*The following was originally published in The Llano News June 6, 2021.
As the summer kicks off in Llano, TX, there will be lots of community activities we will be anticipating. I had the privilege of listening to Tony Guidroz, our Director of Community Development and Main Street Manager, share about some wonderful things we have planned during a Lion’s Club meeting. Some of these include Rockin’ River Fest, our annual July 4th celebration, and a brand-new summer concert series that will be hosted for free on our court house lawn! Summers in Llano are special, and I am thankful to Tony for working hard to make them even better.
From a Pastor’s point-of-view, summers are unique for a different reason. Most of our churches will take a step-back from regular, mid-week “programming” in an effort to allow volunteers to rest, recuperate, and retool for the fall season. Sometimes, this results in fewer people in the building on Sundays, which can be discouraging to pastors who are there most of the time, week-in and week-out. Of course, it is both biblical and healthy to have seasons of rest, so while I don’t want anyone completely giving up on church for the summer, I DO hope you have some time to get away from the normal routine (yes, even including a few Sundays of church attendance). If you want to be an encouragement to your pastor and church leaders during this time, try to be a contributing presence as much as you can while you are in town, and don’t allow a change in your routine to change prioritization of communal worship.
That being said, special ministry opportunities come our way in the summer that are not afforded during the Fall and Spring. Just about every one of our churches will have a VBS (Vacation Bible School) of some sort. This is a joy for us to host for your children. By the way, we are fully aware that we pass children around from one church to another during this time! We get it – for a parent, VBS can be free day care that provides you with a few hours to get something done, or simply to have some quiet time to yourself. If this is something we can provide for you, wonderful! On the other hand, I hope you are aware that for us, VBS is so much more than babysitting; it is instructing your children in what we believe is foundational in the Christian faith. We take this very seriously, and we want you to do so as well.
Here are some tips for making the most out of any of the area VBS programs your children might attend: 1) talk to your kids about what they learned; 2) help them address any questions that might have come up (I know any of our pastors would be willing to help you do this); 3) make plans to attend any parent or family activities included in the program; 4) if you are really concerned about your child’s spiritual development, get involved with a church beyond the week of VBS.
In addition to VBS, you may have a child or teenager attending a church camp of some sort. Again, from the parental perspective, these weeks often amount to a break from having the kids around the house and having to come up with something for them to do, and/or finding someone to take care of them. You need to know, however, that these weeks are far from a break or a vacation to those that attend. They are designed to be spiritually transformative and to help participants take steps in their relationships with God. One of the best ways you can support them when they return is to take an interest in what the week meant to them. Camp often creates a sort-of “spiritual high” for teenagers. Being sensitive to this means being understanding if they seem different, idealistic, or even withdrawn. It also means helping them connect their experience with practical, everyday living. If they are not connected to a church in some way, this will be very difficult. Ask the church they attended camp with about programs for children and youth, as well as Bible studies for adults and families. Statistics show that spiritual commitments made by children and teenagers are taken much more seriously when their families prioritize faith as being important.
Finally, I want to take the rest of this space to let you know that this community has pastors and churches who truly want God’s best for you. While we vary in tradition and practice, we are united in Jesus and believe a relationship with him is the only way to experience life now and in the future as God desires and intends. Don’t hesitate to contact any one of us if you have questions about this. Even though you may be tempted to take it easy this summer, the slower pace may prove the best time to prioritize faith and make church involvement a habit as you prepare for a busier fall. May your summer be blessed!