This summer my husband and I spent close to an entire month straight with family – no breaks! Maybe other people are used to doing that, but that has been the longest we’ve gone with being around people constantly. Just like any vacation, it wasn’t perfect, but we did have a lot of fun!! I think we both learned a lot about having successful (and more sane) family time, but I really saw how you can be missional during your family vacation as well. Granted, I didn’t do super well in all these areas. I could share countless stories of how I failed in every area, but for the sake of being concise (and for not being a Negative Nancy), I focused on things that I could do next time to make family time missional.
11 Tips, Tricks and Thoughts to Missional Family Vacations
1. Make sure to have a daily quiet time, regardless of the day's activities or your family's religious affiliation.
Spend time reading the Bible and hearing from the Lord. Put Christ on the throne so He can live through you to have the right attitudes, reactions, and responses. If you don’t, you are pretty much setting yourself to have your own attitudes, reactions and responses. Who do you think you and your family would rather see – you or Jesus??
2. Pray for your family, specifically for conversations about Jesus and the Gospel.
Your time with your relatives is given to you by God – so use it wisely!! It’s so easy to talk about nothing, but nothing isn’t necessarily meaningful. Pray that you and your family can talk about what’s really important. Pray that you can have a chance to share the Gospel with those relatives who don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet. Pray that you can bring up the importance of the Great Commission.
3. Don't neglect your spouse - spend one on one time with each other to process, pray and plan during vacation.
Malcolm and I have found that if aren’t good with each other, our ministry with others isn’t as good as it could be. It’s easy to get all your attention and time swooped up by parents, siblings, even cute nieces and nephews. Make sure you make time to spend together to process your vacation together, pray for each other and for others your with together, and plan necessary adjustments or upcoming events during your vacation as a cohesive team.
4. Have your testimony prepared and ready to share before you’re there.
Having the story of how Jesus saved your life in the front of your mind and ready to share at a moment’s notice is beneficial for any and every situation you may be in, but if you don’t have it down already have it ready before you go on vacation! People may debate different things about the reliability of scripture, whether Jesus really rose from the grave or not, and if God exists (which all have good answers to respond with, by the way). But no one can refute what happened to you personally because it’s your story.
For tips on putting your testimony together read Preparing Your Personal Testimony. You’ll be in a setting of sharing more of yourself anyway, so being able to share your story of going from death to life efficiently and effectively is a beneficial tool in sharing the Gospel! Also help your kids put their testimony together if they’re Christians – and use the opportunity to clarify and share the Gospel with them whether they are Christ followers or not! Your kids will have opportunities and conversations with their cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. that you may not have. They are also more blunt too (I love kids for that)!! So they can use their story and get to the point with people in a way that can help them really think about where they are at.
5. Bring up the Gospel in conversations even if you know that they are Christ followers.
One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is assuming where people are at in their eternal standing. Just because they go to church doesn’t make them a Christian. Or even if they don’t go to church, it doesn’t mean that they’re headed for hell. The Gospel is the best news on earth and the best thing that has ever happened to you!! Talking about how Jesus loved the all in the human race so much that He chose to die to make us right before God, and rose from the dead to conquer death IS A BIG DEAL!!! We should talk about it often for the sole fact that it points our eyes back to Christ, but sharing the Gospel with one another shows our need for salvation from sin, to truly understand the Gospel (and what the Gospel is not), encourages us to share Christ with others, and to explain what Jesus did for them personally so they can have a chance to accept Jesus’ free gift for themselves – which they may not have had a chance to do before.
6. Keep the main thing the main thing.
As Christians, we need to stand for truth and do what Jesus calls us to do. We shouldn't be okay with things that go against Scripture – like a couple living together out of marriage or abortion. It is good to stand for what is right, but we also need to meet people where they are at. We should use social issues to be platform for sharing Jesus’ heart, and ultimately share the Gospel. We shouldn’t use social issues as a platform to bash our relatives to the ground if they believe differently.
7. Reiterate and continue to point back to truth.
Overtime, we have all heard things in church or on the radio or somewhere that sound nice but aren’t necessarily true. Or maybe we have come up with things that seem true that aren’t. For example, I’ve heard the phrase, “Well, I haven’t shared the Gospel because it’s too scary for me. But all my friends know that I’m a Christian.” The truth is we need to share the Gospel regardless of if we’re too afraid to do it, and knowing that you’re a Christian doesn’t mean they can receive Jesus’ free gift. I try to make a point if a situations comes up where I can ask my nieces and nephews questions about what they know Jesus to ask the right questions, and encourage them to follow truth. Their parents are doing a great job in pointing to Jesus, and I would want them to know that Aunt Leah backs their parents up in what they teach. And I would want to continue to point anyone – family or not – to follow Christ and share the Gospel. This should be something we do regardless of vacations or not.
8. Make your time quality by asking quality questions.
We like to talk about a lot of things that don’t matter, and can even talk around subjects that are touchy. But I truly believe most people want to talk about things that matter because deep within we know we aren’t temporary. We all want to be known, even if it scares us. Now, you don’t have to dive deep right away – take things at a pace they can take. I like asking questions, so being able to find out more about people is a real treat! I know asking good questions can come with time, so here are some suggestions questions to get you started.
· What did/ have you been learning in school?
· What’s your favorite thing to do there?
· What are your friends like?
· What kind of games do you like to play?
· Do you like games where you can run around more?
· Do you do much in church?
· Do you like to go?
· Do you have any friends there that you don’t have in school?
· What kind of things do you like?
· What about ____ do you like the most?
· How are things at work going?
· Do you have any concerns with the future in your job?
· How are things at the church going?
· What has the pastor been talking about recently?
· Do you get a chance to read your bible much?
· What have you been reading lately?
· What has God been teaching you recently?
· What did your parents do for jobs while you were growing up?
· What do you think about… headlines in the news, social issues, town politics, etc.?
Use your questions to get to know the people you’re spending time with, and as a platform for biblical fellowship and/or to share the Gospel. Ask questions that you can also relate to so you can bring in your testimony!
9. Encourage fun and memorable activities.
Try to avoid being around electronic devises and TV constantly – they are far too easy to turn on and tune out to! It’s fine for bits and pieces of your vacation, but your favorite memories that you go back to usually don’t include, “Remember that time we were all together and did nothing but zone out to reruns of ‘The Bachelorette’?” Motivate each other to do something together – like doing a craft together, playing a game, going on a hike, baking a treat. Even if it’s for an hour or two, you are helping facilitate interaction, discussion, and memories to happen.
10. Allow yourself to be an approachable member of the family for future interactions.
Be around your family with a good attitude, a willingness to help when help is needed, a listening ear, and an available response when called for. It is good to take alone time, and you should have good boundaries for when to say, “No” when you need to. But that should be 30 to 60 minutes a day, or an afternoon, but not your entire time with family. Put yourself in the midst of everything! At my in-laws, there are chairs to sit around the kitchen where people pass in and out. I make sure I at least sit near by so I can either help or at least enjoy talking with whomever is around.
This past trip where we were with family constantly for almost a month, we had a week left and my sister asked if I would help her make her bed. I put on a confused look (one that wasn’t very nice apparently), and asked bluntly, “Why?” I was thinking, “Why does she need help? Doesn’t she make her own bed at home?” I proceeded to act rude in my confusion, and in turn made my sister defensive. I did help her make her bed, but after that we acted more curtly towards one another. In the long run, I didn’t take enough alone time to recharge in the previous 3 weeks (even an hour a day) so I could continue to have a good attitude in the final week. Helping my sister with a good attitude without question would have helped promote healthy communication and dialogue for the rest of our time together.
11. Continue to uplift and encourage your family after your time together.
Whether it’s giving them a weekly call, sending them text messages, posting pictures on Facebook or your blog of the time you spent together, writing letters, sending birthday/anniversary cards, etc., continue to stay in contact for multiple reasons:
• It helps reminds you to be praying for them.
• It shows that you care about them, and ultimately that God cares even more about them.
• It shows that you view time with them as valuable and worthwhile.
• It creates more time to communicate and create memories.
• It creates times to share the Gospel, to share your testimony, to point back to Jesus, and to
point to the Bible for truth.
• It helps you to have more time to ask good questions about them.
• It shows that you are still approachable and available if they ever need to talk.
• It encourages them and you in your walk with God.
I hope this encourages you and motivates you to use your family vacation wisely for the Kingdom!!
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Leah works with Master Plan Ministries at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Other than watching college students' lives change, she enjoys getting her mind blown by God and His Word, watching sci fi, baking cupcakes, and spending time with her hunky husband.
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