Time For A Family Adventure [ARTICLE – Rick Williams]

Welcome to summer! If the calendar hasn’t signaled you that summer is here, the temperatures certainly have! Summertime means lemonade and tire swings, and, in ministry, it usually also means vacation Bible school and camp. In fact, ministry life in summer is often a blended smoothie of down time, prep time, and crazy time.

For our family, summer means it’s also time for a family adventure.

Because God has blessed us with 6 children who are 8 years old and younger (with another child on the way), you may think that a trip to the grocery store is an adventure for us—and you would be right! But that’s not nearly daring enough.

Through God’s provision and safety, we just returned from a memorable, 9-day camping trip in North Dakota and South Dakota. We visited Badlands National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, and Wind Cave National Park (as well as The Purple Pie Place—but more on that later). We returned from our trip fired up about the Lord’s goodness, in love with our family, and excited about the work God has given us to do.

Since Anna and I purposed when we got married back in 2005 to have family adventures every year, our journeys have taken us to the tip of Florida, coast of California, mountains in Maine, glaciers in Montana, and a lot of amazing places in between. Even though the summer is busy and the expenses can mount, I wouldn’t trade a moment spent or a mile driven. Really, I can’t adequately express the contribution our adventures have made to our spiritual life, family life, and ministry life.

If you or your family needs a shot of physical and/or spiritual refreshment, may I encourage you to consider a family adventure? Why, you ask?

3 Reasons for a Family Adventure

Time flies.  Someone once told me, “When it comes to raising kids, the days are long, and the years are short.” I sense that statement packs more wisdom than any one parent has perfectly applied. It’s so easy—especially in ministry—to get so caught up in the daily rhythms of life that we miss the passing of life. Realizing this shouldn’t lead us to ungodly sentimentality, but it should lead us to be purposeful in making the most of precious years. I’ve never met a seasoned parent in ministry who regretted purposeful family vacations, but I’ve met many who regretted not having such times. Lord, please help us to learn from the experiences of previous generations!

God intends for us to learn from His creative revelation.  Psalm 19:1 famously says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handwork,” and Psalm 8:3-4 adds, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers… What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Through these Psalms, David reminds us of what we—in our ceaselessly technological age—can forget: there is something about being in God’s creation that reveals what God is like (praiseworthy) and holds the potential to correct what we are like (prideful).

Even someone as godless as Mark Twain understood a form of this truth: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” While Twain’s purpose may have been different than ours, the result is the same. We are humbled, and our perspectives are deepened, when we purposefully adventure in this amazing world God created.

Christian kids in Christian families should experience adventure.  Please don’t misunderstand my point here. There is no doubt that serving God in ministry is the world’s greatest adventure, and it’s absolutely crucial that we guide our children to see that. Yet, God help us when children raised in Christian families struggle with the perception that everything really “fun” happens outside of Christianity and outside of family life. In contrast, I pray our kids grow up believing that the “coolest” thing they do all year is the adventure time they spend with their family.

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Now, before you jump in a wood-paneled mini-van and hit the road, let me pass along a few family adventure lessons we’ve learned along the way (some along the hard way).

5 Tips for a Successful Family Adventure

Plan for adventure.  “Going to Florida” does not qualify as a well-planned family adventure. Family vacations that remain lame are usually due to lack of planning. Organize a series of destinations and look for an intentional variety of exciting things to do, to see, to eat, and to experience wherever you go. Give a particular purpose to each day. This kind of planning should not push you to keep a frantic pace, but it does make sure you actually accomplish something fun. Even if a whole day’s purpose is “swimming and s’mores at the rented cabin,” make sure you think through the little things that add adventure.

It’s your adventure, and it’s everyone’s adventure.  Each person’s idea of adventure is different. Do your kind of adventure. Our family’s goal is to visit as many of the 59 U.S. National Parks as possible (while scouting out, and feasting on, local food and coffee). Other families visit major league ballparks, tour zoos, explore big cities, take fishing or hunting trips, or visit local festivals (rodeos in Wyoming and peanut festivals in Georgia). Whatever your family likes to do, do it! You will instill a love for your kind of adventure in your children.

Also, make sure there’s something adventurous for everyone. Our 8- and 7-year-old sons love hiking, but even Russell (our 1-year-old son) thinks strawberry rhubarb pie from The Purple Pie Place is an adventure! Consider every person’s wholesome interests and incorporate them. A one-day shopping excursion won’t kill any father.

Budget to make it a blessing.  Speaking of shopping—a vacation that puts your family into debt or keeps you from eating for the next two months is not a blessing, and stressing about finances while on vacation robs you of relaxation. If a family adventure is important to you, it must be important enough to budget it, which means other items may have to go. But, when you think about the experiences your family could enjoy together, what a motivation to spend wisely!

And just to be clear, a family adventure does not have to be expensive. Reservations made early can often save money. Plus, there are free, cool activities everywhere–if you’re willing to look for them.

Include spiritual emphasis.  Family adventures should not be a vacation from God or from godliness. When you adventure without the Lord, you subliminally communicate to your children that the most fun happens when you get away from God. Rather, experiencing amazing things together provides incredible opportunities to instill lifelong spiritual lessons.

Start by finding good churches to visit while you travel—even if it involves a little inconvenience to get to them. Doing so demonstrates to your kids that church is always important, and God will likely have an unexpected blessing or lesson waiting for you wherever you go.

Make time each day for a family-oriented spiritual activity. This does not have to be awkward or a “downer”! Have each person talk about his/her favorite experiences so far and then corporately thank the Lord. Crank up godly music and sing together (loudly). Read a Bible passage that relates to what you are experiencing. Witness to the fascinating people you meet (who you will likely never meet again). Take driving time or campfire time to have open discussion about how your family is doing. Or, consider planning the ultimate family adventure—a family foreign missions trip.

If you’re willing to be creative and get behind it yourself, your vacation’s spiritual component can be a powerful catalyst to draw you closer to God and closer to each other.

Record it to remember it.  What God accomplishes through your family adventure should last longer than your sunburn. Find a way to enjoy it again later. Go ahead! Be “that parent” who is always taking pictures. Better yet, use your cell phone to record videos and string them together with video software to make a family adventure video. When your kids get older, they will groan—and likely thank you, too. Speaking of your kids thanking you later–make sure they journal about your adventure during travel times. Their impressions, experiences, and feelings will be a lasting source of remembered joy.

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Family adventure time doesn’t have to happen in the summer, but it may not happen at all if you don’t purpose for it to happen. If summertime is too intense for your ministry calendar, choose the yearly season that works best for you. Having considered the need for a family adventure—pray about it, sit down with your family, and start making time commitments and financial plans right away.

Finally, even if it’s too late for a full summer adventure this year, you can still squeeze in family fun. We love mini-adventures, too, which we’re able to execute much more regularly. So, find a museum, explore a park, shop and eat somewhere new, or even plan a backyard party.

Since it’s summer, don’t forget to bring the sunscreen, and the bug repellent, and…your camera!

Enjoy your family adventure!

 

Rick Williams was saved at age 4 and called into ministry at age 14. Bro. Rick and his wife, Anna, both graduated from Heartland Baptist Bible College in 2005, and Bro. Rick has since earned master’s degrees from Heartland Baptist Graduate School and Mid-America Christian University. The Williams have six children–three sons (Clayton, Garrett, and Russell) and three daughters (Norah, Michaela, and Julia). Bro. Rick serves as Bible Department faculty at Heartland Baptist Bible College, as president of the Heartland/Pacific Coast Alumni Association, and as Heartland Couples director at Southwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

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7 Comments
  1. I am convinced that one of the MAJOR reasons I have such a favorable perception of ministry is because my ministry parents took time regularly to do this. Spot on Bro. Rick!

  2. I loved this! So true!

  3. We’ve been busy having babies for most of our seven-year marriage, but now that those babies are getting bigger, this subject has come to mind more frequently. Thank you for pointing out how important it can be to the health of a family, and for sharing your tips! We look forward to many adventures!

  4. Couldn’t agree more!!! Absolutely fantastic advice!

    I remember someone saying, “kids don’t rebel against authority, they rebel against a lack of relationship”

    No better way to form a deep relationship in my opinion then creating memories by taking adventures together!

    We are currently on our adventure visiting National Parks, my boys are loving it!!!

  5. Wonderful article! I appreciate your personal viewpoint and practical advice! My kids are 18 and 14, and it is very true that my husband and I do not regret one single moment of family trips and adventures that we’ve had with them. We treasure the memories.

  6. My husband, John Waterloo, ALWAYS made it a priority to have great vacations with our boys!! We had “themed” vacations including Baseball Games, Amusement Parks and Beaches! At the baseball game, he stopped and prayed in the parking lot with the boys that they would get some foul balls at the game! God honored that request and we got several!! What a great example to our boys about God answering prayers and even caring about the “little” things like foul balls!!

  7. Thank you so much for writing this up. My husband grew up with this kind of childhood but I did not so much. I will definitely keep this in mind to make it more of a priority and plan and budget for it.

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