With vacation season rapidly approaching, many people will be hitting the beaches, amusement parks, campgrounds, and other vacation hot-spots nationwide. For many of us, vacation is a time to check out from our daily routine. Unfortunately, this is also a time when most of us check out spiritually as well. Have you ever considered that there are few, if any, times in your calendar year that you have more opportunity to devote to your relationship with Christ than on your vacation? Think about it. On vacation you have no responsibilities pressing on you from work, bills, home maintenance; it is essentially a care-free environment. Most might even consider it a little slice of heaven. Unfortunately, without the presence of God on our vacations, it’s closer to hell.
Vacation can often be a time of gluttony, whether it be the more obvious food opportunities, or the self-centeredness that often accompanies “My vacation time”, wasting of time, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a vacation, relaxing, or spending time with family and friends. In fact, this can be extremely good if you approach your vacation as an opportunity to glorify God. Below, I’ve tried to enumerate some helpful tips for having a God-glorifying vacation. I’m hoping to implement some of these myself this year and maybe they can be of some encouragement to you.
1. Intentionally pray before Going.
This might seem so obvious that it gets overlooked. In fact, I’m uncertain if I have ever prayed for anything vacation oriented other than safe travels. By this, I mean pray that God would be glorified in your extra time that you have to devote to Him, in your attitude with family, friends, and those you meet, and that you would be open to however, with whoever, or whatever He would have you spend your vacation time.
2. Before you go, find a solid, Bible-believing, Christ-preaching church near your vacation area.
This is one that I’ve thought about before, but was never really impressed upon me more than when my pastor stated his expectations for members to be in church attendance on Sunday morning, no matter where they might be (i.e. vacation, weekend trips, visiting family/friends, etc.) This is probably the most notable area where many take a “vacation from God,” especially those who would otherwise be attending their local church on that Sunday. The internet is a wonderful tool to help you locate churches, read doctrinal statements, or listen to podcasts in preparation for finding a good “vacation church”. Take advantage!
3. Pack your Bible, devotions, books.
We pack everything including the kitchen sink to go on vacation, but do we make any effort to ensure we pack our bibles, daily devotions, or a good Christ-exalting book or two? Be intentional with what you bring. Always bring your bible and bring along at least one book that you’d like to finish and make that your goal.
4. Set aside intentional times for daily Bible Study/Prayer in the morning and evening.
It’s one thing to pack your bible, it’s another thing to actually read it. You are on vacation and for all intent and purposes should be free from punching the time clock. Don’t allow yourself to be too lazy or too overly subscribed with activities that you neglect your Bible. It shouldn’t be too difficult to prioritize a morning and evening reading. Without setting aside a time and being intentional about it, you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment when you return home and unpack your unopened Bible.
5. Set aside time for nightly family devotions.
This is a good way to attain that evening bible study that I mentioned above and it’s great if you vacation with anyone other than your immediate family because it creates an instant opportunity to share the gospel and ask questions on their relationship with Christ.
6. Worship on Sunday at the local church you’ve found.
Most vacations begin with Saturday traveling to the destination, but what better way to kick-off a vacation than worshipping God on the first real day of your trip. Be sure to introduce yourself and explain that you’re on vacation, but wanted to be the with Lord’s people on the Lord’s day. You may end up finding a church home away from home. (p.s. tithe there. The “you’re our guest and aren’t expected to tithe” fails to recognize that it is God’s money and God’s church and it is to Him we ultimately “tithe”)
7. Look for opportunities to minister and/or share the Gospel.
Sure it is tough to share the Gospel anywhere, most often due to our fear of failure. But there is probably no better opportunity than on vacation where you are sure to encounter a wide variety of people from various cultural backgrounds. The fear factor shouldn’t be a huge issue (and really it never should be), because unless you make a friend the likelihood of seeing that person again is slim. It might help to bring along some tracts or a gift Bible. Generally speaking I keep a copy of Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die on hand for anyone interested in knowing more about Christ.
I’m not saying your entire vacation needs to be working at the local soup kitchen or digging wells, so I’m fully aware that there is going to be time devoted to lounging by a pool or on the beach, but don’t waste it; maximize it by getting to that book you brought along. Finishing a good book (or reading the Good Book) that brings you closer to Christ, points you to God’s Word, or tells you more about who He is will bring you much more satisfaction than wasting away hours poolside.
9. Instead of succumbing to vacation gluttony, consider vacation giving.
This is probably the biggest thing I’ve come to realize about vacation,the extensive amount of gluttonous behavior, i.e. excessive spending and food consumption. Here is a thought about how to approach this better. Perhaps instead of eating out every night, plan some family dinners. Try to estimate the amount of money that your family saved eating in vs. eating out and consider donating that amount to a local food pantry. Better yet, consider taking that money and purchasing items together as a family for the pantry and deliver it as a family. Multiple family dinners during the week, could result in a significant, much-needed donation.
10. Consider giving your whole vacation to service.
I know this one will likely be met with the most resistance, but have you considered devoting your entire vacation to the service of others? A family that I’m close with, sets aside vacation time each year for ministering to local church bodies and families out west. While I’m sure they make time for family and fun, their main focus is to minister and serve others on their vacation. Maybe you are in a daily job or situation that makes it difficult to be involved in ministering to others, time set aside for a weeklong vacation might be just the opportunity you need. At minimum, don’t ignore this one; give it some thought.
(Post-Script): These are just suggestions to get you thinking more about how you spend your vacation time. In no way is it meant to generate guilt or create a moral checklist by which you can gauge your performance. In the end, if the motivation of your heart is not for the glory of God, you’ve set yourself up for legalism.