1. BUILD AWARENESS
When I was a very young child (think 3 years) I thought that everyone knew and believed in Jesus. As I grew older the reality that a kind neighbor, a relative, or a friend in my small world didn't believe was heart boggling. What did that mean for them?
When a child learns that not everyone believes in Jesus they can feel sad. However, we have the opportunity to build them up. There is always hope.
We get to share the comfort that God our Savior...
God can use us - young and old! - to share about Jesus' love and forgiveness.
It is such a joy to witness a child share their faith! They talk about Jesus with their neighbor, the hurt child at the playground, or even the cash register lady at the store. When children learn that they carry with them the powerful good news of Jesus' love and forgiveness, it is hard for them to keep it to themselves!
2. BE AN EXAMPLE
Children imitate what they see more than what they are told. As we consider how to cultivate a mission heart in young ones we first need to discern our own.
Do we hold Jesus as our own example to follow?
Do we we view lives from an earthly perspective or an eternal one?
Do we believe ourselves to be disciples of Christ in whatever job or role we have?
Are we willing to make personal sacrifices (time, comfort, materials) for the good of others?
Do we treat and speak about others who are different than us with compassion and respect?
When I was a young teen my Dad asked me to accompany him on his guitar for the new Spanish worship services that were going to start at our church. At the time I did not want to share my time or talents but out of reluctant obedience agreed. God certainly reached more than the Spanish speaking believers who walked through the door. He changed my heart as I watched families strengthened in their faith with others in worship and got to know them personally.
Now I greatly treasure that experience. My Dad not only encouraged me to serve others but also took me by the hand and led me by his example. He still does. Thank you Dad!
3. USE RESOURCES
There are many different tools that can cultivate a mission heart in children:
- Read and talk about God's Word. This is where children learn their own need for a Savior and see that the entire Bible points to Jesus as their risen hero that has won them eternal life by grace. The Spirit strengthens their faith, knowledge, and heart through the Word to share the gospel.
- Learn about past missionaries, persecuted Christians, and martyrs throughout history from books, magazines, videos, and audio books.
You can start with Jesus (of course!), the disciples, Saul/Paul, Polycarp, John Huss, Martin Luther, Amy Carmichael, Jim Elliot, or Hudson Taylor to name a few. Presently you can watch some of the Christian missionary Torchlighter Stories on Amazon Prime. Please use discretion in sharing this content if you feel it is too sensitive for your children.
- Pray for missionaries and persecuted Christians who are alive today! If you need help, find a trusted organization that can point you to missions that you can support. Make a list of their names, print off their picture as reminder, and bless them as a family. Children can be pen pals with mission children from a different country, in orphanages, or even share hope with a child whose parents are in prison. Your family can help stuff meal bags or help pick out food for the hungry when you go grocery shopping. The opportunities to serve others in your own community and abroad are many!
- Play! Use your imagination and learn!
Games such as Bible Smugglers or Barrier Ball teach the children through play certain challenges of mission life.
One game we play with our kids is "Pin the Missionary." Give a globe a spin and when the child places their finger on a random location look where they have been sent. Did they land in Brazil? Pakistan? America? Look up information about the place you "landed" online and see how many Christians live there, what the climate is like, learn the different kinds of food they eat, and what the most common jobs are. If you only have a map you can tape it to the wall, blindfold and spin the child, and have them place a marker on a map. Still fun!
4. TAKE A TRIP
Consider taking your family on a mission trip! Often when family vacations are planned they are purposed to serve ourselves with entertainment and rest. There is nothing wrong with taking a family vacation. But consider how your family can grow closer to each other and closer to God when your vacation has a greater purpose than yourselves!
When I think back to family vacations I remember a variety of bad attitudes that would creep up; entitlement, bickering over small issues, and discontentment. Serving others can cause little ones to see the needs of others as well as their own. What if we considered taking our time - yes even our vacation time - and used it to serve others and our Lord!
5. SERVE AT HOME
We don't have to travel far to be a missionary! Look in your backyard, your community, or elsewhere in your state and discuss with your children ways that you can reach others with the gospel in words and action.
We can go out and be a testimony of Jesus' love by how we treat others. Who are the weak, poor, or neglected in your community? Often Christians are criticized when it comes to helping others in need because we'd rather send a check than get our hands dirty.
Is there an elderly neighbor who could use help with lawn care? Is there a population of homeless that can be intentionally served by your family? Are there any recent immigrants that could use a helping hand? Is there a women's shelter in need of donations? Include your children! They may complain at first but they will see how God can use not just money but also their time to bless others.
Your home is an excellent place to welcome and serve others with hospitality. These opportunities can be big or small: invite a new guest at your church over for dinner, hold a bible study, host an international student, allow a family member in need to live with you, plan a play date for the young families on your block or (on a grander scale!) have a block party for the neighbors! You'll find out that they are just as weird and uniquely made as you. Food brings people together!
Let's give others true whole food that never leaves them empty.
Jesus brings believers together eternally.
How do you help cultivate a mission heart in your family? We'd love to know! Share below!