By Rachel VanderWoude
For most people, summertime is vacation time. We like to take a vacation from work, school, and home, and give ourselves an opportunity to relax, de-stress, and hopefully return to daily life rejuvenated and refreshed. Unfortunately, when we take a break from all these things, we also tend to take a break from something else: church.
Just because church attendance rates drop during the summer months, it doesn’t mean our personal attendance rates should drop too. Unfortunately, it’s only too easy to not bother with taking time on our vacation for church. It’s just easier to simply skip it altogether. However, going to church while on summer vacation is important.
Many of our excuses for skipping church during vacation are poor. One of the most common is that it’s too much hassle to find a church to go to. On the contrary—open up Google maps or Siri and ask for “churches near me.” Besides, if we can spend time planning hikes, museum visits, lake excursions, and beach vacations, surely we can carve out a few minutes to find a church to attend on Sunday morning!
Another common excuse for not attending church while on vacation is that we don’t want to have to talk to a bunch of strangers. On the one hand, yes, going to a strange church means interacting with strange people. But on the other hand, these people are not strangers at all. Being a Christian and part of the church does not mean going to the same building every week, because the church is not a building! Rather, the church is made up of the believers: “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).
By participating in worship with other Christians, regardless of whether it’s our usual building or not, we are coming together with other living stones and taking part in God’s spiritual house. In the words of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the holy, catholic church”—not catholic in the sense of Roman Catholic, but catholic in the sense of universal, communal, the mutual belief in Jesus Christ that binds all believers together.
In such a setting, are these people really strangers? No. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, different parts of the same body. And how functional can a body really be if it is never connected to its other parts?
But what if we can’t find the right kind of church? Well, denominations certainly exist for a reason. There is undoubtedly a difference between Lutherans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and non-denominational churches. But just because a church might be different, doesn’t mean you can’t attend for a Sunday.
Going to a church that is different from what you’re used to can be a valuable experience. You could experience a different style of worship or be exposed to a new angle of the gospel. There might even be elements of the service that you really enjoy and would love to see implemented in your own church! Perhaps the contrast between styles might let you appreciate aspects of your own church more. At the very least, attending a different church for a Sunday can be a great way to prompt a post-service discussion about faith, practice, and belief.
If you are travelling in a different country, church can also be a valuable cultural experience. I remember going on a trip to Europe with my family when I was 13. One Sunday, we attended a three-and-a-half hour Greek Orthodox service on the island of Santorini. One Sunday, we sat through a Roman Catholic mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. One Sunday, we went to Durham Cathedral in England. I remember being amazed at how each church was so reflective of the rest of the culture; and yet, at the same time, each was connected by the common foundation that Jesus died for our sins.
So this summer, enjoy your vacations. Enjoy getting away from work, school, and home for a while. But don’t let yourself take a vacation from church: make the effort, have the conversations, experience a different style, and take advantage of the fact that God’s church is universal.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).