I know what you’re thinking. Come on, pastor! Don’t throw a guilt trip at me for missing church a few times this summer! Before you classify me as a legalist, take a moment to read eight reasons why you ought to seriously consider taking your family to church while on vacation this summer.
1. It communicates your priorities.
Vacations are such a blessing! We all need to take a break, have some fun, and, most importantly, get some rest. We need to say goodbye to work traffic, office hours, homework and nightly routines. We need to wade in a creek, lie on the sand, hike a trail and ride a roller coaster. We need to enjoy delicious restaurants, breakfast at 10 a.m. and ice cream every night. This is all good. But we should not need a break from corporate worship and sitting under the Word of God. When we take a little time to pack an outfit, find a local fellowship and get up to join them for worship, we are saying to our spouses (and even more so to our children and grandchildren) that church matters! And yes, I know your church offers its services online and you can watch live when you are out of town. Mine does too, and we are so glad to use technology to help people stay connected. Many in my church love our online services because they like to stay current with our sermon series even if travel, work or sickness takes them away physically. But watching a screen is not the same as joining God’s people for worship. If it were, then why are you going on vacation? Why not just buy some frozen shrimp and watch a beach movie? We all know the setting, the sights, the sounds and the people make an experience, not a screen. Why not enjoy both? Go to church with your family, then watch your pastor later while the kids are swimming. A double dose of The Word has never hurt anyone.
2. It teaches broad fellowship.
Our churches teach us about the universal, worldwide body of Christ. We send money to missionaries all over the world. We tell our kids that there are many Christians in many places who are just as loved by God as we are. Why not take them and show them? When your family attends a church on vacation, you are exhibiting the beautiful bond all Christians share in our Savior. It does not have to be your church with your pastor and the music you like. You don’t need your parking space or your seat beside your friends. It can be just you, your Lord and some of His children you have never met, and perhaps won’t meet again until Heaven. Go practice for Heaven.
3. It creates conversation.
Questions every parent should want to hear:
“Why are we packing a church outfit?”
“I can read my Bible on my phone; why do I need my church Bible?”
“I don’t know anybody; why do we have to go?”
“I thought we were on vacation; why do I have to get up early?”
Every one of these questions gives a parent or grandparent great opportunity to speak directly to the priority and value of gathering with the church on a weekly basis for worship. These conversations never happen if you take a vacation from church.
4. It gives you perspective.
Churches are like people. They are all different and vary in their strengths and weaknesses. Local churches have their own personalities, focuses and annual emphasis. By visiting a church on vacation, you have the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on one or more aspects of the Christian life. Last summer, the church my family and I attended was observing communion. It was so refreshing to hear another pastor lead us to the table of Christ. I got to sit with my family and take The Lord’s Supper as a husband and father, which does not happen for me as a pastor. These unique experiences don’t happen if we fail to worship when we are out of town.
5. It lets you encourage other leaders.
I hope you are a blessing to your pastors and leaders at your church. You should be. But why save all your encouragement for them? You cannot imagine how much it means for you to greet a pastor, worship leader, children’s volunteer, or even an usher and say, “My family and I are guests today because we are here on vacation. Thank you for your ministry and for serving us so we could worship and be fed.” Even greater is the lesson your children learn when they see you thank a complete stranger for being a faithful brother or sister in Christ.
6. It builds appreciation for your home church.
Even without a critical spirit, when you and your family worship in an unfamiliar local church, you will see more clearly the strengths and blessings of your home church. All churches are on a journey, and some have a long way to go. Others are past their prime and need a rebirth. When you walk in, worship, listen and leave, you will be forced to consider the differences between your vacation church experience and the one you have weekly at home. This almost always reiterates how thankful you are for your faith family. Contrastingly, you may also pick up an idea or see a ministry that could benefit your church. As a pastor, this is one of the secondary reasons I love to be with God’s people no matter where I am. I can always learn something about being a more faithful church.
7. It witnesses to your world.
The nice family in the condo or campsite next to you will notice you left early on Sunday to go somewhere. They will see you were carrying your Bibles. They will ask why you weren’t at the lake or beach until after lunch. When they do, you will have an open door to share with them why the Lord and His people mean so much to you. Christians should look different even when we are on vacation!
8. It holds you accountable.
What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. The Lord sees and knows all and His standards for our lives never change. Sadly, vacation can be a temptation to flip the “off” switch on our convictions and values. Getting up and going to worship the King is a great way to remind the whole family that we represent the Lord everywhere.
Legalism cheapens grace. Church attendance is not about gaining brownie points with God or impressing people with superficial piety. However, when a redeemed sinner experiences true grace, he or she will want to honor the Lord in every way. When the first day of the week rolls around, we should want to be with God’s people the same way those first followers did seven days after the Sunday morning they found an empty tomb. Is missing a Sunday service a tragic sin? Of course not. But, when our church attendance is determined by convenience, familiarity and routine, a deeper sin issue is in play. It is called self, and we have to crucify him or her every day. Thankfully, when self is crucified, walking with Christ is as warm as beach sand, soothing as the sound of waves, fresh as mountain air and as joyous as the smile of a child in an amusement park.