On Mission Families
How Parents Can Lead Their Children to Love Others
A Parent’s Perspective
My wife and I love to serve alongside our three daughters (Hailey 10, Madelyn 7, and Eden 2). We think it is an important part of their spiritual formation as young Christ-followers. Our family mantra echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40. We believe biblical parenting involves raising children to become adults who “love God and love people” by living the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Though we are young in our parenting, we know our children will only embrace an on mission lifestyle as we lead them with intentionality. So how can parents involve their children in the Great Commission as they grow from infancy to adulthood?
People of Influence
The Great Commission calls every follower of Jesus Christ to become a person of influence because of the authority of our King. This influence is given by God and is executed relationally. Not worldly influence that comes from money or status. Instead this is a salty influence that attracts others because of the beauty of Christ in us as we follow Him. Our children need to learn how to be persons of influence and observe as we demonstrate this kind of influence if they are to embrace a Great Commission lifestyle. We teach our children that Jesus puts us in obvious places where everyone can see us so other people can learn about Jesus and His love.
Angela (my wife) and I started teaching this concept very early on with our girls. Since infancy my girls listen as we pray over them at bedtime. Our nightly prayer goes something like this: “Lord Jesus, would You bless her and keep her and make Your face shine on her (Numbers 6:24) and would You use her in this world for Your Glory, that Your Name would be made more famous in the lives of people on our street and around the planet throughout the generations.”
We demonstrate this influence by making our home a place of hospitality first and foremost to the people who live on our street. Angela’s “stay-at-home mom” choice affords us with weekly opportunity. Many nights a week we have extra children in our home after school who stay through dinner. It is usually unplanned and a gift to their working parents. Dinner for us includes conversation around the Scripture. We involve visiting children as if they are a part of the family. We are demonstrating how to influence others for Christ without ever leaving our home. Later, we lead our daughters to pray for the people we are influencing. This is one way they learn how to be people of influence.
As we walk our children to the bus stop, we pray that God would use them as people of influence for the Kingdom at their school. We regularly pray for classmates and their families who need to know the good news of Jesus Christ. We try through prayer, regular family devotions, and our daily lives to purposefully live out the Great Commission with our children and involve them in the work of it. I pray as they grow and go wherever God leads them, they will always remember that Jesus calls them to be people of influence as students, stay-at-home moms, or missionaries to the other side of the world.
Loving Others in the Community
Our children need a chance to get their hands dirty, serving others for the cause of Christ. Local churches can provide families inexpensive local opportunities to serve. As parents we need to take advantage of these opportunities to teach our kids to serve others in a self-centered culture.
There is a newer church near our home named Iglesia Sobre la Roca or Church on the Rock. One Saturday our family along with dozens of other families from our church served the people of Iglesia Sobre la Roca by laying sod and building landscape to beautify their new church facility.
It was a drizzly day in Houston that brought fire ants to the surface. My daughters were working together to hoist one piece of sod and drag it to the next placement area. I heard one of them scream and then the other. Fire ants were all over their arms. I hosed them down and gave them some Benadryl. When given the choice to go home, they said they were having too much fun to leave. By the end of the day families working together transformed the muddy field at Iglesia Sobre la Roca to a nicely manicured yard. To this day as we drive by the church the girls recall the story of that day. The work, rain, and ant bites only made the gift of serving others more significant. When our children get their hands dirty serving others their hearts become open to the work of the Great Commission. As parents the best way we can raise Great Commission kids is to serve alongside them as much as possible.
Loving Others around the World
The Great Commission calls us to make disciples of “all nations”. Clearly Jesus has the peoples of the world in mind as He calls us to live on mission. How can families engage in global missions? Here are some practical ways.
•Support a World Vision child. This has been a very practical way for our family to cultivate a heart for the people of the world. We support Patricia, a ten year old girl from The Congo. World Vision does a great job of putting a face to missions and making certain that your dollars actually benefit the child. We pray for Patricia during our weekly faith talks, and we give monthly. The girls often pray for her before we go to bed. This is a great step for any family.
•Participate in Missions Programming for Children at church. Simply making sure your children participate in the missions programming for kids at your church is significant. Every Wednesday my girls have the opportunity to learn about mission work around the globe, experience a taste of other cultures, and pray for the people of the world. When they enter youth ministry, missions education turns into experiential opportunities. As a parent, I want my children involved in missions at church. In this way the church partners with us as parents to help our children embrace an Acts 1:8 understanding of living on mission.
•Sacrifice to give each child an international experience during the high school or college years. Angela and I plan to give each of our children an international experience before they graduate from high school. My pastor, who has two children in college and two at home, sacrifices to give his children the gift of serving internationally. I have observed the fruit from that experience in the lives of his children who are now young adults. We hope to follow his example as we lead our children to embrace a heart for the nations.
A Practical Example for Church Leaders
Just Change… Families on Mission in the Small Things
On mission families likely belong to on mission churches. As pastors and church leaders we work hard to involve families in the Great Commission. Families need our help to participate in on mission experiences. We are learning to develop intentional partnerships between family ministry and missions ministry in the local church. Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas where I serve as Associate Pastor is discovering the beauty of this strategic partnership. At Kingsland our mission is to “Love God, Love People, and Equip the Generations… one home at a time.”
“One home at a time” conjures pictures in our minds of suburban families seeking to lead the next generation biblically. We think of our children and our homes as we walk the path of Legacy Milestones. In order for the world to know the justice of God we must also think of other children and other homes.
Kingsland’s Go Beyond Missions Ministry has established a partnership with a safe house in Kolkata, India. This safe house is a place where girls who have been rescued from forced commercial sex are taken to live. The girls receive counseling, are provided help to get off the drugs given to them by their oppressors to make them compliant, and are given education and taught a vocational trade. The staff of this home works to return girls to the families from whom they were kidnapped and to relocate girls sold into slavery by their own parents.
Kingsland’s Legacy Milestones Ministry (family ministry) is partnering with our Go Beyond Missions Ministry to raise the monies needed each month to provide for the safety and needs of these young girls. If every family gives “just change” each week we will be able to fully support these victims of injustice.
Legacy Milestones will provide a bank for each family to use during their weekly faith talk. At each faith talk parents encourage their children to bring change to help the girls in India. Included is a series of faith talks parents can use to help their family understand the issue in an age-appropriate way and to teach the Scriptures concerning our role as promoters of God’s justice in the world today. In this way we will teach our families to think of others who so desperately need our help.
As parents we do not have to be perfect to raise “On Mission” children. Consider taking intentional steps to lead your child to experience missions in daily life before he ever leaves home.