It is hard to believe that we already into May. Most of us have our summer vacations planned and the kids activities organized. Churches are expecting less people in the pews and less money in the coffers. Few seem to think about how they will prepare their congregations to grow their faith over the next few months.
Some of you know that I am a passionate gardener, and as I think about the summer it is garden metaphors that come to mind. If we have worked diligently through the spring, sown liberally, fertilized effectively, mulched deeply and weeded aggressively, then summer is a season of little work. Our most important priority is to enjoy the beauty we have created and admire the growing bounty.
Maybe summer in our churches should be viewed in the same way. This is not time to expect much input but we do need to plan with intentionality so that what has been sown maximizes growth over the summer. Here are a few tips.
I. Encourage signs of new growth.
The season before Easter is often an intensive time of Bible study, soul searching and renewal but in the summer there might be little effort to help these seeds grow. Now is a great time to add another layer of “mulch”. Remind people of what was planted in them during the early part of the year and help them identify at least one way to continue to grow that over the summer.
Perhaps there is someone they need to visit, a book they need to read or a course they need to take. Scheduling these growth events into our summers now will help us continue growing until the harvest season.
Question: What have you planted this year that needs to grow over the summer?
II. Have some fun that brings joy to your soul.
Some of you are probably saying “Well that’s what summer is all about isn’t it?” but I would contend that many of our summer activities are soul destroying rather than soul enriching. They wring us out, and leave us drained and fragile. What is it that brings joy to your soul? Is it visiting friends or grandparents? Is it re-discovering your favorite childhood haunt or walking by the seashore? Intentionally incorporating trips like this into a summer vacation can have an incredible impact on our faith.
Question: What brings joy to your soul?
III. Take time for soul rest.
The beauty of our gardens is often best appreciated from a hammock and the beauty of God’s life within us is often best appreciated during quiet reflective moments of rest, relaxation and enjoyment. Planning days of retreat in the midst of the hyperactive summer activities is a wonderful way to accomplish this.
Encourage people to identify the activities they can take advantage of over the summer that relax their spirits. It might be as simple as planning a couple of days by the ocean after a visit to Disneyland, or a stay at a retreat haven near your vacation destination. This article provides some simple guidelines for creating a spiritual retreat.
Question: What provides rest for your spirit?
IV. Plan a pilgrimage.
“Pilgrimage is best defined as a departure from daily life on a journey in search of spiritual well-being.” Intentionally searching for spiritual well-being as one of our goals for the summer can be transformative. One of my friends plans a day of pilgrimage into every vacation. She researches the oldest Christian settlement in the area and plans a visit. It has not only helped her discover new places but has enriched and strengthened her faith.
Question: What is one thing you could do over the summer that diverts you from the usual routines of daily life and acts as a mini pilgrimage?
V. Explore A New Practice.
When we are away from home there are often opportunities to visit new churches or experiment with new practices. Getting outside our comfortable routines offers all kinds of possibilities for the emergence of new gifts and spiritual growth. You might like to walk a labyrinth, experiment with coloring books, or visit a museum and use the practice of visio divina on a painting that catches your imagination.
Question: What is one spiritual practice you have never tried that you would like to explore over the summer?
VI. Spend time unveiling the God who is revealed in nature.
In last month’s post http://thev3movement.org/2017/04/6-tips-celebrating-earth-day/ I talked about the importance of getting out into nature as a way to draw close to God, yet over the summer, in spite of spending a lot more time outside, most people find little connection to God that strengthens their faith.
Forest church has developed a practice they call sensio divina http://www.mysticchrist.co.uk/blog/post/sensio_divina and look at how we can apply a contemplative practice like this to our reflecting on creation. It is a great practice to think about experimenting with over the summer and gives a great excuse to get outside.