Helping your kids bring home the summer Christian festival experience
You may be one of the thousands of families from all over Great Britain who has attended a Christian festival this year. We shove our cars full of luggage, endure the road trip and camping for many reasons: to bond with our church, to enjoy our family, and to be encouraged and grow in our faith. We hope that our children not only have a wonderful time, but that they will meet with God and grow in their individual knowledge and experience of him. And many of them do. As we pack up to go home, we can begin to wonder about the bump back to reality. How do we keep the momentum of what our children have gained throughout this week? How do we help our children transition back into normal life without losing all they have gained? I would suggest there are three approaches that may help.
1. Capture their experience!
One of the first and easiest things to do is to help our children capture what they have experienced. Many times, as parents and carers, we feel the pressure to find out what our children or teens have been taught in the groups. Don’t bother. Yes, those leaders have poured months of their lives into planning for the event, but what matters more than what they taught the kids is what our children have learned from it. The two sometimes have very little to do with each other because God weaves the whole experience together and takes each of our kids on their own journey.
Children forget things easily but if we want them to consciously take home their experiences, we can help facilitate them remembering what God did in their lives. While you are either at the festival, or on the way home, find a way for them to record what they are thinking about, experiencing and learning. Buy a cheap journal for everyone to write in about their experiences, or you yourself write down the stories your kids tell you. Video them talking about their days and telling stories. Ask them questions like: “What was the most surprising thing you learned about God today?” “What is the most special moment you and God had together this week?” “Tell me a story about something or someone that was super interesting” “If you could grow up and be like one of the adults you saw onsite, who would you like to be like and why?” “What is the most amazing thing you experienced today?” “What is the most frustrating thing you experienced about God or your groups this week?” Ask open ended questions you don’t know the answers to. Be curious and affirm whatever their experience has been. (If your teens are going on a festival without you, buy them a journal to send with them with an encouragement to write down stuff to process with God.)
Summer festivals are a great time for our children to experience something new in their journey with God.... find out what that was: the good, the bad, and the ugly and help them place that marker in the sand as something to remember.
2. Empower them!
Sometimes our children need help in bringing their learning back. We can learn to empower them to implement changes at home that come out of their own internal process. Festivals exist to help individual children grow in their individual faith and connection to God. It’s about what it looks like in the everyday. After the festival, help your child think through if there is anything they experienced or learned that they would like to do on their own or as a family.
Some children loved the music, and so may want to listen to the worship music as they eat breakfast. Others may like the way they learned to pray and so you can ask them to show you how to do bedtimes differently to reflect that. If they get fired up about mission, find out what is on their heart and coach them through the next steps, letting them take the lead. If they discover a desire to serve others, ask them to think about what God may be asking them to do in school or in the neighbourhood and let them know you will help in any way.
The main thing to remember is to let it be them-led. We often try to be the ones who enforce the next steps for our children spiritually, but that doesn’t help our children cultivate their own journey. Put the power back in our children’s hands by saying with your words and actions “God and you have a wonderful journey together, and I’m here to encourage and support you as you do it.” What our children need from us is the coaching to help them be powerful for themselves. If your children want to stop, let them. Ask them how their experiments are working out for them and God and listen as they talk. Let them know you are here to help if they want it. We are all on the journey of putting our new faith experiences into practice and it's a joy to watch our children learn the lessons of a lifetime now. Enjoy it!
3. When the festival experience collides with getting back to our church.
Sometimes going back to our churches is a bit of a rough bump. It’s easy to feel the desire to pressure the kids’ ministry to come up to the standard of the festivals. If you feel that passionately, feel free to volunteer for the groups! But it’s also important to remember that this is about helping our children live everyday closer to God, not about making Sundays as snazzy as they can be. Keep conversing with your child about church. If they want to see changes to their groups, encourage them to talk to their leaders with their suggestions and encourage them to get involved in the solutions. If they are bored in the groups and don’t want to go, talk with them about what they learned at the festivals and how they may want to connect with God in a different way at church. Get them involved in serving in the church if they want to get more active. Talk with them about how each of us bring our relationships with God to the mix and add something important to the whole of church, and they are needed to help shape it.
Enjoy the festivals this summer and have fun seeing your children flourish in relationship with God after they come back!