Thursday, July 7, 2011

Leading By Example

One way to teach our children to be missional, is to lead by example. If our children see us doing missions, they will grow up thinking that it is normal and expected to do missions. Not all of us are called to serve as full time missionaries in another country, but many time we are given the opportunity to go and join full time missionaries in their work. And this can be highly beneficial for everyone in the family.

A little over two years ago, I wrote about the legacy of missions at my family blog:
Ever since Bruce and I decided to start a family, it has been our desire to create a legacy of missions for our children. We are always looking for opportunities to share missions with Charlotte. She was named after a missionary after all! Any cash gifts she has received in birthday or Christmas cards have been put into a missions fund for her. We have prayer cards for missionaries on our refrigerator. We talk often about people we know who are missionaries. We even pray that she might be called to serve as a missionary someday.
At the time, I was pregnant with Mary, so you could say we started this process from the womb with her. :)

At the top of Vulcano Masaya in Nicaragua, 2009
This summer, my husband was blessed with an invitation to return to Nicaragua (where we took Charlotte two years ago) to do some theological training. Even though we couldn't go with him, we have still been teaching Charlotte about what he is doing over there and why it is important.

So, my encouragement to you is this. If you feel called, try to take a missions trip to another country. Some trips are more conducive to allowing children than others. Be sure to talk to the trip coordinators to be sure they understand why you are bringing the children and how they can contribute to the purpose of the trip.

Our experience in Nicaragua showed us ways children can be helpful or benefit from being on the mission field:
  • Babies and toddlers can open doors of conversation that might otherwise be closed. As we walked down the street as a family, people seemed more willing to engage us in conversation. The youngest member of our family was an entrance into small talk.
  • Some toddlers have a natural fearlessness that makes it easy for them to walk up and talk to a stranger. This can help moms meet other moms while "on mission."
  • Preschoolers are old enough to participate in distributing clothing and small toys to other children. This helps reinforce the concept of cheerful giving and starts to plant the seed that not everyone lives as comfortably as we do in America. 
  • Elementary aged children can do all of what I've already listed as well as start to help out in a VBS type setting. By the time they get to third grade, they know the VBS drill and can lead by example, helping teachers pass out supplies, or showing their new friends how to do a craft.
  • Middle and high school students can be more involved in direct evangelism (with adult supervision) and helping with construction projects. I know of one teenager who is the lead on a project to tile the floor of a church he's been on mission to for the last 3 summers. (He's even blogging about it at Project Nagarote: 2k11)
Of course, it's always our job as parents to make sure we are going to places safe and secure enough for children and that the rest of the team understands how, as parents, our work will be affected by the day to day caring of our children as well. For this reason, not every trip is going to be suitable for families. 

Have you taken your children on an overseas mission trip? Leave a comment and tell us about your trip. What advice would you have for parents thinking about doing the same thing?

(I know that I mostly talked about doing international missions in this post, but being missional should happen in our home towns too. Please subscribe so you'll be around when we talk about that too!)

1 comment:

  1. My family (Mom, Dad, brother any myself) went on 2 separate missions trips to Romania with 5 other families to run Christian sleep away camps for orphans from the state run orphanages. Those experiences of serving as a family are some of my most treasured memories of my family.