After what I like to call the “year long winter,” I think summer is FINALLY around the corner! For us youth people it means trips, camps, and deeper relational building. Recently, I realized something about my own attitude about summer: “Parents want to give their kids something to do, so I better step up and offer more.”
As a parent of three kids who are “not quite old enough to work” I get it. We take maybe a week of family vacation. The other weeks upon weeks of summer are filled with my children continuously mouthing the words, “I’m bored,” over and again. By the time they hit Middle School they feel too old for day camp, (if you can even afford it in the first place) and there are only so many water activities or time at home you all can endure. Once a summer we can afford something awesome, and then it’s over. So as the youth person I want to provide something that takes it off the parent who is probably working anyway. Bored kids seem to find drama, so I want them to stop wandering aimlessly. Yet, I have been challenged this summer to see if there is anything I can do to empower parents to engage their children. It’s the perfect time. Schedules are more relaxed and we aren’t focused on school, pressure is off until band or sports camp.
Here are some ideas to put in the hands of parents:
Before & After Trip Materials:
There are loads of materials out there to put in parents hands for before and after missions trips. (Simply has been sending out freebies on this topic for weeks now.) However, what about before and after camp as well? As a parent your child comes home from camp and you ask, “What did you learn this week?” They don’t know how to filter the emotions and express themselves. They say, “It was awesome.” or “I gave my life to Jesus,” (again) or “The Theme was Growing in the Lord.” The well engaged parent says, “Tell me about it.” Then your introvert child says, “Do we have to talk about this?” Provide the parent with ways they can help their kids take what they have learned and use it as a catalyst for a deeper relationship with Christ. Try providing an idea list like “Finding Jesus on Vacation.” What are some ways their kids can take the fun time on vacation and see the Lord in the everyday? I am working on a list right now for my parents.
They Can Do THIS!
How can they engage their kids spiritually daily? Many parents are intimidated because they are not theologians. A friend of mine recently challenged me: “You are a youth pastor, you are constantly thinking about how to engage your kids for Christ, the rest of us regular parents don’t think that way.” I would take it a step further: It’s my personality. My husband is also a “youth person” and doesn’t think like that either. They also think they have to be spiritual giants to talk Christ with their kids. Just put materials in their hands that allow them to grow with their child. What about some of the textable devotions? Instead of sending them yourself, give the parent the list, and help them know how to use it. They can send the devo to their whole family and then have a five minute conversation about them at some point in the day.
Parents need IDEAS. What are some things they can do with their kids to engage them in thinking about God on a regular basis? What about planning out a “Random Acts of Kindness” summer? Their kids come up with ways they can bless their neighbors throughout the summer: bake some cupcakes and drop them off, pull weeds in a garden, mow a lawn. Is there a way they can be “Kindness Spies?” Can they go the whole summer and never get caught in the things they plan? Spend an afternoon making encouragement cards and drop them off at a local nursing home. Send them cameras or phones to take pictures of God in creation. Help them with the everyday stuff that’s quick and easy. Yes, their kids will say, “It’s dumb.” Yes, their kids will learn something on the other side.
Whatever you do with students for the summer, there are going to be far more bored hours at home than anywhere else. Let parents know this is the PERFECT time to get to know their kids, and together to seek God. Every parent can DO this! Put the power back in their hands.
What else can you offer this summer?