaluated acquaintances and dates as potential spouses. And for those of us who married, we finally got to see how our idealism matched up with reality.
When I realized my dating relationship had some serious potential, I thought back to The List I’d made. He was good looking, loved Jesus (see that order?), smart, had so much in common with me . . . He checked a lot of the boxes. But so had a couple of other guys I’d previously dated. Surely there was something I’d missed.
I turned to a friend with over a decade of marriage experience. “What do I look for? How do I know?”
Among many important characteristics, she told me, don’t neglect one basic quality:
“Is he kind?”
She elaborated: “How does he treat his mother? What little things do you notice about how he acts around other people, including you? Do you see arrogance or gentleness, selfishness or a servant’s heart? When you mess up, how does he react?” Not a concept I’d considered for The List, but she had a point.
Sometimes people misunderstand kindness, thinking of it as somehow weak. But God himself is described as kind, shown in his sending of Jesus. The apostle Paul warned those who would reject Christ: “Do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). God wants us to trust his Son. In Jesus, he shows how eager he is for us to turn toward him, the one who offers new life.
Jesus was often motivated by compassion for the hurting and confused. His hands healed blind eyes and deaf ears, his eyes overflowed in empathetic grief, his teaching brought life to dead hearts. And through the thorns and scourging and nails borne on Calvary, “the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared—he saved us . . .” (Titus 3:4–5). The cross was kindness in action.
When we give ourselves to Christ, he gives himself to us through the Spirit. We begin to reflect God’s values in our relationships with others. Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
There it is—kindness. Not weak or submissive, but strong and active. Kind people serve others, sometimes at great cost to themselves. Kind spouses put each other first, seeking ways to empower, uplift, energize, and equip the one they committed their lives to.
Kindness is love in action. Healthy relationships simmer like soup on low heat: tiny bubbles of kind acts, some behind the scenes, enrich the flavor and warmth of the relationship. The little things count. No grandiose acts required. Rather, kindness can look like the smallest gesture:
A steaming cup of coffee waiting on the kitchen counter.
A text checking in to see how your appointment went.
Asking a follow-up question after you’ve shared a difficult moment from your day.
An apology for forgetting to do whatever you asked them to help with.
Praising your latest accomplishment to their colleagues.
What does kindness from your spouse look like to you? Don’t be surprised if you have to stop for a few moments to think—not because your spouse isn’t kind, but because often we don’t recognize and acknowledge our spouse’s little acts of love. Once you start noticing, find ways to communicate your appreciation and gratitude.
What kindness have you offered your spouse today? In the days to come, make them feel seen and cared for with small and big gestures. Be intentional in putting him or her first in ways you haven’t considered in the past.
Notice the examples of small kindnesses listed above can apply to any relationship, not just a marriage. All friendships thrive on kindness. How can you show it to your friends, roommates, colleagues, and neighbors?
If you’ve written The List in your mind, on paper, or via your online dating profile, double-check your priorities. My friend’s advice clinched it for me, and I’ve been reaping the benefits for over twenty-five years.
Summertime can feel like an obstacle to overcome for parents of school-aged kids. How do we keep our kids busy without over-scheduling them? How do we manage our own responsibilities while also ensuring our children’s minds don’t wither away from hours of screen time? Can anything keep kids interested, occupied, productive, and even learning during summer vacation?
Remember playdough, finger paint, and crayons? Toddler days were messy! But while the medium may (or may not) change, our kids’ creativity doesn’t. Let’s occupy their busy minds by filling their busy hands with opportunities to create. Adapt the following ideas to the ages and abilities of your children.
Set up a dedicated spot in your home—a table, nook, or entire room if you have it—for artistic endeavors stocked with a supply of paper, pencils, paint, and other creative tools. Name a particular hour of your day as “art class” and explore a passion or talent your child may possess. And if you just can’t handle glitter, paint, or modeling clay, find a friend who can and trade playdates with them. When my kids were between five and twelve years old, I always loved taking them to my friend Susie, who, as an actual artist, was happy for them to join her kids in making a huge mess on her kitchen table. They came home with glittery hair, colorful smudges, and shining eyes as they showed me their newest handmade treasures.
Books are the doorway to the future, exercising children’s imaginations, thinking, comprehension skills, and creativity. Stories help them understand the world and imagine a new world in which they can play a part. The power of reading inspired Dolly Parton, for instance, to create her Imagination Library, which sends a book per month to children from birth to five years old.
While babies are napping, toddlers can enjoy “rest time” with books until they doze off. Older kids can settle down during the heat of the day with a reading hour. Or jazz up your routine with a weekly trip to the library where they can discover new stories and foster a lifelong habit of reading.
Begin with the best book in the world, the Bible. A short time reading God’s Word will start every day with pure goodness. Don’t make it complicated—even opening your physical Bible and then retelling the story in your own words teaches your children the value of hearing from God every day. Let them participate and help you as they are able. Maybe have them draw a picture depicting something from the story that day.
Once they start reading, many children begin dramatizing the stories they love. Do your kids enjoy imitating or quoting their favorite characters and scenes? Clean out your closets and offer your rejects or old favorites to a costume bin. Encourage the kids to act out their morning Bible stories, write screenplays, get into character, and become someone new on stage. Cheer on your cotton ball-bearded Moses and blue sash-draped Mary. Ooh and aah when “Jesus” multiplies the cheese and crackers. Always say yes when they ask if you want to watch.
Reading often leads to writing. Keep old school notebooks from the recycle bin, tear out the used pages, and reuse what’s left as “dreaming and drafting” notebooks. Let your kids’ creative instincts run wild! Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. When they feel they’ve completed a poem or short story and are ready to share, help them re-write it neatly or even type it into the computer (we can’t ignore sneaking in easy learning). Print out a final version to share with friends and family. Celebrate your child’s imagination and hard work.
Storytelling takes many forms, and video is easily the most popular type of media right now. Disney, for example, rules the screens in many households. The kids will ask to watch their favorite episodes or movies all day long, and we are often tempted to let them vegetate in front of the screen. But why not put the camera—or your iPhone—into their hands instead? Using free apps such as iMovie or InShot, young aspiring producers can learn basic editing skills for photography and video. Movie night can take on a whole new angle.
Let’s encourage our kids to tell stories that reflect their faith and God’s character. The original kids’ series The Creators, a product of the RightNow Media video production team, tells the story of a group of friends who join forces to create films that are “meaningful, virtuous, and good.” The Creators weaves biblical truths into engaging stories with humor and the right dose of seriousness. Perhaps a short time in front of a show will inspire your kids to produce their own series!
When God created humans, he made us in his image (Genesis 1:27). That means we are made to be creators too—it’s part of our DNA and our purpose. Who says we have to wait until we are adults to make wonderful things?