When was the last time you purchased a new appliance or gadget for your home? If you recall, you unfolded multiple pages of directions, each in a different language. You may have even been hard-pressed to locate the sheet in English! America is quickly becoming a global culture, yet we still only comprise 12 percent of the world’s population. Asia tops the population count with a whopping 64 percent or two-thirds of the world’s poorest, unreached people’s groups.
As Christian parents, we have a biblical mandate set forth in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 to teach our children to love and obey the Scriptures, one of the foremost being the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20. Teaching our kids to go and make disciples, whether here at home or across the ocean, is our primary privilege and responsibility as Christian moms and dads. Here are some practical ways you can train your child to be a Great Commission kid.
Begin early. As a parent, your greatest mission field is your child. Hopefully, you prayed for that little one even before he was born that he would come to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior. With tender hearts, children are receptive to the gospel. Read Bible stories to him. Play Scripture tapes and story CDs at bedtime. Answer his questions. Model a life of prayer before him, even in the little things, so that he can see that Christianity impacts all areas of your life. Search out quality supplemental instruction through your local church, online sites, and Christian bookstores.
When our girls were little, Wednesday nights were designated as missions’ night at our church. There they learned about Amy Carmichael, William Carey, Jim Elliot, and other missionary legends. Stories, games, and crafts all centered on a particular missionary. To this day, I attribute the biography of Amy Carmichael to my daughter’s interest in missions. She now serves with her husband in Bangalore, India.
Focus on Scripture. This is a must for developing a genuine love for the people of the world. When our daughters were growing up, we practiced family devotions, “dates with Jesus,” as we called them. The girls came to expect these dates right after breakfast most days of the week. If breakfast does not work for your family, experiment with other times. The important thing is to gather together at least once or twice a week to grow your spiritual lives. We purposed to make our date times meaningful and active, rather than dull and boring.
On one occasion, while studying Isaiah’s vision of the Lord in Isaiah chapter six, my husband and I asked the children to draw what they saw while we read verses one through eight. Then we acted out the scene. We discussed how unclean we are in the presence of a holy God, yet this same God through the Lord Jesus Christ has chosen to declare us clean and forgiven, all because of His amazing grace! The logical outcome is that we want to go and tell others what God has done for us.
On another occasion, we studied Jeremiah 1:1-10 where the Lord comes to the prophet and tells him that even before he was formed in his mother’s womb, God had set him apart to deliver His message to the nations. Even though young Jeremiah felt inadequate, God promised him that he would be with him and put the words in his mouth to say to the people. Years later our daughter, Rachel, who had just gone through missionary candidate school, referred to this passage as instrumental in giving her boldness to pursue God’s call.
Still another time we studied the armor of God from Ephesians six. We spread large strips of butcher paper on the floor, one for each person, and then took turns tracing each other’s bodies. Beginning with the head and working down to the feet, we drew on the pieces of armor and discussed the meaning. We emphasized that God wants us equipped to share His good news with the people of the world.
A tremendous supplement to your family’s spiritual life is the local church. Our children were part of a group that regularly memorized Scripture, prayed for missionaries, read missionary biographies, and supported mission work. As a result, a burden for missions was as natural as breathing for the kids.
Engage in outreach activities as a family. Sit down together and write out a family mission statement, goals, and how you plan to implement them. One goal our family of five had was to take a mission trip at least one time before our oldest graduated high school. This goal was accomplished when we teamed up with a local church in Maryland for a trip to Madras, India. Our children were 16, 13, and 9 at the time.
While involvement in foreign missions is commendable, sometimes we forget that mission work begins at home. Jesus’ admonition in Acts 1:8 is clear: “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We can help our children cultivate an awareness of the people right next door who need Jesus. Whenever we moved into a new neighborhood, we didn’t wait for others to welcome us. We went to them, delivering baskets of cookies or homemade bread with a tract or simple handmade card. On Halloween, the girls and I cut out orange paper pumpkins and wrote the ABC’s of salvation on one side and a brief testimony with our phone number on the other side. We included our tract along with a generous handful of candy to each trick or treater.
Another activity our family enjoyed was making a goodie box for a serviceman or woman. We would bake chocolate peanut butter balls or oatmeal cookies and draw pictures with notes thanking him or her for fighting for our freedom. We shared how Jesus also fought for our ultimate freedom by giving his life on the cross.
Still another activity that every family can do, no matter how busy they are, is to pick one outreach project a year to fund. Place a “penny jar” on the kitchen table to collect coins. At the end of the year, the money can be donated to an orphanage, a church plant, an individual missionary, your local rescue mission or crisis pregnancy center, to name a few.
When my children were young, I often took them with me on church visitation. That way they got used to meeting new people, listening to me share my faith, and praying with those visited. The excitement at seeing someone pray to receive Christ fed their desire to participate even more.
In the summer, we would host a backyard Bible club for neighborhood children. What fun we had the year we constructed a puppet stage out of a refrigerator box. We painted a scene on the front, cut out a window, and placed a curtain in it. Then we crafted sock puppets with yarn hair and button eyes. The kids took turns manning the puppet stage, acting out various Bible stories. They learned early in life to be a witness to their peers.
Since I grew up in a home mission family involved in Christian camping, my children were introduced to this mission field as youngsters. By the time they graduated from high school, they each had served several summers at camp as kitchen staff and later, as cabin counselors.
With some creativity and discipline, you can grow a Great Commission kid! Begin early; focus on Scripture; and provide multiple opportunities for outreach.