My eldest child successfully completed his last day of eleventh grade yesterday. Well, he’s technically almost finished with high school and already has more than a dozen college credits under his belt. He’s kind of an academic freak of nature, but he’s my favorite man-child and I think he’s pretty amazing.

In light of his most recent achievement, I’m hearing the seconds tick away louder than ever. You see, there’s a countdown timer in my head that is preparing me for his departure from the familial nest.

Excuse me for a moment–I must be chopping onions as I write this…

The tears have abated, and I’m ready to face the inevitable: my kid is a couple of years away from leaving my house to make his own way in the world. I’m not worried about him, mind you. I fully expect Bryan to do well, and I’m fairly certain he will be able to retire before his thirtieth birthday.

I’m worried about me. I know that parents should strive for selflessness, but I think it’s OK to look out for good ol’ number one every now and then. I want him to make enough to put me in a good home when I’m old(er) and gray(er)!

I want to maximize the time I have with my family. You probably want the same thing. I spend so much time preaching about practicing evangelism and discipleship in the context of relationship, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve practiced those things well in my own family.

Presence leads to conversation. Conversation leads to influence, and discipleship is nothing more than leveraging influence to point someone to a meaningful relationship with Jesus.

It all starts with presence.

Bryan and I like to take on a project every summer. Last year that project had a lot to do with moving and acclimating to our new home, so we missed out on our favorite project. We have a blast scouring (it’s kind of like Pinterest for men) for a moderately dangerous DIY adventure. We’ve built a baking soda and vinegar-fueled RPG (as in rocket propelled grenade, because a baking soda and vinegar rocket was way too lame for us), made survival candles out of Altoids tins (as a bonus, we totally wrecked a crock pot), and created a ton of websites (for fun and profit).

The projects were a lot of work, but we laughed a lot, learned a lot, and talked a lot. I tried to capitalize on teachable moments during those times to pivot to a spiritual conversation. It wasn’t forced or formal, but it was an attempt on my part to practice a very ancient way of speaking with my kid about faith. Chew on this…

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NLT) “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.“

So, in the interest of creating the space for you to speak with your kids (or your spouse, friends, or other family members), I’m reprinting a list of summer activities originally penned by my friend Tony Myles. He recommends sitting down with your kids (or whomever) to create a list of summer activities.

I’ll let him take it from here…

“The key is to refer to your list all summer. Perhaps use a dry erase board and circle items as you do them, or write the tasks on slips of paper that you randomly pull out of an envelope every few days.  You may enjoy tracking them with pictures and posting them to social media, too.

So what would be on your list?

Here are 50 summer bucket list ideas for families, listed from cheap to expensive:

  • Go for a family bike ride down a local trail
  • Camp out in the living room to play board games on a rainy day
  • Set up a blanket or tent in your backyard on a clear night and stare at the stars together
  • Visit someplace local that’s free and beautiful, like a state park or nature preserve
  • Run through a sprinkler
  • Stay in your pajamas all day and eat breakfast food for dinner
  • Go geochaching (
  • Meet up with friends at a splash pad
  • Play freeze tag
  • Cut the lawn of a local friend, but don’t get found out about it
  • Host a neighborhood campfire in your driveway and make s’mores
  • Play a recreational game of soccer at a park, and recruit the other kids/families to join in
  • Borrow a video projector and host an outdoor movie night on the side of your house
  • Read every book your local library has from a favorite author
  • Catch fireflies in a jar
  • Hike into the woods for a couple hours
  • Turn off all your electronics for one whole day as a family
  • Buy a cup of lemonade at a kid’s stand
  • Light sparklers and watch fireworks
  • Fly a kite
  • Collect sea shells
  • Dress up and film your own movie
  • Burn a hole in a leaf using a magnifying glass and the sun (ed. note: apparently Tony plays fast and loose with pyromania…)
  • Listen to old songs and new ones to decide which one is “the song of this summer”
  • Sketch out a family portrait on your driveway using sidewalk chalk
  • Brew sun tea
  • Consume a whole watermelon together in one sitting
  • Supply the neighborhood kids with some homemade popsicles
  • Create your own snow cones
  • Chase down an ice cream truck and buy something sweet
  • Try fishing, even if you don’t know how to fish
  • Bake brownies or cookies for your church or a community group (ed. note: the church staff would not be opposed to homemade chocolate chip and pecan cookies one day this summer. Just sayin’…)
  • Hang a bird feeder
  • Volunteer to serve with a ministry or organization that serves the poor
  • Set up a scavenger hunt for your kids and their friends, including offering some cool prizes
  • Pick berries at a farm
  • Hit a deli on the way to the beach to order monster sandwiches for lunch
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Go to a drive-in theater
  • Ride horses together
  • Sample every pizza place in town
  • Sail on a boat
  • Ride on a jet ski
  • Find a mini-golf course that everyone can do well on and play a round
  • Shop at a farmer’s market together to buy food to make an entire meal
  • Drive out to visit a new zoo
  • Attend a sporting event
  • Spend the day at a nearby amusement park
  • Take part in a weekend service project

Any of these can be done completely as a family or as a one-on-one time with each of your kids. The goal is to be present all summer long.

*Ed. note: this list (and Tony’s instructions) originally appeared on the website.

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