By Assistant Dean of Students Nate Jenkins


“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.”  — Romans 12:11


“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” 

That’s how Gerswhin opens Porgy and Bess, and without hearing another line we know exactly what he’s talking about.

Summer is just about everyone’s favorite time of the year. 

Little ones love summer because it means splashing in the pool, chalk pictures on the driveway, popsicles before lunch, and ice cream after dinner.

School-age kids love summer for similar reasons, but also for the things they don’t have to do: they don’t have to go to bed early, get up early, wear a uniform each day, or read Vergil (unless they want to)!

Parents love summer because it means two weeks away from the office at the beach, reading that novel you’ve been trying to finish since January. It means backyard BBQ’s and lawn seats at the ballpark. And what dad doesn’t enjoy a chance to buy fireworks each time July comes around?  

Why does everyone love summer? Simple: because it’s the season when we have the most time for leisure activities! The rest of the year affords different opportunities for work and play, but no season affords us so much free time as summertime. In that way, summer is a glimpse of the life to come when we will be free to enjoy God and one another with no sense of temporal obligations.  

The Spiritual Dangers of Summer

But summer is also a spiritually dangerous time because leisure can quickly evolve into the sin of sloth, especially for students. It is when hard-earned academic advances are forgotten and when spiritual disciplines are most likely to slack. There is a sense that after working hard through the school year, summer is a time when no work needs to be done at all. This is a mistake. Living easy isn’t an excuse for living without care. 

The Greeks had a word for this attitude: acedia (Gk. akēdeia, lit. “without care”). It was laziness, apathy, ennui, and boredom all rolled into one. But it isn’t just what we would think of as idleness. As one author describes it, “Acedia is not laziness; in fact it can manifest as busyness or activism. Rather, acedia is a gloomy combination of weariness, sadness, and a lack of purposefulness. It robs a person of his capacity for joy and leaves him feeling empty, or void of meaning.”

If you’ve ever laid on your bed in the middle of the day, mindlessly scrolling through social media reels or watching YouTube shorts, you’ve probably fallen prey to acedia. If you’ve ever felt like you need to get out of the house but don’t really want to be bothered to leave, that is most likely acedia. If you know you should pray or study the Scripture but it seems like too much work to use your mind and, after all, “I’m just not feeling it”? That, too, is acedia.

We give in to acedia most often in the summer months because many of the structures and rhythms of life that help us live carefully are removed from our day-to-day lives. But the Scripture commands us, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). It’s imperative that we stoke the fires of our love for Christ in order that we may desire to serve him at all times, and it’s the responsibility of parents to be aware when their children are most likely to be slothful, as well, so as to motivate their will to love and serve God.  

Three Ways to Stay Fervent

One of the ways that our family is endeavoring to stay fervent in spirit this summer is by choosing to use a Bible reading plan which will take us through the entire New Testament between June and August. I have younger kids, so I’m reading smaller portions of each chapter to keep their interest, but I make sure to read the entire portion for my personal devotion. I invite you to either use the same reading plan we are using or find one that works for your family. 

Another way that I seek to avoid losing my zeal is by using a prayer book throughout the year. Along with praying extemporaneously throughout the day, using a prayer book helps me set aside particular ten minute segments to pray what are known as the divine hours or divine office. I don’t always feel like praying. That’s my acedia talking. I often need the structure of the prayer book to bring my wandering and listless mind to heel.

If your family has never used a prayer book, I would encourage you to find one for the summer to supplement your Bible reading. Pray the hours with your children before lunch, dinnertime, or bedtime. Also, if they are old enough, invite them to pray the hours alone each day. Students may find even five minutes of unstructured prayer time daunting, but a prayer book can help them form prayers in their mind while they are still learning to pray from their heart.

To aid me in my prayers, I use the Book of Common Prayer, as well as The Divine Hours: Prayers For Summertime by Phyllis Tickle. Matthew Henry’s A Way To Pray is also excellent. Whether you choose to use these resources or others, be intentional about spending routine moments in prayer this summer.

Lastly, summer is a good time to encourage children to read great biographies that inspire godly devotion. For little ones, a fantastic option is a picture book about great saints, like Patrick and Jerome. Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress is available in versions for kids, young readers, and adults, and it makes for a great family devotional reading. Missionary biographies are always encouraging, too, and one of my favorites is Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose. 

I encourage you to keep your family’s zeal for God burning bright this summer. Keep the eyes of your children turned toward Heaven, read the Scriptures, pray the hours when you can, grow in your devotion to Christ, and by all means, eat all the ice cream, light every firecracker, and praise God for the pool!