Our Michigan-based family loves summer (No more snow! The lake! Hiking! Berry picking! Sunshine!). But to avoid the dreaded “summer slide,” I purchased some school-related activity books for my children last year. As I made that optimistic purchase, I failed to realize that in the upheaval of our regular routines, we would only crack the spines of those activity books a handful of times. Every time I saw those books sitting on the shelf last summer, I felt a tinge of failure.
I often experience that same feeling of failure in my spiritual life during the summer—a nagging sense of being behind or “off.” Why? Because summer is a time of kicking back, playing more, and getting out of our routines, and those very things that are meant to be blessings often entice me to be lazy about my spiritual growth. In short, I often face a spiritual summer slide.
We need to actively battle the spiritual summer slide if we want to stay connected to Christ even when our summer schedules are different (or nonexistent!).
1. Determine Your Priorities—and Live Them
In the summer, my professional goals shift from rigid and tight to looser and less structured. But I always have the same three personal goals no matter what season I’m in: connect with God, connect with my family, and connect with my church family.
Whether our kids are home for summer after a full school year or we’re taking a couple of weeks off from our corporate job, it’s necessary to be intentional about our priorities when schedules shift. The most important things in our lives won’t just happen; we have to pursue that which we value most.
For example, we might maintain a great routine of reading the Word, journaling, and being faithful in prayer most of the year. But in the summer, perhaps we won’t have as much alone time, or perhaps we’re traveling more. That’s okay! How our time with God looks might need to shift, but the priority of meeting with him should remain.
So maybe we won’t be able to study the Word for as long as we’d like, but we can still meet our goal of being in the Word, trusting that it will do its work to shape and grow us (2 Tim. 3:16–17). We might need to listen to the Bible as we’re driving or read Scripture on our phones if we’re not at home. But if being in the Word is our priority, we can make sure it happens, no matter how or where.
2. Commit to Your Local Church Body
Where we live, church attendance is lowest in the summer. Why? Because the lake is half an hour away, the skies are blue, and people want to enjoy the weather. They often spend every weekend at the lake, at a cottage, or driving up the coast. I get it! Summer can be so fleeting that we often feel the pressure to soak it all up and squeeze every last bit of sunshine out of it.
But when we consistently miss church in the summertime, we’re indirectly teaching our own souls (and the souls of those that we’re raising or working with) that church isn’t that important and that other things come first.
Now, don’t hear me say that we need to be legalistic about going to church—hardly! I’m a pastor’s wife and I’m definitely not in a pew every single Sunday. But even before we were a ministry family, we committed to being at church as often as possible and to making the sacrifice of being part of communal worship on Sundays. It’s for the good of our own souls that we consistently gather with the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Heb. 10:24–25), using our gifts to bless others and grow spiritually at the same time (Eph. 4:11–13).
When we show up to church consistently—even when it requires sacrifice in the summer—we will be blessed and grow in the Lord.
3. Get Filled Up and Then Pour Out
So much of summer can be deeply refreshing for many of us—months of warmth after a long cold, time to play after a lot of schoolwork, or even a trip or two to shake us out of our routine and get refreshed. These gifts come from our good Father, who loves to see his children delighting in his creation and the shifting of seasons.
But summer is also often marketed—at least in our culture—as something that is inherently self-focused. We’re told that we should take a vacation because we need it or because we deserve it. We’re encouraged to take advantage of these lazy days and use them solely for our own pleasure.
But as followers of Christ, we know that our lives are not ultimately for ourselves: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Summer is actually a great time to live out the opportunity to serve others in fresh ways!
As we experience new ways of getting refreshed in the summer, we can also find new ways to serve. Perhaps our church nursery could use some extra volunteers with regulars traveling. Maybe our neighbor needs help with her yard. Maybe you can help the kids set up a lemonade stand to support a missionary you pray for. Look around and ask the Lord how to use these summer months to serve in a new way, and trust that he will refresh you as you pour in to others (Prov. 11:25).
Grow in Christ this Summer
Our shifting summer schedules may mean that our spiritual disciplines don’t look the same as they do the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean that we’re spiritual failures. With flexibility and creativity, we don’t have to spiritually slide, barely hanging on until we’re back in a solid routine. Instead, we have the opportunity to grow in Christ as we make him our priority in every season and enjoy his goodness as we live and play, right where we are.
Meet the Author
Ann Swindell is the author of The Path to Peace: Experiencing God’s Comfort When You’re Overwhelmed (Bethany House) and Still Waiting (Tyndale). Ann is a member of Wellspring Community Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, where her husband is a pastor. She teaches Christ-centered writing courses at Writing with Grace, and you can connect with her online at AnnSwindell.com.