If your life is like mine was, summer means leaving the support of your InterVarsity fellowship and church and living in the spiritual desert of your home environment. Without even a strong church tie at home, I spent my first two summers caught in a harmful cycle of sin, guilt, and little spiritual growth.
I’d love to help you avoid my summer mistakes. Even more, I’d love to help you actually flourish in faith in these next couple months away from campus. With intention on your part, the following ideas can keep you rooted in Christ this summer.
1. Have fun. Enjoying summers isn’t something most people get to do post-college. Make sure to get out in nature, have coffee with friends, play volleyball—whatever restores you.
2. Find other Christians who will provide accountability. After two summers of failure, I finally realized how much I needed this. I had settled on a church in my home town by then, so I went looking there for a small group Bible study to join. And I found one. They responded to my appeal for help by surrounding me with love and prayer all summer, even though I was the youngest one there. It’s amazing how much their love and accountability helped me!
3. You have technology . . . Use it! Make plans now for weekly Skype meetings with your roommate or spiritual mentor. Just because you’re separated by miles doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch.
5. Summer goes by quickly. It’s a bummer to get to the end of it and realize you didn’t accomplish several projects you were hoping to get done. I’d suggest that you make a goal list based on this prompt: “If summer ends and I have not done _______________, I’ll be sad.” But try to make your goals realistic—things you will actually have the time and resources to accomplish in three months. Then actually write out that list and find a text buddy to hold you accountable.
6. If you’re working this summer, pray about how to bea witness for Christ at your job, and watch for opportunities. I once led an evangelistic Bible study for a friend at his office during lunch. (I had the skills and he had the friends!) I also led a prayer meeting for teachers at a school where I worked.
7. Try a new spiritual discipline—maybe a day of silence, a weekend spiritual retreat, or a day being mindful of the beauty of God in the world. The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook provides a wide range of ideas.
8. Offer toserve in your church. Many regular volunteers take vacations in the summer, so the church most likely needs extra help. You might offer to work in the nursery, teach a Sunday school class, help with worship, greet—or teach a manuscript study on Mark!
9. Keep high standards for dating relationships. I didn’t do this and went back to school with a boatload of guilt. Again, asking someone you trust to keep you accountable is the key to staying on track here.
10. Believe that God can do big things—but know that he may choose to work slowly. I was sure one summer that I’d be having a Bible study with my parents and leading them to Jesus. Instead, I came home to find they had separated. I was devastated and thought God wasn’t answering my prayers. Little did I know that he would use their separation and many other difficult circumstances to bring them to faith years later. Don’t assume you know what God will do but rather keep your eyes open to see what he is doing—and keep praying.
11. Don’t forget to havefun!
12. And if you mess up, like I did, remember that God is the God of second chances. Don’t wallow in sin or shame. Just get right back up, turn to Jesus and confess what you did, receive his grace, and move forward.
Before you know it, you’ll be heading back to school—hopefully a little wiser and with stronger faith, thanks to the plans you made this summer.
How do you stay strong in your faith during the summer? Tweet at us and let us know! @INTERVARSITYusa #staystrong
Jacci Turner is an InterVarsity staff member in Reno. She loves chocolate in all of its manifestations and is a bestsellingauthor.