Take the Summer Challenge!
It’s so easy to get caught up in our vacation plans and grow lazy in our church attendance and spiritual life during the summer months. As the following story reveals, God never goes on vacation and we shouldn’t find excuses to take a vacation from church. How can we continue on our journey with Christ during the summer months? Try implementing some of the ideas below and use them for inspiration in finding additional ways to keep your family close to Christ!
This article is adapted from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Center for Family Care at www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family
Where does God go for summer vacation? A little girl I know pondered that same question not too long ago. Sarah loved Sunday School; she went every Sunday. She liked being in church with her parents… but when summer came- it would all end!
Why wasn't there church? Why wasn't there any Sunday School? Where did her friends go? She really was concerned. She wondered why the choir stopped singing on Sundays. Even worse, she wondered why there wasn't church in the summer… when in actuality, her parents would just stop going to church in the summer!
The summer was their "time off". Time to lounge in the sun. Time to plan family vacations and weekends away. It was time to concentrate on rest and relaxation. But for Sarah, it was strange not to go to church, see her friends, or be with God.
On the day that her family piled into the station wagon to visit their grandmother, Sarah asked her mother, "Mom, where does God go for summer vacation? "
Her mother chuckled at the question, and told her God doesn’t go on vacation.
Sarah wondered, "Why don't we go to church then? Why isn't there any Sunday School? Why don't I get to see my church friends?"
Her parents weren't really prepared to deal with questions like this! What could they say? After all, God wasn't on vacation… they were! Imagine her parents' surprise when they realized their little daughter had "stumped them." They just didn’t know how to answer her question. But what was really great was that they were worried enough about it to look for an answer!
Until now, her parents thought: Church was only a 2-hour responsibility on Sunday mornings. For Sarah though, it was a different story. She lived what she learned. Church wasn't just an obligation for her. No way! In fact, it was a way of living… a way of being!
-Excerpt taken from Where Does God Go for Summer Vacation?
So, where does God rank in your family's summer plans? Will He go with you on vacation, or will a break from school and work mean a break from God? This summer we want to invite you to take the Summer Challenge. Instead of taking a rest from your spiritual life, we want your family to use the summer to grow closer to God. Be creative! Be committed! Be with Christ! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Go to Church! Summer is a wonderful time to worship with your family. Attend Divine Liturgy as well the other services offered throughout the season. If you are vacationing, visit different Orthodox churches. To find an Orthodox church close to you, visit: www.scoba.us. Don't forget to check the calendar of the church for special fasting periods and other celebrations. Information can be found at: www.antiochian.org/calendar.
- Camp Out! No, not the kind where you pitch a tent in the middle of the wilderness (although that can be fun); we’re talking about sending your children to one of the many wonderful Orthodox summer camp programs. It is a great way for them to experience the faith. To find a program near you visit: www.antiochian.org/AntiochianVillage. Also, check with your parish priest to find out if your Metropolis hosts a family camp you can attend together.
- Take a Hike! Summer is a great time to really appreciate the beauty of God’s design. So hike, bike, fish, and swim-- just get out there! While you're there, consider pausing to read Psalm 104, which is a beautiful poem of God’s creation. Next time you attend a Vespers service, take notice that it begins with this Psalm.
- Be an Explorer! Decide on something you want to learn about Christ and His Church this summer and explore! Perhaps you want to learn how to chant (www.goarch.org/en/chapel/chant.asp) or you want to learn more about the Gospel (www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/family-gospel-lessons). Consider ordering Where Does God Go for Summer Vacation?; a workbook to guide your children in their summer’s spiritual journey. This book can be ordered at: www.youth.goarch.org.
- Help Out! Christ was a servant to all and He wants us to be the same. Consider projects you can do to help others both in your neighborhood and globally. Check with your local parish and social agencies for ideas. Also check with the following: International Orthodox Christian Charities (www.iocc.org) and Orthodox Christian Mission Center (www.ocmc.org) if you want to help people outside your community. For something really different, consider volunteering your time with Project Mexico (www.projectmexico.org) and build a house for some very special families.
- Listen Up! We are surrounded daily by so much noise. Why not try listening to something different? Orthodox Christian Network (www.receive.org) has music and interviews that edify the soul. Also, check out Ancient Faith Radio (http://ancientfaithradio.com), another Orthodox Internet broadcast. Have your children listen to their weekly children's story time called Under the Grapevine.