Students, you know it's the end of the spring semester when it's 58 degrees and you're studying outside in shorts and playing frisbee on gray blustery days. You're sick of school, ready to go home, and more than ready for warm weather---it's time for summer break!
But August will be here before you know it---you'll be tan, have a few bucks in your pocket, and (gasp!) eager to move back to campus. Don't wait until then to realize all the things you should have done to grow in Christ while home for the summer. Prepare now to spend these months away from tests and dining hall food enjoying rich and plentiful grace from God. Here are 10 ways to help you grow in your faith while on summer break.
1. Make a plan. The old saying really does hold true: "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail." Just like you've spent time lining up work and planning out vacations and trips with friends, take some time to plan out your spiritual priorities for the summer. Schedule a time when you'll be able to be consistent each day in reading the Word and prayer. Look for a daily devotional (my personal favorites here and here) and use it to guide the Scripture you read each day.
2. Rehearse your need for the gospel daily. As Tim Keller has said, "The gospel is not just the ABCs of Christianity, but the A to Z. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we all make progress in the kingdom." We never move past our need for the simple, yet profound, truth of the gospel: Christ died and rose for our sins. Each morning when we wake up we'll be tempted to think we failed God the day before, or need to live up to a standard today in order for him to accept and love us. Preaching the gospel to ourselves each day is rehearsing the truth that God accepts and loves us on the basis of what Christ has done for us, which we accept by faith.
3. Anticipate temptation. You'll be stepping back into situations that likely remind you how much you've failed in the past. Know your temptations and seek accountability. Sin always wants to convince us that we are strong enough to resist it. Don't call your old boyfriend just to hang out thinking it won't end up where it always has in the past. Ask yourself, What will likely tempt me to have my attention and heart drawn away from Christ this summer? Think about why this particular sin is alluring and apply Romans 13:14: "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires." Figure out what's distracting you from following Christ and take intentional time to pursue Christ each day by fighting sin.
4. Recognize you need the church. Relationships between Christians are likened to a body to show us we need other believers in our lives (1 Cor. 12:12-26). A hand needs an arm. An ear needs an eye. Find a church that is preaching the Bible and plug in for the summer. It won't look just like your campus ministry, but that's actually a good thing. When you hang out with a guy who is 75 and has walked with Christ for double your lifespan, you are going to learn from him! Look for every opportunity to sit under teaching of God's Word. If there are midweek services or men's or women's groups, fit them into your schedule.
5. Meet regularly with a brother or sister in Christ. Make a point of intentionally meeting with another believer for accountability and prayer. If you don't know a lot of Christians in your hometown, talk with a fellow believer before you leave about some areas where you will face temptation and brainstorm some specific questions you can ask one another over the phone. Some examples: Are you making a priority out of spending unhurried time in God's Word and prayer, or is it an afterthought in your daily life? How are you responding to your parent's authority and instruction?
Part of fellowship is recognizing you have a responsibility to your brothers and sisters in Christ to help them grow, and they have a responsibility to you. God is calling us to be involved in each other's lives, and one way we can do so is by picking up the Bible when you're together or on the phone and reading verses that have been encouraging during the past week.
6. Look for ways to serve your family. Maybe you became a Christian at college this year. Or maybe you've rediscovered a love for Jesus that's been dormant for far too many years. Take the opportunity to let the light of God's grace shine in the way you treat your parents and siblings. Look for ways to serve when you're home. "How can I help?" and "I'd be glad to" go a long way in demonstrating how much you desire to serve others and how God has been at work in your life. Look for opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations. You don't know how much more time you'll have living at home, so seek to make the most of the time now in both your attitude and also actions toward your family.
7. Turn off your phone. Really. Actually turn it off for an hour so you don't check Facebook or Twitter for the 34th time today. Better yet, take these apps off your phone completely or at least make yourself sign in every time you want to look at your newsfeed. This will help keep you from turning to it out of boredom and release you to notice others.
8. Set a goal to read. Remember when you said a few weeks ago how you looked forward to not having required textbook reading so that you could pick up that book you actually wanted to read? Make a list of two or three books you think will be helpful and then set aside time to read them. Maybe start by picking out a biography, a work of fiction, and a classic book about how to follow Jesus more closely. If you haven't read Knowing God by J. I. Packer or the Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul, start there.
9. Memorize a passage of Scripture. Pick a Psalm or another well-known passage like Romans 8 or Philippians 2. Whatever you choose, take a couple of minutes each day to review the verses you've learned. If you work a boring job (who doesn't?), write out your verses on an index card and take it out of your pocket to ponder while you sit on the mower or babysit the kids down the street.
10. Seek to be as bold with the gospel as you have been at college. You're going to be around friends you haven't seen since high school, and it's going to be obvious to them you've changed. Instead of mumbling some excuse about how you don't feel like going out to party like you used to, tell them the real reason. Tell them about how your desires have changed and take the time to explain the plain but powerful truth of the gospel and how they can follow Jesus as well. Invite them to meet for coffee and read through the Gospel of Mark with you. By God's grace he has put you in their lives, so point them to Jesus just as others have done for you.