Summer is also a time of great opportunity for families to get involved in local and international missional work. Now is a good time to get that built into your summer, if you have not already. Here are some ideas:
1. Family-friendly mission trips: It is typical for a parent to send their teen/college student on a mission trip in the summer. One thought is to consider going WITH your child. Yes, there is the whole embarrassment factor, but this is such a great way to see your child in a very different venue and vice versa. It is a great way to set up a lifelong love of compassion for others and for you both to learn about another culture and how we can be a voice and advocate on the behalf of those who need it.
And if your children are younger, this does not mean you cannot be involved. Find out what your summer missions teams need. Get your children involved in creative fundraising on behalf of your missions team, host a mission team meeting in your home and have your kids help prepare snacks, find out if you and your kids can shop for any needs (like first aid items or school supplies) to gather for the missions team to take with them. And then, use these times as teachable moments to engage your kids about missions, about the geography and culture of where the missions team is going, etc.
2. Homeless: There are numerous ways to get involved with your local homeless community with your kids. Here are just a few suggestions, but it is always a good idea to check in with local organizations who work with the homeless (shelters, food banks) to see what specific needs can be met.
a. Brown bag lunches: Prepare brown bag lunches with your kids for the homeless, put them in a red wagon, and head for a local homeless hangout to pass them out. Have your kids color a picture or write a note and stick it in each lunch.
b. Cook a meal as a family for a local shelter. Oftentimes shelters welcome meals being prepared and delivered for dinner one night. This is also a great one to do with your small group, or another family or two. Just make sure you check with a shelter first.
c. Neighborhood canned food collection: Call your local food bank and see what they need. Have your kids create a flier stating when they will come back and collect the canned foods the shelter says they need and pass it around the neighborhood. Come back to collect and have your child leave a thank you note.
3. Ronald McDonald House: Our family knows from personal experience that summer is an extremely busy time for Pediatrics at hospitals. Most major surgeries, organ transplants, chemotherapy sessions happen in the summer when kids are out of school. Check with your local Ronald McDonald House and see what their needs might be this summer. If you live near a hospital, you might even want to call and see if you can reach the person in charge of activities for Pediatrics to find out if there is a need for art supplies, children's books, DVDs, etc.
4. Toy & Clothing Drives/ Garage Sales: Summer is also a great time for instigating a local drive of some kind - again, very fun to do with multiple families. Check with local charities and see what their needs are, and then go for it! :)
If nothing else, I hope this gets you thinking about how you might be able to use this summer as a time for your family to grow together in compassion for others.
Enjoy your summer together!