Summer of 2020 will be unforgettable…for all the wrong reasons. Vacations are cancelled, amusement parks and Summer camps are closed, and parents are struggling to keep their kids busy with meaningful activities while working from home. Money has been tight for some and health has been a concern for all. For many families, there are just a few weeks of Summer left before school starts back.
If you are struggling to “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:16) as a family, let me suggest three worthwhile family activities to incorporate into your final weeks of summer—and perhaps continue throughout the entire school year.
1. Make an unforgettable memory.
Most memories that last a lifetime involve activities that are out of the ordinary. So, think outside the box. One of the best ways to grow close as a family is by creating shared experiences, like camping trips.1 Leaving the comfort of your thermostat-controlled house to spend a night in the wild sharing a “room” with your entire family (and insects) is sure to be memorable.
On our most recent camping trip adventure, we showed up at Joshua Tree National Park having accidentally forgotten firewood. As we set up our tent, we wondered how we were going to roast hot dogs with no fire. When we returned from our evening hike, we were surprised to find an RV parked in our campsite, but after a few minutes of friendly discussion, we offered to share our campsite and they agreed to share their firewood! God’s provision and protection are often important components of memorable family adventures. If you don’t have experience camping, take one step at a time. Start by setting up a tent in the living room or the backyard so you have an easy backup plan if needed. (Camping trips are notoriously unpredictable.)
Remember that unforgettable memories don’t need to cost much. Here are a few ideas that cost almost nothing:
- Pick up donuts and stargaze from the bed of a pickup truck.
- Set up a sprinkler and a tarp or some heavy-duty (6 mil) plastic coated with detergent for an amazing homemade slip-n-slide.
- Use some large boxes to build an epic fort in the living room or a slide down the stairs.
- Pick up a half-gallon of ice cream from the grocery store and share it at the park.
- Play hide-and-go-seek in the dark with flashlights.
Your kids will remember the memories you made together as a family more than the places you went or the money you spent.
2. Reach out to your local community.
I don’t want my children to think the world revolves around them. In addition to regular activities with our church family, my wife and I have made it a family goal to reach out to our neighborhood and community. The opportunities for service are endless, but here are just a few service ideas for your family.
Show kindness to neighbors. I’ve never met someone who turned down a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. When we recently delivered cookies to our neighbors, we deepened friendships and had good conversations. We also take regular walks around the neighborhood and make an effort to learn people’s names. Depending on where you live, it might take a long time before a neighbor feels comfortable coming into your house for a meal. Eating together, however, opens up new doors of communication that can go beyond the over-the-fence conversations. Show genuine love for your neighbors, and your kids will follow in your steps.
Don’t forget the elderly. During the past few months, the elderly in our communities have been more isolated than ever before. Many of them may not have technology skills to keep in touch with their families well and some assisted living facilities don’t allow the residents to gather together for meals. Consider creating personalized handmade cards or crafts with your kids to deliver to elderly neighbors or a local assisted living facility. As one director of an assisted living facility shared, “These gifts of love will bring tears of joy.”
3. Take the next step together spiritually
Your primary responsibility as a father is to lead your family spiritually. If you believe that God’s Word is essential for spiritual growth, you must make it a part of your family life. Here are a few ideas:
Read through a book of the Bible together. Whether your children are pre-school (as mine are) or in their teen years or both, reading God’s Word together as a family is crucial. Start by reading a few verses after a mealtime or before bed. Ask a few age-appropriate questions after each reading to encourage attentiveness, evaluate their understanding, and develop their curiosity. Don’t stress about covering an entire chapter every day. We just finished reading the book of Genesis and it took us several months. Start with narrative books like the gospels or Genesis.
Memorize a Bible passage together. If you can remember Superbowl stats from ten years ago, you can memorize a passage of the Bible with your family. You might begin with a familiar passage like Psalm 23 before broadening out to other passages together. (Other passage ideas: Josh. 1:6–9; Is. 55:6–11; Ps. 1, 100; Jn. 1:1–5; Jn. 15:12–17; Gal. 5:22–26; Eph. 6:10–18; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 Pet. 1:3–7; 1 Jn. 4:7–12)
As you prayerfully plan out the last few weeks of summer, be intentional to love God and others as a family. It will be unforgettable.