With Memorial Day just around the corner, we've got the perfect opportunity to discuss ways to worship God during the summer.
These sacred Minnesota months provide us with rare glimpses of real warmth. We camp, garden, and fire up the grill. Neighbors who've been cooped up for months venture outside for conversation and bicycle rides. All of the heavy Norwegian sweaters get packed away.
This is also a time of year when worship patterns have a tendency to change. In the greeting line after worship, people start to say things like, "Pastor, I'm sorry but you won't see the family and me again for awhile. We'll be up at the lake" or "I feel bad that we're gone so much in the summer." Perhaps you, too, have struggled with this form of worship-induced guilt.
Friends, in the wise words of Queen Elsa from the Disney animated feature "Frozen": "Let it go." Let that shame and guilt go. Your worship life in the summer months can continue to flourish; maybe it will just take some different forms. Here are a few tips for leading a meaningful worship life during the summer months.
Make a plan.A little planning goes a long way. If you're going to be gone on a Sunday and feel a nudge to go and worship with a community, find out what congregations will be nearby. I highly recommend using Google or the phone book. Once you discern the worship times, you'll be all set (but be sure to double check; the schedule sometimes changes during the summer).
Use available tools.Maybe you like the freedom of a quiet summer morning at the lake. Or you're at a campground on the weekends, and it isn't realistic to get the family ready for church. No worries. There are a host of available tools for you to use in creating a worship experience for your family wherever you are. Many congregations now have an insert in their weekly bulletins that includes family-friendly faith activities. Have a conversation with your pastor, youth director, or children's ministry coordinator about it. Take along a Bible on your adventures. Read a Psalm in the morning. Discuss a faith-related question. Regardless of age or family size, there are a host of possible tools and resources.
Serve.Jesus talked about the importance of showing compassion to others extensively in the Gospels. Incorporate acts of service into your life in concrete ways this summer. Helping other people is absolutely a way to worship God.
Stewardship.Financial giving during the summer months is an important consideration. If there are other people in your household, engage in a group discussion on the topic. How will you remain financially connected to your home congregation during the summer months (automated giving, mail in a monthly check, etc.)? I never realized how much consistent giving helps the congregation's planning and visioning process until I served as a parish pastor.
Model a guilt-free, shame-free worship life.Jesus said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). He did NOT say, "I came that they may live all their days in a perpetual cycle of guilt and shame." Jesus came that we might be freed from all that. Embrace that freedom and share it with others. Worship can take many forms. Explore those forms this summer. Rejoice and celebrate. God is with you wherever you go in the months ahead.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor serving at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod Office in Rochester. Visit her blog at: www.emilyannecarson.com.