My daughter (on the right) went on a missions trip with her youth group to Costa Rica. She got home last Tuesday, at about 11:30 p.m. That same night, my sister was flying in from Colorado an hour later, so our family stayed at the airport and huddled around a table to hear about Lindsay’s trip.

Sadly, that’s the most I’ve gotten to talk to her about it! The next morning, our extended family headed up north for a few days. Our time was filled with waterskiing, campfires, cooking, eating, naps in the sun. When we got home, there was laundry, serving at church, a family birthday party… Then we got Lindsay packed and dropped her off at camp. Looking back on the week since her plane landed, I realize we’ve spent the entire week running from one activity to the next!

Does that ever happen to your family? You want to hear about your kids’ experiences. You want to help them sift through what they’ve experienced on a missions trip or camp, etc. You’ve prayed that these events will change them, and shape their love for Jesus. But before you get a chance to help them stoke the fires of their experiences, and see the flames of their faith ignite, busyness comes along with its heavy foot, and threatens to stamp on the glowing embers!

With our American lifestyles, I think we have to protect and guard against the stamping action of busyness and activity. I’m convinced we have to make time to talk and process things with our kids.

So, here’s my plan. I’ve purposely planned NOTHING for the 4th of July. I’ve already cancelled some plans, and my goal is to keep our weekend as clear as possible. No trips to the beach. No sleepovers with friends. No barbecues with friends. I’m planning on simple meals, no agenda, and a messy house–which I hope will make time for relaxing, talking, and unraveling the summer’s events so far.

I’ve also stockpiled some questions, to have ready. I find that often my kids need help processing their experiences. Sometimes a good question can help unravel some thoughts, and solidify what God is doing in their hearts through camp, or their missions trip. I’m praying–ahead of time–that God will allow some meaningful conversations to take place. Here are the questions I’ve pulled together:

  • Who was the most inspiring person you met this week? What did you notice about them?
  • What did you learn about the world, based on this new experience? What do you think God wanted to show you?
  • What did you learn about yourself? Did you notice new strengths  or weaknesses in yourself?
  • How, specifically, were you affirmed by others as you served? What spiritual gifts might be surfacing in you? How can you continue to cultivate your gifts?
  • What made you most angry or frustrated? What does this tell you about yourself? What was God trying to teach you?
  • What was the hardest, most discouraging part of the week for you? Did you respond well? How could you improve? How was this good for you?
  • How did this other setting (or culture) give you new perspective on your own life?
  • What did you learn about God, as you interacted with people from different backgrounds and cultures?
  • What do you think you’ll remember from this week in one year, or ten years? How will it impact who you become?

Ok, it’s your turn! How do you help your kids process missions trips or camp experiences? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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