Summer clothes? Check. Suncream? Check. Buckets and spades? Check. Address of a good local church? You what?!
If attending church isn’t already one of your family holiday habits, here are 6 reasons why you might want to give it a try.
God is still worth worshipping. Even when we are away from home God is not taking a break. He continues to be our Father and our Saviour, our source of joy and our refuge in difficulty. We don’t (I hope!) take a break from our personal relationship with him when we’re away, so why wouldn’t we want to meet with others to sing his praises, hear his word, and pray together? If you’re totally out of reach of a church, you can do those things together as a family. But our experience has been that taking a couple of hours of the week away from the beach to meet with a local church is always worth it.
You still need reminding of the gospel. Why do we go to church every week at home? Because we’re on the rota?! Maybe. But also because we know that we quickly forget the gospel, turn away from God, and listen instead to the world around and our own sinful hearts. That’s just as true on holiday. Prioritising church reminds us (and our children) that wherever we go, whatever we do, we will always need to keep hearing God’s word. Therefore, try to find a bible-focussed church, but if the teaching turns out to be disappointing, reflect on the Bible passage and ask God to teach you something true anyway!
You will be encouraged. Church life can often be hard. We persevere, week by week, praying for newcomers but growth is slow. We feel insignificant. Going to church somewhere else reminds us that our local church is not alone. God is busy building his kingdom all over the place!
You will encourage others. Summer Sundays can be quiet in many churches. How great would it be if – instead of looking round at the gaps where regulars are missing – our Sundays in August were marked by meeting fellow-Christians from 10 or 100 or 1000 miles away? By going to church in our holiday destinations, we get to be the visitors that encourage someone else. My friend, from a family of 7, remembers how they regularly doubled the congregation in the small churches they visited on the Isle of Skye or in a French rural village!
You will meet your extended family. The church we visit will probably be different from our own. Different songs. Less impressive kid’s work (or overwhelmingly bigger, better, more exciting kid’s work!) Maybe it’s more formal, or not formal enough. It might feel more like a slightly awkward visit to see great-uncle-Arthur than a cosy afternoon at Grandma’s. But this is still our extended family. Many children only know their own local church. It’s great for them to understand that churches come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and styles, and we are all one family, even if we seem very different. I still remember the Sunday I went to a church in France, more than 25 years ago – I probably understood less than 5% of everything that was said, but I still knew I was with brothers and sisters in Christ! This is also a chance for a family discussion about what a ‘good church’ is. (Clue: it is not about size of congregation, number of musicians, how much fun the children have or the proximity to a MacDonald’s)
You will see your home church differently. Every single time we visit another church we pick up at least one good idea to take back home - Thank God for the chance to learn from other Christians! But we always (of course) feel slightly like outsiders, however warm the welcome. Why are we all praying for Doris, who we have never met? What is the Sparks group mentioned in the notices? We’re used to feeling like we belong in church – Thank God for everything you love about your home church and ask him to send you back there with a fresh awareness of what it feels like to be a visitor, so you can welcome others better.
So, if you’re away from home this summer, why not make time in your holiday schedule to visit a nearby church? (And if you happen to meet a parent, or a children’s worker, tell them about Faith in Kids while you’re there!!)