This week, I am actually on a mission trip to the country of Honduras. Our team will be working with several hundred public school children and serving others in the community. This trip is a little bittersweet for me, because it is the first time in many years I have gone on a mission trip to another country without my husband and daughter. This time my husband didn’t have enough vacation time and our daughter is completing her study abroad year in Europe. Our family has always loved our family mission trips and yours can too.
Below is a post I wrote some time ago about things we were doing with the kids in our church to encourage them to do mission work. Many of these things you can do on a smaller scale at home. Prayerfully consider taking your family on a mission trip. Done properly, mission trips can help others and provide opportunities for spiritual growth in your family.
In God, Kids and the Little Things, I shared how God will give your kids lots of opportunities to serve others almost every day. Often your kids (like the rest of us) will not even notice these things. They will go through their day oblivious to the chances God is giving them to serve Him, often by serving others and sharing their faith. They will miss out on some amazing God adventures because they didn’t even see His invitation to join Him. They will miss opportunities to grow their faith by watching how God works in their world.
If you want to help your kids not miss the opportunities God gives them, you will have to get them out of the natural human tendency to be a bit self-absorbed. We all have a tendency to get so wrapped up in what we are doing that we can cause mayhem in our wake and not even realize it. Forget about noticing those somewhat subtle invitations to join God in touching the lives around us. Sometimes we even miss the huge blinking neon billboards from people God wants us to serve.
It happened to me again this weekend. In fact, it has happened many times over the years in churches all over the country. As I struggle to take load after huge load of awkward bundles into a church building, I walk past the same people over and over and over.
Maybe one in a thousand offers to help immediately. One out of a hundred offers to help after I pass by three or four times. Most will help if specifically asked, but even then many will help with obvious reluctance. The irony is I would imagine most of those same people just gave a good deal of money to God. They probably nodded in agreement during the lessons. They may have even volunteered to do some odious task for the Church.
Yet when God gave them a tiny opportunity to serve someone, they didn’t even see it. They didn’t mean to be rude or inconsiderate, they were just totally oblivious. It probably doesn’t even sound like a big deal to you. In fact, you are probably wondering what this even has to do with parenting your kids.
The world of a child is very small in some ways. Even if your family travels a lot, chances are your children are focused on what happens within the few feet around them throughout the day. A few older kids and teens may have a vague awareness of current events in the news, but I would imagine very few have any concept of what the world is like for Christians in every country around the world.
In order for your kids to become passionate about spreading the gospel, they need to understand on a practical basis how important the task is to many people around the world. They need to grasp the enormity of how many people still need to hear about Jesus. They need to comprehend what Christians in many countries must endure in order to worship God or share their faith. They must begin to realize because the harvest is plenty and the workers are few, they personally have a responsibility to do their part.
I was interested when offered the opportunity to review An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World by Brian Stiller. The book covers about forty countries as well as several specific ministries and people. Personally, I wish they had omitted the chapters focusing on specific people and their ministries. Partially because I believe there is always a danger in holding up any person as a model, particularly of Christianity.
If you talk to the average teen involved in school and church, you will usually hear about their interest and even passion for issues of social justice. Now back in your day, you may have been interested in some of the same problems of the world. You may even now volunteer in an attempt to make a positive difference. You in fact may actually be more passionate and knowledgable about some of the social justice issues than even the most passionate teen.
There is a generational difference though. Where previous generations addressed social issues within their churches and outside of them, Christian young people today expect churches to take the lead in all of these issues. If they feel their church is not only not leading in these areas, but also in their minds barely addressing them, they will often leave. Unfortunately, because many have little in the way of a strong biblical foundation, leaving often means rejecting not just their congregation, but the church as a whole and even their belief and faith in God.