Summer and Rejoicing in God's Creation
One of the many challenges that the pandemic has presented is the church’s children, youth, and family programming. Last summer saw only virtual Vacation Bible Schools. Some churches have not yet returned to Sunday School and those that have note decreased attendance. However, for many congregations, they mistakenly think that the goal is to have a specific program or activity for children. That is not the goal! The goal is to teach children the Christian faith! There are so many ways to accomplish this goal. The primary way portrayed in the Scriptures is through parents as those with the God-given responsibility.
Summertime provides parents and families great opportunities to teach the faith. Parents should be reminded that they do not have to be Bible scholars or Lutheran historians to do so. When Martin Luther composed the Small Catechism, he gave the charge to teach “in a simple way.” The Bible and the Small Catechism are two of the primary tools for teaching the faith, but the setting in the summertime is hardly limited to the kitchen table.
Here are a few suggestions for families to teach the wonders of God’s creation this summer. Helping our children to understand God as creator of all things is a wonderful way to help affirm the value of each person while dispelling the harmful identity politics that are at work in our culture today. God’s creation is everything from a laboratory, art studio, and setting for all manner of adventures take place while we discover its beauty and complexity.
Lakes, Mountains, Caves, and Beaches
Get out there and explore! A family on a budget can explore God’s creation without leaving the state. All across the state, there are parks and recreation areas where families can marvel at all that God has made. A day-trip can begin with Scripture readings and prayer (Psalm 8, 98 or a host of other Scripture passages). What is the most beautiful thing each person saw? What was the most unusual thing each person saw? Why is it so important to remember that God created all of those places and things?
Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!
From zoos and aquariums to hiking in the wilderness, families can visit places where they can count up how many different species of fish and animals they may see. A bird-watching guide can be a great tool before a day spent outside. Read Genesis 1-2 or 6-8 before setting out. What was your favorite animal or fish that you saw? Is that creature also listed in the Bible? What animal most amazes you as part of God’s good creation?
Families trek across the country for sports and other performances. Parents have the privilege and responsibility to teach children to honor God with their talents and they way they interact with others. Psalm 139 and Chapter 12 of both Romans and 1 Corinthians are fitting sections to read for children using their gifts in competition. Before you set out, ask your pastor to help you find a church to visit or watch your home church’s service online.
As families set out for vacation across the country, a stop in Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum should be must-see destination. This museum is extremely well-done and helps families to see the order behind God’s creation from things that are vast and tiny alike. While visiting this museum, consider a trip to the nearby Ark Encounter, as well.
No matter what your family plans this summer, my prayer is that Christ will be at the center of everything. Our world is creating chaos and confusion for children and youth as they wonder about who they are and where they fit into this world. The importance of parents teaching and affirming God’s creation cannot be overstated. Blessings to you as you discover and explore God’s creation this summer!
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan
Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan was elected as the fifth president of the Missouri District-LCMS in 2015. He is a 1992 graduate of Concordia College (now University), Seward, Nebraska. He graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis with a Master of Divinity in 1996 and Doctor of Ministry in 2011. Dr. Hagan served as associate pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evansville, Indiana from 1996-2002. In 2002, he was called to serve as senior pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Concordia, Missouri until he was elected district president. Additionally, he served as the Interim Director of LCMS Rural and Small Town Mission from 2011-2012. He has previously served as Missouri District first vice-president from 2012-2015, fourth vice-president from 2011-2012, and chairman of the Board for Congregational Services from 2006-2011. He has presented workshops and retreats on a host of ministry topics including elders, rural ministry, outreach and ministry to inactives. He has written articles for Lutheran Witness, Concordia Historical Quarterly and Missio Apostolica. He has led mission trips to Cambodia, China, Guatemala and the Bahamas. Dr. Hagan is married to Jill (nee Johnson), who works as a speech-language pathologist. They have two children, Caroline and Jack.