I’m a student journalist. Before the end of my sophomore year, I published an article titled “Better to be busy, not idle, during summer break.” The headline’s pretty self-explanatory.
Feeling accomplished after releasing my surprisingly unpopular, fiery message to the student body, I thrust a copy of the paper at my dad as soon as he got home from work. He skimmed my article and gave me a funny look. “How can you tell people to keep busy when you’ve got nothing planned for your summer?” he said.
I was speechless; of course I wouldn’t admit it, but he was right. Within seconds, my swollen pride had deflated.
The next hour comprised of the usual talk of college and my future and how big of an opportunity this summer was and how I should take my own advice and not let it go to waste. Reluctantly, I listened. He ended the close-to-argumentative discussion with the demand that I get a job. I ended up getting one.
In the summer, many teenagers have more free time than they know what to do with. Others have too much going on: a day-long summer camp for a month, three weeks of family vacation, two jobs and more (not to mention summer homework). I believe a balance of both is ideal.
But who cares what a mere teenager thinks; what does the Bible say? Here are four practicals to guide your teen toward their best summer ever!
1. Develop a spiritual mindset
12 God’s word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.
Hebrews 4:12 (NCV)
15 He died for us so that we will all live, not for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead. 16 Because of all that God has done, we now have a new perspective. We used to show regard for people based on worldly standards and interests. No longer. We used to think of the Anointed the same way. No longer.
2 Corinthians 5:15-16 (VOICE)
Summer is a great time to work on connecting with your teen spiritually. If your teen attended our middle school and high school camps, they not only participated in various fun-filled activities—sports tournaments, rope courses, candy-snacking, foosball, et cetera— but they also learned more about God and how to develop real relationships. The conclusion of camp invites deeper dialogue between parent and teen.
When I got picked up from my first middle school camp, I couldn’t stop babbling to my mom about my experience (and it’s important to note I’m not a big talker). Hebrews 4:12 says that the Bible cuts into our hearts and exposes them for what they are. A big part of our camp is looking into the Bible and seeing how it actually is relevant to teens’ daily lives. The reason I temporarily transformed into a social butterfly after that particular camp was because the Scriptures I heard had profoundly opened up my heart.
Your teen may be affected differently, but whatever degree of change occurs, I guarantee that camp impacted your teen’s heart. Realize that this is an opportunity to initiate deeper conversations with them; ask them about camp, about God, about what they learned and how they felt throughout their experience. It shouldn’t be an interrogation, and I would give your teen a few days of rest and recovery before starting the talk. Still, let camp be a time for you and your teen to get closer.
Even if your teen didn’t attend one of the camps this year, summer is still a great time to focus on their faith and spiritual life. Get involved in our Y-ministry activities over the summer – you won’t regret it!
2. Find a role model
24 We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works. 25 We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ERV)
31-32 “Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”
Luke 22:31-32 (MSG)
43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. 46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
Acts 2:43-47 (MSG)
The Scriptures all emphasize having a spiritual mentor in our lives because we need people who are going to push us to be the best version of ourselves. In Luke 22, Jesus tells Peter that he already knows he will abandon him, but that Peter will overcome it and help both himself and his friends turn back to God. Jesus’ specific prayer for Peter was a game-changer. The Scripture above in Acts shows how we can see God through the miracles God performs through people.
Having a mentor isn’t about following a person. It’s about giving your teen someone (other than you) who will point them to God. A college student could become a crucial source of inspiration, a person who makes God attractive to your teen by the way s/he lives and positively influences them by prayer and the Bible.
Have a student you know over for dinner or make a friend with one who could mentor your teen over the summer. I will forever treasure the mentors who’ve helped me in my relationship with God because without a doubt, they changed my life.
To get to know more college students and young professionals who can influence your teen in a spiritual way, attend one of our services in the Bay Area and get connected with ministry staff in your local area.
3. Advocate a peer support system (translation: friendships)
16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.
1 Samuel 23:16 (NIV)
17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
12 By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)
No offense to parents, but I tend to listen to my friends more than the adults in my life. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says that “bad company corrupts good character.” Your teen’s friends have a monumental influence on their life. And believe me, your teenager needs their friends. A fairly free summer offers countless chances to either draw back from others or draw closer to friends by building incredible memories.
You can help in this. Encourage your teen to have friends over often or to go out and hang with them. If you notice your teen spending a lot of time alone, have a conversation with them about spending time with friends and not isolating. When friends do come over, be welcoming. Make your home a place your teen wants to bring their friends.
4. Balance: talk about the schedule
18 Grasp both sides of things and keep the two in balance; for anyone who fears God won’t give in to the extremes.
Ecclesiastes 7:18 (VOICE)
This one’s simple. Ensure your teen’s summer is balanced, in terms of time to relax and time to keep busy. Maybe they could get a job or volunteer or attend a summer camp. Just don’t let the family vacations and summer occupations keep your teen away from the friendships they need to grow in their relationship with God. Talk about your teen’s schedule and prioritize their spirituality (Matthew 6:33).
When your teen is more focused on God than him or herself, the Bible promises that s/he will have an incredible, life-changing summer (1 Samuel 18:14).