If you’re anything like me, summer means less structure in your life. That might equal more free time, but it also might mean your group Bible study won’t meet again until fall. Perhaps your church does offer a big group study, but your travel schedule, your VBS commitments, or your kids’ softball games make that option impractical. How will you stay in the Word when the pools and grills are in service? Whatever your situation, be active, not passive. You can make some easy plans now that will result in a summer immersed in the truth. Here are my seven suggestions:
1. Pray. Really—don’t make prayer an afterthought. Ask, “Lord, please guide me. What part of your Word do I need to make my focus in the months ahead?” Trust the Spirit to show you. Do you sense God leading you to facilitate a small group? You don’t need to have a seminary degree, be a public speaker, or even possess the spiritual gift of teaching. You need only to have a desire to see people grow through God’s Word and a genuine concern for their spiritual growth.
2. Make a plan to plan. Set aside a little time this week to decide what reading plan or Bible study you will use for spiritual reflection. Perhaps you can do so over your next morning cup of coffee. Or maybe you need to schedule a trip—do you need to browse the shelves at your local Christian book store? What day will you go and at what time? Make a date with your calendar.
3. Peruse and purchase. Don’t wait till Flag Day to get going. Check out your options now. Will you do your study solo? Or would you prefer to gather three friends every other week at your local coffee shop? Maybe you sense God prompting you to coordinate a neighborhood study in your living room? Or perhaps you want to go through a book of the Bible with your kids. If you need to involve others in the decision, contact them and choose your topic. Determine what Bible book(s) and/or studies you want to do and how you want to do them. Then make your orders and purchases. A word of advice for group studies: Select a study that keeps you mostly in the Word rather than mostly reading an author’s thoughts. Take orders, collect payments, and distribute books in advance. Know that bulk discounts are often available, and people are more likely to follow through in attending if they have a study in hand.
4. Schedule your appointments. Is one time of day better than another for you to dig into the Word? Or do you need to flex? For people living in Old Testament times, the day started at sundown. Maybe it should for you, too. Perhaps driving a senior to swim team lessons at 6 A.M.makes mornings an impractical option for you, but evenings after dinner work. Or perhaps mid-afternoon is better, as you must sit on the bleachers waiting to cart home someone from softball practice. Maybe you need one plan for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and a different one for Tuesdays and Thursdays. What about the weekends? Get times with God and his Word—whether solo or group—on your schedule now, as you would any other appointments.
5. Prepare the car. Should you get an audio Bible for that long car trip? This might be a great summer for listening to the book of Judges with junior high kids. Or Song of Songs with your mate. Or plowing through the historical books as you make your weekday commute. Throw a blanket or lawn chair in your vehicle, and—along with the Granola bars and a bottle of water for the homeless—include a copy of your study. When you’re stuck waiting, having something meaningful to do can take the edge off your aggravation. You can grab the blanket, find some grass, get your study out of the glove compartment, and open the Word.
6. Get music. Studying Philippians? Check out “Christology: In Laymen’s Terms” from Christian hip-hop artist, The Ambassador. Studying grace? How about Todd Agnew’s “Grace Like Rain”? The more senses you can engage in your relationship with God, the better. Supplement reading and discussion with memory-engaging music that will lead you to worship.
7. Plan to find or make art. Get ready to add to your reading with visuals that tap into the right side of your brain. You can purchase a scripture coloring book that reinforces the topic you’re learning. Or order a print of Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son” and meditate on each character and how he or she represents something about a person’s relationship with God. If you do a study with others, perhaps you have some artsy people in your group. If so, include right-brained interaction. That might mean making music, jewelry, paintings, photos, collages, poetry, prayers, or psalms. The options for creative interaction in response to the truth are endless. Encourage people to make connections beyond filling in blanks or giving easy answers. The goal of your time is life change.
Thirty minutes to an hour of planning now can prevent a winter of regret. So schedule a date with your calendar—perhaps while having a gettig-ready-for-sandals pedicure. And take the insanity out of the summer so you can be a blessing rather than a harried mess. Use the change in seasons as an opportunity to connect with the Lord. In the process you just might find yourself being transformed more and more into the image of Christ.