Anytime I talk about family discipleship and raising up the next generation, I always build it around 3 questions:
These three questions help shape the importance of sharing the Gospel within our homes and give us the urgency to remember that our children are eternal but only ours for a short time. Missions provides an important role in the shaping of our children's faith so that they would grow up to be lifelong followers of Christ, who then pass the faith on to their kids and their kids.
Missions let our children know that God is a loving, sending, and saving God. When we do missions with our kids, we're showing them more of the character of God who loves people, sends us out as witnesses for Him, and who saves them from their sin and brings them into fellowship with Jesus. When we do missions, we're teaching our kids that God loves us, loves others, and wants us to serve them and love them like Jesus did. We build Scripture into missions because our mandate for serving and going comes from God, who rejoices when the lost come home.
Missions help our children to love others without asking anything in return. Whenever Jesus looked at people, the Gospels over and over describe him as having compassion on them. Jesus' love for others was built on what He had to give them and what He was able to do, not on what they could do to pay him back. Missions teaches our children that loving others is what we do because Jesus loves us and gave Himself for us.
Missions give our children an opportunity to serve and build a lifetime of giving. I took my 4 year old on a one-day youth mission trip to serve a homeless ministry in Nashville. He had fun stacking things and moving water around (and riding on the floor dolly). And even though he didn't totally get it, we were able to talk about how what we were doing was helping other people because we want them to know and love Jesus. My prayer is that he'd continue to serve and share and develop a lifetime of missions where he wants to be a part of what God's doing to save people.
So how can you engage in missions with your kids and students?
1) Get in touch with missionaries and regularly pray for them - Contact the IMB, NAMB, or other sending agencies like TLI,
and ask for names to pray for. Many of these agencies love when people pray for their missionaries.
2) Go find a local ministry or mission to serve at - In your community there are places where people are serving others in Jesus' name. Consider taking your family there and serve together.
3) Make a missions piggy bank - Our church has regular opportunities to give for missions, and we try to make it a priority in our home to be generous with what God has given us, and that carries over to our kids. Put a piggy bank in your house and for a month put all your spare change in it, and at the end of the month give it to a solid missions group.
4) Give stuff away - Our closets, attics, and storage buildings are full of things we'll never use again (no matter how much you might think you will). So give it away to people who serve the homeless, who provide meals for the needy, and who run a clothes closet through a local church. It helps teach your family to love Jesus, love others, and not like your stuff too much.
5) Go somewhere - As a family, consider going overseas or into a different cultural context than what you're used to. Partner up with a missionary or church planter and ask how your entire family can bless them and serve Jesus there. Instead of taking a beach vacation, put the money towards a family mission trip. Let your kids and students see you serving Jesus with joy, and don't be surprised if they do the same.
Any other tips or ways to help families serve and be on mission?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.