There’s a drop in church attendance in the summer because of vacations. The kids don’t have school. The weather is nice. The days are longer. The parents pack up their stuff and their kids and head out. Road trip. Camping. Cruise. That long-saved-for epic family adventure.
Meanwhile at church, pastors and leaders have less ministry volunteers (especially if they went on vacation together). That long-planned-for epic ministry event *ahem* VBS *ahem* have low attendance and lots of extra craft materials. Children’s ministry directors and Sunday school teachers are saddened and frustrated that kids return from vacation having forgotten just about everything they’ve already learned.
When we switched from a Children’s Ministry to a Family Ministry, I started thinking in terms of family. I started with our events. How do we turn VBS into Family VBS? How do we get parents involved in what their kids learn in Sunday school? What resources can I pass on to parents to help them step into their God-given roles as their children’s spiritual leaders?
Now that kids are on summer vacation and my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filling up with families on vacation, the questions I have remain the same. I still think in terms of family, but when I ordered VBS materials online and wondered how many families will actually show up, something changed. Or maybe clicked. Like the Holy Spirit turned on a lightbulb and my perspective shifted.
This is what family ministry taught me about family vacations: they’re great!
Who cares if there’s low attendance? Who cares if I order too many craft materials? Who cares if my volunteers are out of town?
Well, okay. Hold on a minute. I care if my volunteers all leave on vacation at the exact time. Please don’t do that to my poor nerves. But if I stop for a moment, weigh out the options, and look at the big picture, it doesn’t really matter.
Because Family Ministry isn’t just about thinking in terms of family, it’s about the family.
It’s great the family’s on vacation together. They’re spending time together. Life is happening. Love is growing. Memories are being made. Parents are parenting, and kids are learning. They’re learning about so many things like family dynamics, compromise, patience, how to properly interact with each other or with strangers. They may be learning about different cultures, geography, or the world.
Are they learning about God? I don’t know.
I don’t know if they – while on vacation – pray everyday, read their Bibles, or have devotional time. I don’t know if they listen to praise and worship music. I don’t know if their parents talk about God or Jesus. I don’t know if they visit another church on the Sundays of their vacation.
And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with not knowing. I’m even okay if none of those things happen during vacation. I’m okay as long as I do my part. My part is to think in terms of family, support the family, and empower the parents.
It’s not my part to guarantee parents are reading the books I give them, talking to their kids about God, or making sure they’re leading their kids spiritually. It’s not my part to parent the parents. That’s God’s territory. As much as I encourage the parents to step up as the spiritual leaders of their kids, only God can really bring them there.
When we have low attendance on Sundays or at our events, we worry and get nervous because – at least for my team and me – we want our kids to grow steadily in their relationship with God. We want them to have a steady dose of Jesus because we know how easy it is to slip away and suddenly find ourselves lost. We’ve been there and we want to make sure our kids are spiritual strong enough that – if they ever find themselves lost – they know how to run back into the arms of the Father.
If I truly believe God designated parents to spiritually lead their kids (and I do), I have to trust Him. I have to trust the parents. I have to trust that when
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
To pastors and ministry leaders, simply do your part and trust that the seeds you planted will be watered and will grow. You don’t even have to be there for the watering and growing. You may not even be there for the harvesting. Let go of your need to be. It’s not about you. It’s not about us.
To all the families out there, go ahead and vacation away. If you feel guilty for missing church or ministry events, don’t worry about it. I won’t stop encouraging you to be intentional in spiritually leading your kids to Christ, but I trust you. You can do it. You got this.