You hug your youth group pals goodbye and you swear you’re gonna keep in touch, but you have this sinking feeling in your stomach. What are you going to do for a whole summer without these people? How will you continue to grow in your faith without your regular meetings, Bible studies, praise and worship nights, socials, and retreats? You just started to get the hang of things and your relationship with Jesus and your community has never been stronger, and now you’re supposed to just walk away from it? Goodbyes are hard, there’s no denying that.
But not to worry, friends! Summer break can be a difficult time of transition and all the changes that come along with it might seem like they’re only going to derail our good progress — but it doesn’t have to be that way! While summer is definitely different than your year-round routine, it brings unique opportunities for rest and growth. So whether you’ll be laying on the beach, taking summer school classes, hanging with friends, or something in between, you can continue to grow in your faith no matter what you are up to this summer.
Your youth group provides a structured, dependable community of accountability and support, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain virtuous friendships outside of that structure. In fact, some of the best friendships I have are those that were given to me within the context of a ministry organization, but went above and beyond regular meetings to journey in discipleship together.
One of my favorite quotes from the Greatest Showman is this: “Comfort is the enemy of progress.” Take some time to reflect on your school year. Has your prayer life grown? Has it been stagnant? What would you like to improve? Maybe you’d like to spend more time with Scripture every day. Maybe you want to try and go to daily Mass more often, or make this a part of your routine. Maybe you’d like to start praying the rosary or learn about the saints. Maybe you want to stop a bad habit that keeps you from growing in virtue. There are so many ways we can grow in our faith and often times, it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew.
Start with one big goal and two smaller goals so you don’t become overwhelmed. An example of a big goal might be going to the adoration chapel for an hour three times a week, while a smaller goal could be something like listening to a Catholic podcast on the way to your summer job or a taking a few moments in the pew after Mass on Sunday to pray. Write down your goals and put it somewhere you’ll see it everyday — on your mirror, in your phone notes, or in your journal. Be realistic about what’s achievable — you should be challenged, but not immediately overcome by your goals. Don’t promise yourself you’ll go to 7 a.m. Mass every day of the week if you’re notorious for snoozing your alarm, for example.
Find a Friend
If at all possible, find a friend from your youth group you know you can depend on to be your accountability partner. This person should be a pal of the same gender (#emotionalchastity) and ideally, is somebody with whom you feel very comfortable sharing your struggles and triumphs (#vulnerability). An accountability partner is someone who will not be afraid to call or text you regularly to check in and see how you’re doing, and you should feel comfortable doing the same. Once you have a person in mind, it would be good to talk about your respective goals for the summer and how you can be support one another. What’s really great is when two friends can journey together toward the same goal — there’s nothing like growing in community through shared struggle and triumph.
Spend time in Personal Prayer
While journeying along with a friend is crucial, it’s even more crucial to spend personal quality time with Jesus. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes every day for silence, and consider adding even more time if you’re able. Make a habit of going to the adoration chapel and daily Mass, and find a nice, quiet space at home whenever those aren’t available. Praying with Scripture is another way to grow with the Lord while your youth group is on break — all you need is a quiet place and your Bible. The Lord wants to speak to and encounter you in whatever way He can, but it’s important to give Him that space to do so.
If you and your pals are looking for something to do in a group, you could start a book or podcast study! Recently, my friends and I journeyed together and read Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen. Every week for four weeks, we met to discuss our impressions of the book and how the Lord was moving in our lives through this spiritual reading. The lovely ladies on the Abiding Together podcast also journeyed together while reading this book, so we listened to each episode as well as part of our study.
Here are some books and podcasts that would be great to share and discuss as a group:
- Go Bravely by Emily Wilson
- Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
- I Choose the Sky by Emily Wilson
- True North by Joel Stepanek
- Mystery of Joy</em> by Chris Padgett
- My Encounter by Chika Anyanwu
- “Catching Foxes” podcast
- “Catholic Stuff You Should Know” podcast
- “Abiding Together” podcast
- “Fr. Mike Schmitz” podcasts
- “Pints with Aquinas” podcast
Journey with the Saints
Another great way to grow in your faith this summer is to get to know the people who did it best! Now that school is out, you’ve got plenty of time to learn more about your faith and get inspired by some holy men and women. Ask your youth minister or friends for saint suggestions and enjoy reading about their lives in a hammock on a nice, summer day!
So there you have it: just some of the ways you can continue to grow in your faith over the summer! Remember, just because your youth group is on break, doesn’t mean your prayer life has to be.