When many kids hear the word “mission,” they think of adults who work at soup kitchens or travel to the inner city to tell others about God. What kids need to realize is that we don’t have to travel out of our town to share Jesus with others—or even out of our neighborhood. A mission is a lifestyle, not a one-time event. In fact, when we give our lives to Jesus, He wants to use us wherever we are to spread His love with others and at whatever age. Sharing our faith in Jesus shouldn’t begin when we’re older.
Of course, it’s up to us parents to teach and model this concept. Moms and dads can stress that the most effective missionary to your neighbor can be the one gazing back at your child when he or she looks into the mirror!
One of the things my husband, John, and I have attempted to do with our children is to build within them a sense of community—connecting with people around us to share Christ. We volunteer weekly at church and in our town. We open our home to neighbors, teen couples, and un-churched friends.
We’ve also reached out to John’s coworkers in numerous ways, such as creating special Christmas gifts or inviting his coworkers to a homemade lunch. We train our children to be mission-minded in our sphere of influence with hopes that as they grow older they’ll also feel more comfortable with sharing Christ in their state, nation, and world. Wouldn’t that be great?
To do this more effectively, here are a few tips!
1. Create awareness by connecting what’s going on in the news to how it might affect what the missionaries are doing in that area. This will help children to become mission-minded as they become more aware of the needs of others.
2. Get your kids involved in a hands-on way, such as volunteering at a local homeless shelter. You might even consider designating a jar at home for donations to go to the local homeless shelter. You might be surprised at the chore money your kids give away rather than spending.
3. Come up with a family mission statement. Have your kids participate by writing down five friends and neighbors they’re trying to reach.
Once children are aware of the need, and the call, next it’s important for them to bring the needs to God in prayer.
Personally, I know how overwhelming it can be to see these huge needs and feel as if there is so little we can do. After all, no matter how hard we work there will always be more homeless people. There will always be neighbors, friends, and even family members who need Christ. Prayer helps children to understand we can take every need before God and trust He has the perfect answer. As we share our concerns, we discover that God knows these situations even better than us and His love will not fail.
The second half of praying, of course, is listening and being aware of God’s desire for us to obey in following through in reaching out to the people He places on our hearts. John and I tell our children that if God continues to place someone on our mind, it’s time to take action, whether it means inviting that family over for dinner or even calling them up to see how they are doing. As we model this, we see our kids doing the same. My daughter asked if we could go by the bookstore to buy a Bible for her friend who was going through a hard time. So impressed to share her hope in God, our daughter even insisted on buying it with her own money.
I’ve heard it said that the true desire of our hearts can be measured by our checkbooks. In a world where spending on ourselves is norm, giving our money to others is a good way to get our kids’ attention. Use any money found in the washer or dryer for your missions offering jar.
Finally, once your kids are primed to meet a need, it’s important for parents to help with the going—actually putting feet to their faith. Some families do this through summer mission trips, like the one my family is going on to the Czech Republic.
Of course, other opportunities closer to home are always available. Go to neighbors and pass out homemade brownies. Take the time to get to know your neighbors.
We can be a physical example of Jesus wherever we go. And when you see your kids being that physical example, brag on them for doing it!