When our family helped plant a church in southern France, our eldest daughter’s perspective changed. “I realize now that God is everywhere. He’s not an American.” You don’t need to permanently relocate to experience this type of change with your kids. Many families vacation with a purpose. These servant-like excursions have helped change and shape families, solidifying their kids’ beliefs.
Why minister as a family?
Mary L. Gore, with the Toledo Bend Resort Ministry in Zwolle, La., explained, “What better way to share the love of Jesus than to take something you enjoy as a family and use it as a platform to share the gospel?” Living out the gospel together in another place enlivens it for the kids.
Serving together also deepens the impact of discipling our children, noted Keith Ivey, head of Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries. “It’s not enough to talk about it,” he said. “And it’s not enough to go without them and share the results. Like most concepts, doing missions together is best taught hands on.”
What is a vacation with a purpose?
A vacation with a purpose is simply an extended outing with your family where you actively seek to serve or minister to people. It can mean serving a campground staff or offering water to people on a hot mountain trail. It can mean helping a church planter engage a people group in the middle of New York City. Or flying over an ocean and joining alongside a missionary family. In short, it’s adding service and a bent toward evangelism to your summer vacation activities.
How do you prepare for a missional vacation?
Families must have a plan, particularly if you intend to partner with an existing ministry. Missionaries have a lot of insight to the community or people group they serve so be sensitive and seek to meet their specific needs, not the needs you may think they have.
It’s important to prepare spiritually for the trip as a family. “Remember, you will be trying to impact the lives of the lost and unchurched so be prepared to have your comfort zone challenged,” Gore explained.
Ivey encourages families to “consider the gifts and passions of your family. If your children are younger, look for projects that would allow their involvement. If they are older, consider letting their gifts and interests direct where and how you serve.” He encourages a family meeting to help determine where and when to serve, then pray fervently about the opportunities God might bring.
Don’t forget to schedule down time, though. Ivey said, “Families on a mission trip need some family time. Plan extra time for that if your children are younger.”
What can you do?
A vacation with a purpose may simply mean you interact with the folks you meet as you vacation. Gore offers several suggestions:
Camping: Talk with the folks camping in the same area as you, visit with others sitting around the pool or lounging at the beach.
Skiing: Engage in activities in a central lodge.
Touring or Cruising: Spend time mingling with different folks as a family.
Ivey gave other avenues:
Contact local associations or churches. You don’t want to go to a campground prepared to offer a day camp for kids if one is already planned!
Host a one-day kids activity in a campground, resort or even in the hotel, offering family-friendly activities in a public area (face painting, crafts, balloon animals, etc.).
Volunteer at a food bank, a senior center or some other local ministry.
Conduct a service project (pick up trash, pass out bottled water, etc.), light construction and home repair, creative arts (music, clowns, drama, etc.) and scripture and tract distribution.
Remember the opportunities are limited only by imagination. Your children will probably be the biggest help in brainstorming how you can serve.
How do you share Jesus as a family?
Sharing the gospel alongside your family can be a fun way to interact with those you meet on vacation.
Gore suggested using a sliced, still-with-the-rind watermelon as a gospel tool.
Black seeds represent sin and darkness.
Red represents the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.
The white of the rind shows how we’re moved from darkness to light.
The green rind represents new growth.
She also recommended slip discs from slip disc ministries (slipdiscministries.com). Toss the Frisbee-like disc with the family, and then invite those around to join in. If the opportunity comes, share the message imprinted on the slip disc.
Ivey encourages families to get to know people, find out their needs, and serve by listening.
“If you are witnessing to hikers, engage them in conversations about the trail, then lead into spiritual conversation,” he said. “Contrary to what we may think, people on vacation are thinking about spiritual things and are open to conversations on spiritual topics. Most dread the return to the crazy schedules they left and are contemplating changes they either need to make or wish they could make in their lives.”
It’s possible to instill your beliefs into your kids’ lives in an organic, life-changing way. This summer seek to serve others alongside your kids, to put feet to Jesus’ words, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mary DeMuth is the author of more than a dozen books, including four on parenting. This article first appeared in the North American Mission Board’s On Mission magazine.)