Every single May, my wife and I pack up our family to move to Ocean City, Maryland for the summer. We move into our spot on the coast for six weeks in order to run one of the most influential, life-changing events Cru has to offer a college student.

We host 35 students and 15 staff for a Summer Mission. The best part is that my two young kids get to be a part of it too.

Summer Mission is a lot like spiritual boot camp for college students who want to grow in their faith and learn how to more effectively share the gospel. At the beginning of the Mission, I often tell the students that we have five weeks to prepare them for the next 50 years. We take that responsibility very seriously.

We ask the students to step out in faith. To be willing to grow in ways that may feel quite uncomfortable, because while they’re in Ocean City, we’re not going to do life “business as usual.” Practically, this breaks down into weekly prayer times, Bible study, large group meetings, corporate worship, ministry activities, organized evangelism, men’s/women’s times, and social events, along with a few surprises thrown in for their development.

Inconvenience pays off

But in those five communal weeks, my two daughters get to play with, observe, eat, and talk with sold-out young followers of Christ. Which provides them with life lessons my wife and I would never be able to teach them in our day-to-day routine at home.

The fact that our two elementary school-aged kids have regular run-ins with college kids who love Jesus and want to share their faith is invaluable time that is worth picking up and moving to Maryland for six weeks every summer.

Sure, it’s inconvenient at times. And summer would be easier at home, because all of our friends, church family, and stuff are there. But I wouldn’t trade what we’ve been able to give our girls in Ocean City for anything. Not many young children get the kind of spiritual exposure and unique life experience that they do because we are full-time missionaries.

You can make summer sacred too

All that being said, however, not many families are able to do what we do with our summer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be intentional with your summer and invest it well with your kids instead of just spending it.

Kids often spend loads of time just sitting around the house doing nothing during July and August. So it’s important to be intentional about setting up family participation in a number of ways that will both benefit them and you as parents.

1. Read and learn

Both of my young girls participate in a reading challenge over the summer that rewards them for reading when school’s not in session. The local library sponsors a giveaway for how many hours the child has read over the summer, and offers prizes for logging hours.

So … why not read alongside your kids as they pick up a book during the summer? Grab that theology book you’ve been meaning to get to for two years that has been staring at you from the bookshelf. Crack open the Christian book you haven’t had time to read during the school year that so many people have been raving about. Or most importantly, open your Bible daily and drink deeply from the life-giving Word of God, for which there is no substitute. There’s no time like the present, so open a book and learn to help you grow.

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2. Get creative

Summer can often be a time you let slip by without really getting anything accomplished if you aren’t proactive. One of the things I have often let pass me by is setting aside time to be creative.

For me personally, unless I’m intentional about scheduling time to draw, paint, or sketch, I simply won’t do it. But summer provides great opportunity to get creative by offering loads of extra time you don’t normally have during the school year. Communities often offer art classes or fun, creative crafting activities over the hot days of summer for you and your family to participate in.

But if that’s not your thing, check out these No Bummer Summer cards that include some creative fun right from your own kitchen tables. Participate alongside them as they express their creativity. You’re doing something together, and—who knows?—maybe it will inspire you to break out the paints and work on the canvas you’ve never had the time to get around to until now!

Your kids can watch you be creative as they create too. And if your painting is awful, in the end, you spent time with your children, so it wasn’t a complete waste.

3. Serve

Getting involved in the community where you live can be a wonderful way to invest your summer and simultaneously become a part of the solution where you live. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, community centers, and even your home churches can often use help in a variety of areas around the summer months. Why not pitch in and help instead of just sitting around staring at a phone or iPad all summer?

Serving can help you and your kids gain a different perspective on life and develop a deeper sense of thankfulness for how God has provided and cared for your family. There’s also the added bonus of becoming the hands and feet of Christ by helping to meet the physical needs of others when you serve.

Communal activity as a family is often a fantastic way to create bonds with your spouse and kids, because working alongside one another for the benefit of others is what Jesus models to us in the gospels over and over again. The Son of Man (Jesus) came not to be served, but to serve others (Matthew 20:28), so this helps your family to identify with Christ in new and exciting ways.

All in all, the summer can be a sacred opportunity for you and your family to grow and enrich yourselves, along with your community, simply by investing your (ample) time. The upcoming fall school year (with all its activity) will be here before you know it, so be intentional and don’t do your summer “business as usual.”

Copyright © 2019 Shelby Abbott. All rights reserved.

Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States and author the books Jacked, I Am A Tool (To Help With Your Dating Life), and Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress (New Growth Press). He and his wife Rachael have two daughters and reside in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Instagram/Twitter: @shelbyabbott, Web: shelbyabbott.com