Involving Your Children In Adult Ministry Projects

Talk to any Christian parent of adult children actively engaged in serving and ministering to others and they will tell you they involved their children in their ministry projects from almost infancy. Their children grew up serving and sharing their faith with others as much of their identity as other family priorities. Why? Because not only did their parents live their faith on a daily basis, they included them in their personal ministry in age appropriate ways as early as the toddler years.

Now if you weren’t raised in a home like that, you may wonder how it is even possible. How can parents include an eighteen month old in a project serving an inner city ministry or engage a three or four year old on a mission trip? It’s not only possible, but you may already know families doing that very thing who can help you do what they did. Until you identify them, here are some tips to get you started.

  1. What things are your children capable of doing? Can they hand you items? Move things from one place to another? Clean? Paint? Code a computer program or app? Knowing your children’s capabilities can make it easier to involve them in ways that benefit both them and the ministry project.
  2. What tasks are required to complete the ministry project? Older children and teens may be capable of completing tasks independently, while toddlers may only be able to assist you with one part of a task. When our daughter was barely over a year old, she would put cans from our church pantry shelves into a box to transport them to the urban ministry. Yes, I still needed to neaten them a bit, but she took an active role.
  3. Teach them skills they can use to help. Relatively young children can help with tasks that are more advanced if they are taught how to do them and given practice. For things like sewing or computer coding, you can even pay someone to teach them skills that interest them, but you yourself don’t have.
  4. Allow extra time and build in time for regular meals and rest times. The biggest mistake groups make when involving children or teens in service and mission work is that they push them too hard. When young people are hungry or tired, the behavior problems begin to surface and the entire project can become a nightmare. It’s better to take an extra few hours or days to complete a project with everyone well fed on healthy food and well rested. The results will be much better – both on the project and in making an impact on your children.
  5. Let them help in the planning process. Families with young adult children actively engaged in ministry from childhood often report that their children can plan and execute sophisticated ministry projects as teens and young adults. Why? Because their parents involved them in the planning process as children. Start out by giving them two acceptable options between which they can decide and that are part of the plan for the project. As they grow older, give them more ownership of the planning process. By their teen years, most will be capable of planning and executing at least a simple service project if they have been involved in planning with you since childhood.
  6. Let them meet and get to know the people they are serving as much as possible. Relationships make serving others more meaningful. Meeting and growing to love the people your family serves can lead to your children developing a passion for ministry that children who only do service projects where they never meet the people they served never develop.
  7. Spend time in reflection with them after a ministry project. What went well? What would you do differently next time? Did you have the outcome you expected? Why or why not? How did you see God working within the project to change or modify it as you went? What additional opportunities did God give you? What roadblocks did you encounter? Were they from God or Satan? How do you know? What do you do in each situation? Reflection helps them understand the thought processes needed in enhancing ministry projects and accomplishing the goals God has for them.

Involving your children in your ministry projects takes extra time and effort, but it is worth it to raise children who are actively involved in serving others and sharing their faith as adults.

Unique Career Guidance for Christian Young People

As someone tangentially involved with multiple ministries and non-profits, I have recently realized Christians are leaving out some critical conversations about careers with their children – especially their teens. You may have discussed with your kids how to match their talents and interests with a career. Most likely, you have discussed the importance of being able to cover living expenses with a career. You may have even briefly discussed vocational ministry (the idea of using one’s job or career to serve God regardless of what it may be) with them.

What you may not realize is that there is a critical need in many ministries and non profits for people with specific career training. While your child can serve God in almost any career or job, Christian ministries and non-profits are finding there is a critical absence of Christians with training needed to fill key positions.

Of course, full time ministry always needs gifted, faithful Christians, but there are other needs as well. Christian schools need Christians with teaching degrees in just about every subject. As the teacher shortage grows more severe, Christian schools struggle to find enough qualified Christians to hire. Likewise, Christian universities struggle to find enough strong, productive Christians with Phd’s in a variety of fields to fill university openings.

Christian foster care and adoption agencies often struggle to find Christians with degrees in social work. Many Christian ministries could use qualified Christians in the mental health fields. Mission teams often need medical professionals like doctors, nurses, techs and dentists, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapists to assist in areas where those professionals are often unavailable.

Beyond these fields, the world could use more Christians who live their faith in fields like politics, entertainment, journalism and business. While these probably fit in the more traditional idea of vocational ministry, a quick look at the world around us makes it evident how badly we need more Christians to stand up and live their faith in their chosen occupation.

So the next time you talk about possible careers with your children, encourage them to at least learn about these underserved fields. They may just find that is where God is calling them to minister to the world around them.

Helping Your Kids Dream of Serving God

Over the years, I have noticed that sermons and Bible classes discussing serving others and sharing our faith tend to go one of two ways. Either they are extremely general in nature or (if it’s a class specifically for kids or teens) it focuses on doing little basic things around the home or school. As a result, kids and teens often get more specific ideas and encouragement about ways to serve others from secular sources. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing except that they begin to believe serving others happens more in a secular environment and they don’t learn the importance of connecting sharing their faith to service (or how to do it).

You may not be able to change this dynamic in your church very easily, but you can do some things with your own kids to help them learn about some of the many ways Christians serve others and share their faith around the world. This more specific knowledge can help them begin dreaming about how they can serve God and share their faith using their own talents and opportunities – now and in the future as adults.

Here are a few ways to expose your kids to more specific ideas of ways to serve God, while sharing their faith.

  • Invite people to share their stories with your kids. Since hospitality has been shown to be a key ingredient in successful Christian parenting, get even more benefits by inviting over people who serve God and share their faith. Encourage them to share their stories with your kids. What are they doing? How did they get involved in those ways? What skills and knowledge did they need to be effective?
  • Share books, articles and social media posts with your kids. Many people in ministry share their stories in a variety of ways. Follow lots of different people to get a taste of a variety of experiences. In my own ministry, for example, I would have never mentioned ministering to children who have been through a war. Then this year, a war broke out in a country where I do quite a bit if ministry work. I had a steep learning curve about ministering effectively to young people who have lived through a war. I also shared what I learned with others through my ministry. Your teens could have read the ebook that resulted and learned about what would be involved in helping children of war (who are often underserved around the world). While they might not be ready to do much yet, it can plant a seed either for more skills they want to learn or for ministry they hope to do in the future.
  • Explore secular non profits and discuss ways to adapt them so they would also include faith sharing. Secular non profits do some great things. They just don’t include the faith sharing piece God wants us to include in everything we do. Explore with your kids what different non profits are doing. How could a few things be changed to point those they are helping to God? (Note: For teens, the discussion should include funding. Many Christian groups become secular because access to government funds is often restricted if Jesus is mentioned. How could they find funding and still share their faith?)
  • Encourage dreaming, brainstorming and experimenting. Your kids need time to dream these godly dreams. Encourage them to brainstorm ways to solve the problems they see in the world around them by serving others and sharing their faith. Allow them to take some first steps towards something that interests them. Look at ”failure” as a learning experience. Not every idea will work, but sometimes what they learn from their mistakes leads to an idea that will work well.
  • Encourage shadowing, mentoring and apprenticeships. Do your kids seems particularly interested in a specific area? Is there a Christian doing those things that would allow your child to shadow him or her for a day or a project? Would they be willing to mentor your child? What about an apprenticeship where your child will be providing actual help on a ministry project? Encourage your kids to learn as much as they can and think of ways to make the ministry even more effective. Even if that ministry doesn’t like the ideas, they may be useful to your child in the future.

Don’t raise kids who have no specific ideas of ways they can serve others or share their faith. Or kids who think doing an occasional extra chore around the house or being kind to someone at school fulfills God’s commands for them to serve others and share their faith. Help them be prepared to fully serve God every day of their lives.

Great Way to Prepare Your Children for Ministry

Because of the nature of the ministry at Teach One Reach One Ministries (the parent ministry of Parenting Like Hannah), it is easier for us to see needs not just in a specific congregation, but globally for the church as a whole. In spite of what you may have read, we believe the church will always have a need for people with certain skill sets and gifts to share their knowledge or talents with people in other locations. In addition, there are some people groups who are so unreached by Christianity that the harvest will at least temporarily need workers from other areas to help reap it. (Matthew 9:35-38)

The problem is that often the people most able to help don’t speak the local language(s). Even more challenging, people who are deaf worldwide have only a handful of people who can sign to them about God. In many countries, those who are deaf do not attend school and cannot read or write. It is estimated the deaf is one of the largest unreached (by Christianity) people groups worldwide. Complicating it even more, American Sign Language is just that – American. Often each country and sometimes each village can have a unique sign language which may bear no resemblance to the others.

You probably can guess where this post is headed, but there is one more area to cover. The Bible has yet to be translated into some of the more obscure languages which still have often thousands of speakers. Many times, Christians have to move to and live in these remote areas to learn the obscure language in hopes of aiding in the translation of the Bible. Some have even had to help develop a written language as the local language has only been spoken.

We need more young people to become truly fluent in multiple languages to serve as interpreters. Or to teach in a second or third language. Or to learn an obscure language and help translate the Bible. Or to translate written ministry resources into other languages.

Why do I say truly fluent? The American educational system makes us and our children think we are fluent in a language when most of us are not. When I have had native speakers grade translations by Americans, the average grade is a ”C” and most ministries need that to be an ”A” to be truly helpful. You and your children will have to go beyond the lessons most schools provide, doing extra work to become truly fluent. Consider mastering a more obscure spoken language or a sign language in addition to ASL. You may want to do a little research and find which languages would be most helpful. Surprisingly, Spanish is one of those languages, as it is almost impossible to find someone who will translate ministry resources on a volunteer basis. (The cost is prohibitive.)

Preparing your children for ministry may include giving them the opportunities to master additional languages. Not every child will be able to (or want to) do it, but for those who are, it will make them more equipped to help reap the spiritual harvest in areas that are underserved.

Your Kids’ Second Language Can Serve God (And Fun Ways to Start Language Learning at Home)

Ask any one who does ministry in multiple countries about their biggest need and their answer will often be “translator”. It’s not surprising that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to speak in languages they hadn’t studied. Because it happened on a major Jewish holiday, people from all over the world had traveled to Jerusalem. In order to understand the Gospel message, they needed to hear it in a language they could understand.

The internet is a wonderful way for ministries to help people all over the world. In order to do that though, they need resources available in multiple languages. And as much as translation apps have improved, they still aren’t accurate enough to trust with important ministry documents. Speakers and teachers who travel to other countries often need local translators.

There are other second language needs in ministry. One of the largest underserved people groups in the world is people who are deaf. The vast majority will never be able to read or hear the Gospel. The Church desperately needs people who can sign in one of the many sign languages of the world.

There are people groups in the world who still do not have access to the Bible. Special ministries look for people willing to move to these places, learn one of these obscure languages and then help translate the Bible into that language.

To be fluent enough to be helpful in translating for speakers and written materials, it is helpful if the language is learned in childhood. The younger the child is, the more easily they can make unique sounds and mimic appropriate accents. Young people also often find it easier to remember new words as they are already in that process in their first language.

Have children interested in learning other languages? Encourage it! God may have given your kids the talent and passion for easily learning other languages. There are many fun ways to help your kids explore other languages.

  • Children’s books. Our local public library has books for kids in Spanish, German, Hindi and other languages. You can also find them online.
  • Children’s programming. Did you know Sesame Street is produced in multiple languages? Many countries even have their own unique muppets. You can find episodes on cable or on places like YouTube. Many languages have other children’s programming and because the shows are made for kids, the language is often easier to understand.
  • Language learning apps, videos, etc. There are so many choices today. Some are free, while others require some financial outlay.
  • Local language classes and play groups. It’s common in large cities to find language classes and play groups for toddlers and older. Those taught by native speakers will help your kids speak more like someone born into a family that speaks that language.

Have fun with it. If your kids develop a passion for a particular language, encourage it. Don’t forget to explore other cultures while you are learning through music, art, food, travel and other ways to encourage their language learning. You may be raising kids who can help spread the Gospel faster because of their ability to translate.