By Susana Starbuck, Blessed Is She
School is out! You can say goodbye to packing lunches, long pick-up lines, homework, and early morning outfit battles. But now what? You have over two months without your kids in school. How do you keep them busy? There are so many options for keeping your kids engaged in over the summer it can be a bit overwhelming. Camps, swim team, story time, and VBS (just to name a few). What is the best way to nurture their faith life over the summer?
Within the next couple months, my family and I are gearing up for a big family wedding as well as preparing to welcome a new baby into our home. We are going to be very busy, to say the least. While I stared into the months of June and July (carefully color-coded to coordinate with life events), I felt like we were missing something.
I realized that in the chaos of life (even during the school year) it is easy to let our faith life within the family take a back seat.
How to Have a Spiritually Fruitful Summer
Over the last month or so, I’ve been making a simple and realistic list of things I’d like to do with my children to help them grow in God’s love over the summer. Below you will find ideas I’ve put together for my family. I also tried to include things for older children/teens as well (it’s helpful to be married to a youth minister!).
I’ve broken it into three categories that I hope you will find helpful.
Start saying the Angelus everyday at 12. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, everyone in the family drops what they’re doing to say it together.
A family Rosary each evening is always a good idea. But I think summer time is a great period to form the habit. Set a time in the evening when everyone gathers together to pray the Rosary. When you have little ones, even a decade in the evening can make a huge impact. If you know you won’t be home at that time on a given evening, see if it’s possible to reschedule it for earlier or maybe say it in the car.
Get together as a family and talk about some prayer intentions that you have. Maybe you have a big move coming up or perhaps someone in your family is very ill. Pick a novena to pray as a family for that specific intention.
Summer is also a great time to make a family consecration to Mary. You can use the evenings to discuss the readings for the day and recite the prayers out loud together as a family.
Coloring pages! The kids and I have been loving the coloring pages put out by Catholic artists. They have been wonderful for our liturgical living! You can find some here and here.
A few years back I discovered Catholic Icing and 26 Letters to Heaven. Both are great resources for early religious education as well encouraging creativity and curiosity.
Choose a Saint of the week. Have your older kids put their internet time to good use! Have your preteens/teens research a different Saint for each week of summer and have them share with the family. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all! Encourage them to find 5-6 interesting facts about the Saint and then let them share at the dinner table.
Blow the dust off that Bible! Designate a morning with your teens to work on a short Bible study. So let’s say every Wednesday morning, you grab coffee or bagels (or take advantage of nap times from younger siblings) and work your way through one of the books of the Bible. It might feel a little forced at first, but keep going! Teens love being challenged and they also love some special time with you (even if they deny it vehemently).
Add in daily Mass to your summer routine. It does not need to be everyday! But picking one day of the week to roll out of bed a bit early and attend Mass together will be such a gift to your family. You can also start a tradition/add the incentive of doing something fun yet simple afterwards, like grabbing breakfast, spending time at the park, or maybe taking a library trip.
Go to Adoration. Research the parishes around you to find out when and where Eucharistic Adoration is offered. Set a time during the week where you all go to Adoration together. Even if it’s simply sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament for five minutes once a week, it’s showing your children what’s really important amidst the crazy summer schedule.
Let’s not forget about good old Vacation Bible School! Find a VBS program at your parish (or one nearby) and see if it’s something you want your kids involved in. VBS is usually half a day for an entire week. It’s a great opportunity for your kids to jump in and have fun with their Faith! Also, the performances at the end of the week are always so stinkin’ cute. VBS is also a great opportunity for your older children to volunteer.
Summer is an excellent time to go through clothes and toys. Let your kids help! Explain what they are donating and give them some ownership over it. Now, this could backfire (it has for me) if you have a child who suddenly decides that they do, in fact, play with every single toy they own. If that happens, still take the time to explain the importance of giving and then thin things out over nap time.
Service, service, service! Get your teens off their phones by setting them up with a service project. This will require a little research, but I’m sure your parish can also let you know of places looking for volunteers. Get those teenagers into soup kitchens and shelters. Serving those in need can offer your kids some great perspective they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.
Did someone say chastity talks, praise and worship, late night pizza deliveries, and ultimate frisbee?! Sign your teens up for youth programs this summer. Many parishes have various opportunities for your kids to attend really solid conferences or camps this coming summer. Spending time with their peers within a Catholic context is a great way for your teen to see that they’re not alone on this journey to heaven.
Stay Spiritually Sane and Spiritually Fruitful
Please, by no means feel that you have to do it all. This is simply a list of ideas. If one or two speaks to you, then go for it. I find that one of the most effective ways to enrich my children’s faith is to simply spend time together as a family, something that is ridiculously difficult to do during the school year when everyone is running in five different directions.
If you end up doing any of these, let me know how it goes!
Here’s wishing you all a blessed summer.
Susana Starbuck is a regular contributor to the Blessed Is She blog. She is wife of a youth minister and mother to four littles five and under. She lives in Phoenix, AZ and enjoys reading a good book, posting her highlight reel on Instagram, and drinking wine. You can connect with her on Instagram