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Vacation challenge: Maintain church ties while on the road

As the summer vacation season gears up, here are five tips churches can use to encourage members to worship and stay connected when away from home.

Summer reading
Reading is a relaxing summer vacation activity. Whether your church members are hitting the beach, sitting in an airport or chilling at home, they might be looking for some summer reading. Provide a list of titles to enhance their spiritual journeys. The Bible is available for free download on most mobile apps and reading devices. Other ideas include The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide or a Bible storybook for families with younger children.

Remind your members about Find-A-Church so they can easily locate a United Methodist church for worship, no matter where vacation takes them. Encourage those who worship elsewhere to share their experiences. This can provide great insight and inspiration for your home church.

Stay social
Encourage communication and interaction on your church's social media sites. Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways of relaying news, not only about those who travel, but also to those who travel. It's a quick and easy way to communicate prayer requests and news of joys and sorrows.

Remember to be considerate of privacy when sharing news or prayer requests. Ask if you can share with the congregation. If so, sample Facebook posts and tweets might be:

  • Bob Sanders broke ankle while water skiing. Requests prayers. OR
  • Jennings family attended a powerful sunset vesper service at St. Simon. Blessings!

You can also encourage travelers to submit prayer requests via an online form on your website. Wufoo, a user-friendly online form service, provides excellent video tutorials that demonstrate how to create a form, embed it on your website and import data in multiple formats.

To see an example of an online form, check out the prayer-request template of the First United Methodist Church in Peoria, Ill. This form will give you ideas for designing your own. Note that this form requires certain information such as:

  • Whether the prayer request is confidential
  • To whom the request should go
  • How long the request should stay in the prayer chain

Share "God sightings"
Challenge members to find God in unexpected places during summer vacation. Ask them to post their sightings - whether in a sunset, in a meeting with someone new or during a mission trip experience - on your social media pages. This will keep them connected with their friends in the church and will inspire the rest of your congregation to search for God in their daily lives.

Send a smile
Often people who cannot attend church receive fewer visits and calls during the summer. When your members cannot devote time for in-person visits, make sure everyone still feels the love. Consider posting a board with the addresses of such people so vacationers can send them a postcard (yes, a printed post-card, with a stamp!)

Before everyone hits the road, consider sharing these ideas in your e-newsletter or printing them in your church bulletin. You could develop a spiritual journey guide for families to use during vacation that includes Scripture, meditations, prayers and games.