When my eldest son turned a mere five years old, I took him on his first mission trip. We traveled internationally to the island of Cuba. While there he engaged with kids his age who are from a different culture. He watched as the mission team shared Jesus with perfect strangers. He walked the dusty roads of the countryside inviting people to the nearby house churches. He soaked in this new world and new experience with wide eyes of wonder.
Now thirteen he recently returned from his most recent mission trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he worked with a church plant along with some homeless ministries for the city. Every time he goes on mission, he is exposed to a new way to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world.
We as a family believe in the importance of missions. And we believe in exposing our kids to the world of missions at a young age. Our children need to know that the neighbor across the street needs to hear about Jesus as does the stranger in a foreign land. They need to know that the church is God’s plan for spreading the love of Christ with a lost world and building the kingdom of God as we invite people one by one into this spiritual family.
Our kids need to know that there are people who need God’s love all over the world. And they need to know that while this is an enormous task, God has placed people in that world to accomplish this task. Missionaries are real people with real families, real struggles, and real work that needs to be done.
Also, we want our kids to know that they can play an active part in God’s mission. We want our children to participate firsthand in the mission of God. We want them to experience the front lines of the mission field, where the work of God can come alive for them.
When my middle son was in preschool, he traveled to Baltimore, Maryland with my wife to work for a week with a church plant in the city. They invited locals to the church and even put on a Vacation Bible School for the local children. There on the playground in a new city with new faces, he was able to begin articulating the good news of Jesus, “Jesus rose again on the 3rd day,” he would say to his new friends.
We want our kids to be a part of the church of today, not just the church of tomorrow. Our children are the light of the world to their neighbors, friends, families, and strangers as much as we are meant to be! They can engage in God’s mission now in all sorts of ways.
We can expose our children to missions by having them hear missionaries’ stories when they visit your local church and praying for them by name. They can participate in local service projects and welcome new families to your neighborhood and invite them to join your family in worship at your church. When you engage in the mission of God (and I hope that you are regularly) bring your children along and explain what you are doing and why.
In King David’s song of thanksgiving in 1 Chronicles 16, he declares, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” We should be singing of his salvation day to day and declaring his glory among the nations in front of our children. They should see us making known the works of God and we should invite them to join us on this mission.
A good place to start when exposing your children to missions is to introduce them to real missionaries and their families. Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary says you should “expose your children to missionaries and their lives by having them in your church and home, by sharing a meal with them, by listening to their stories, by reading their newsletters and email updates, and by praying for them by name.”
I’ve provided for you in this blog a week-long kids devotional that introduces elementary aged children to the subject of missions as well as some real life missionaries and their families. My prayer is that you use this as a resource to reflect on the importance of missions and discover how you and your children can engage in God’s kingdom work together!
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