Sundays in the summer can be stressful for church professionals, especially those in the faith formation/Christian education sphere. In an industry where "success" is often judged according to number of people in the pews or checks in the collection plate, having members away from worship on summer vacation can be anxiety-producing. But if we can shift our focus from what might be missing to how we can equip our members of all ages to do the work of the gospel, summertime offers many unique opportunities to support our members in contextualizing what they've learned and experienced in our midst.
One way in which we can engage this important work is via making connections with our members when they travel. This requires us to move from a model of thought that says we possess the gospel and people come to us to receive it to one in which the gospel dwells in all people and places, and we can use our expertise to come alongside our members wherever they are. We can ensure our members know about the itinerant lifestyles of many of the people in the Bible and invite them into conversations about how they practice evangelism. We can call and research local congregations in places we know they'll be traveling to and ensure they have access to worship spaces that are racially diverse, physically accessible, and welcoming to LGBTQIA+ persons, or provide them with pre-consecrated elements when this isn't possible (or whatever the appropriate practice would be for empowering communion practice in your tradition). Most of all, we can encourage them to engage new people, places, and experiences from a framework that seeks to embrace the spark of the Divine in all things.
Fostering and nurturing relationships within the congregation can happen in powerful ways during vacation season. Could you make a prayer calendar where the congregation prays for members who are traveling? Organize a postcard ministry or intergenerational pen-pals? Have a church "mascot" that travels with members and sends updates about its experiences? Invite members to write prayers inspired by what they witness on their trips and share them via video during worship? Set aside time to help one another with garden chores and discuss the fruits of the Spirit?
There are lots of summer-specific ways to invite our members to explore faith formation closer to home, too. As a starting place, we can help make sure they have access to childcare, air conditioning, and other summer necessities. We can also support them in seeking and shaping fun experiences. What if they were to do a remembrance of baptism at a slip n’ slide, water slide, or sprinkler? How about reading and discussing the story of the risen Christ appearing to eat with the disciples at a barbecue? Or the story of him recruiting Andrew and Peter while fishing, or learning about Sukkot and reading about the Feast of Tabernacles and the Transfiguration on a backyard camping trip?
However you show up for and with your congregations in the summer months, both the ones who are there in person and those who will be away, may you be blessed in knowing that God shows up for us all, in every place and season.