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  • Scott Slater

Thriving in the return to normal

MONROE – September is here, which means it’s time for Michigan students to head back to school. No doubt they have been taking advantage of their last opportunities to enjoy the luxuries of summer. Staying up past midnight and sleeping in until noon or later. Filling their days with all manner of entertainment; from swimming to video games to riding dirt bikes. Spending days at their friends' houses while parents wonder if they’re wearing the same clothes for the third day in a row. Families have wrapped up any last minute vacations and quality time together.

Summer is filled with fantastic highs for churches as well. Events like youth camp, VBS and summer mission trips pack church calendars with activity. Excitement builds and builds from seeing the way that God is at work in His people through their ministry to one another. Then - just like when an energy drink wears off - you feel the crash of back to school. It’s time to get back to normal life, a life that’s scheduled, predictable, and repetitive.

Compared to a summer full of late nights, camps, retreats, vacations and hours with good friends, “scheduled, predictable, and repetitive” does not sound very appealing. Despite how it sounds, there’s a lot of good that comes from normal, and churches should welcome its return.

Families thrive in the midst of routine. Parents of young children know how important a predictable routine is for their kids and, the truth is, a routine is just as helpful for adults and even churches. Routine provides structure, communicates expectations, and protects what’s important from a world full of distractions. Routines are freeing; in a world that presents you with so many options and choices, established routines make the choice for you.

It’s through routines that we can complete some of the most difficult tasks and accomplish our greatest achievements. Everyone has seen the transformation video of someone who showed the results of a workout routine after one week, four weeks, four months, one year. We look at the transformation in wonder and awe, but if we saw the routine that was used to get there we would understand that there was nothing wonderful or awesome about it. It was actually pretty predictable and repetitive.

Churches - especially youth and children’s ministries - can fall into the trap of expecting big results from big, one-time events that happen in the summer. But it is usually the repetitive, predictable - dare I say ordinary - things the church does that make the biggest difference in the lives of families.

Parents want to know how to help their children grow spiritually. The freeing news for them is that it’s actually pretty simple. Utilize simple, ordinary routines in your family’s life that will produce fruit over time. This is why going back to school provides churches and families with a great opportunity. Families are already transitioning back to the routine of school life; encourage them to return to the routine of church life.

Come to church on Sunday, attend a Sunday school class since you’re already there. If your church provides a mid-week service or utilizes small group meetings throughout the week, make those part of the rhythm of your family's life. Encourage families to take 15 minutes to read a devotion and pray together a few times a week, on the same day at the same time - because routine is important. To serve families well, churches need to encourage a routine that is simple and practical. Overburdened, complex schedules only lead to more stress, guilt and frustration.

The most important thing for pastors to do is pray for families. There are so many things competing for attention and time in their lives. School, sports, clubs, hobbies, the list goes on. We can’t force them to choose and we can’t compete with the world. What we can do is pray that God would lead them to trust Him to use the ordinary, repetitive, and predictable things in the lives of their kids. So let's go back to school on our knees.



Scott Slater lives in Monroe, MI with his wife, Alesha and their three children: Nolin, Thomas and Abigail. He serves as the Family Ministry Pastor at Monroe Missionary Baptist Church.


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