Monday, May 16, 2011

Missionary Monday: Rearing a Missionary

Recently I was asked for advice on preparing our children to serve on the mission field.  Do you have a child who desires to be a missionary one day?  Do you have children in your Sunday School class who want to be missionaries?

After much prayer and thought, here are some things I thought of that can equip parents with how to rear a little missionary:

1.  Provide your child with regular visiting opportunities to give them courage.  We do this with our own children now.  The Great Commission is not just for adult Christians!  It takes courage for a child to walk up to a complete stranger and hand them an invitation to church.  Start handing out invitations together while they are young and encourage them as they do it.  They will be going out of their comfort zone to do this, so remind them that they are inviting people to a place where that person may, ultimately, hear of salvation for the first time!  We hand out invitations in public places each week, and our children look forward to it because we always buy them a refreshing, cold soda to reward their efforts when they are done.  Make this a time to look forward to.  (And, by the way, people accept invitations from cute, smiley kids.)

2.  Expose them to missionaries.  Does your church have a yearly Missions Conference?  Do missioniaries visit your church throughout the year?  Be sure to approach these missionaries with your child.  You, as the parent, can initiate creative conversations with the missionaries that will benefit your child.

3.  Teach them to make missionaries their heroes.  My pastor was very good at this, and as a child, instead of wanting worldly "movie star" posters on my walls, I had missionary prayer cards taped to my bed.  Encourage your child to get their Bible autographed by each missionary who comes through your church, and ask the missionary to include their life verse with their signature.  This gives children a "reason" to approach a visiting missionary.   

4.  Pray for missionaries together.  Most missionaries have prayer cards available, and they are more than happy to pass them out.  Collect these, put them in a napkin holder, and pray for one missionary family at each meal, rotating them as you go.  Or put them in a small photo album and keep them by your children's bed so that you can pray for one family each night during your bedtime prayers.

5.  Read missionary prayer letters and blogs.  One supporting church makes Xerox copies of each prayer letter they receive each month and makes booklets out of them for each family in the church to take home.  This way each family can read the letters when it is most convenient for them.  In this "techy" world we live in, it is easy to learn about the everyday, day-in day-out lives of missionaries.  I have several missionary friends who blog, whose content is "safe," encouraging, teachable material.  Here are several to get you started:
6.  Host a missionary family in your home.  Missionaries are "life-time" travelers, it seems, with deputation then regular furloughs.  Take advantage of the missionary's need to lay his weary head somewhere and host him and his family.  Then let your children "sit at his feet" and learn as much as they can.  Pray that God would send missionaries to your home that would best represent his field.

7.  Read missionary stories.  For younger children, there are terrific full-color flashcard stories available.  Some of those can be found here.  Many of these stories I heard as a child!  For older children and teenagers, here are a few books to get you started:
8.  Teach your child life skills.  Not every missionary serves in a third-world country where things always have to be "homemade" or "from scratch."  More than likely you do not know where the Lord will send your child one day so prepare them for the most difficult fields, just in case!  You will never regret teaching your daughters:
  • How to sew (modest clothes are hard to find anywhere and... she may use this ability to make baptismal robes or choir uniforms)
  • How to cook from scratch.  Most mission fields do not have "TV dinners," "ready to cook" meals, or even some of the ingredients to make what we may consider basic meals.  Can your daughter make her own biscuits? her own bread? gravy? etc.?
  • How to sing... especially how to harmonize.  It has been extremely helpful that hubby and I can both do this.  We have been able to teach this to others in our church choir, which adds richness and fulness to the quality when several voices can participate.
  • How to play the piano or another instrument.  Again, hubby and I both play the piano (He is the professional; I am not!), and we have both been able to use this ability on countless occasions.  I never regret the time I put into practicing a musical instrument and am already teaching my own children music theory.
  • How to teach.  When I started college, I chose a major in Elementary Education, knowing that I wanted to be a missionary.  As a missionary you will always be teaching, whether it be your own children or in a Sunday School class.
  • Hospitality.  It is extremely important as a missionary to know how to provide a warm welcome to others.  Teach your children to be hospitable.
  • Crafting, scrapbooking, decorating, designing etc... This comes in handy for decorating church bulletin boards, putting together church bulletins, announcements, banquets, etc...  You can also use this knowledge in countless ways for ladies' activities.
9.  Encourage your child's relationship with the Lord.  One of the biggest challenges a missionary will face, especially in the earlier years is loneliness.  Having a close walk with the Lord will eliminate a large portion of this.

10.  Teach your child to serve.  Look for opportunities in your church or community to do things for others.  Does your bus ministry need workers?  Can you visit a nursing home together and encourage the elderly who are lonely?  [This is often an overlooked mission field.  The elderly have one foot in eternity, so to speak... is their destination heaven?] Could a young, overwhelmed mother use help with some housework?  Even though this post is mostly about girls, there are multitudes of things boys can do too, such as mow lawns without pay "just because."  (And, Mom, you can reward him with an ice cream!)  Daughters can give baked goods as gifts.  [Read this post about sharing banana bread on the mission field.]

11.  Teach your child to be a servant.  Missionaries must be gracious servants!  On the mission field, people will not know or understand what you "gave up" to become a missionary.  So, "get over it" and get to work!  Spend your lifetime serving others.
    • People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
* NOTE:  Missionaries who read this blog (and I know there are many of you!): Please feel free to add your own comments to this post.  I look forward to your input!


  1. I came upon your blog one day through a friend's blog (Rebecca Gaus) ... and must say that this post was encouraging to me. It is my desire someday to be a missionary to Germany, Ukraine, or Russia, although I do not know where the LORD would have me go. Thank you for the encouragement you give through your blogging. I smiled at your tip on getting children to have missionaries sign their Bibles. Now in my mid 20s, I still have missionaries sign my Bible. I always like to see what their life verse is. May the LORD continue to bless the wonderful work that is being done in the Ukraine. -- Tisha

  2. This is an excellent post, and it is a great idea to post this info. It has already been a great help to me.

    I would add one thing. There are bound to be problems on the mission field as there are in any ministry--people problems, missionary problems, spiritual oppression at times, inconveniences. Our kids will "see" and "feel" some of it for sure, but don't let them "hear" Mommy and Daddy always talking about the problems, especially when it concerns people. This can make them bitter, and turn their hearts away from the mission field and the ministry.

    Our kids need to know that Mommy and Daddy love being missionaries in spite of problems that may come. Kids will be excited about what Mommy and Daddy are excited about. It rubs off. The opposite of this is true as well.

    This is what came to my mind when you asked for more comments. Thanks, Jolene! I love your blog!

  3. I enjoyed reading that, Jolene! Good advice!

  4. Thanks, Jolene! So helpful!

  5. Jolene, this is fantastic! I am printing your "list!" As a military family, I pray daily that we would be "military missionaries" since we move frequently. Often times I wonder if I am equipping our children with the right skills, etc. to serve the Lord right now as missionaries and into the future. This post was very helpful, my dear sister in the Lord! And, I am praying for you this morning! *Hugs*

    And, for anyone who hasn't read them, "The Missionminded Family" and "The Missionminded Child" are great books on this topic, too!

  6. I have a similar post on my blog, but from a slightly different perspective. :) Were you able to take any missions classes as electives?

  7. I love this post. I consider myself a tentmaker missionary, and although I do not have children of my own, I am trying to expose the children I reach out to through my Bible club to missions. I desire not only for these children to be saved, but also to be used by God to reach others, and to VALUE the costly treasure they have received in the Gospel.

    One suggestion- I had my kids get involved in Voice of the Martyrs parachute project, as a fun and practical way of getting involved in spreading the Gospel around the world.

  8. Very well-put, Jolene! Thank you for sharing and encouraging my heart! What an excellent post!

    I remember Dad always had a positive attitude toward the ministry and being a missionary. He'd say, "Isn't it FUN being a missionary, kids?!" And he showed in his life that he enjoyed being a missionary. And it IS fun, isn't it?!

    I love you!

  9. Learn to try new and strange foods. It's best to not be a picky eater if you are a missionary!

  10. Hey Jolene,
    I just wanted to tell you what a blessing your blog is to our family. My girls love to gather around me and read about your life in the Ukraine. My oldest Felicity (age 11) talks endlessly about being a missionary and having the opportunity to read your blog and look at your pictures of your village opens your world up to her. Thank you so much for being a faithful wife, mother, and missionary. I count it an honor to call you my friend. You are all in our prayers.
    Love, Erin

  11. Excellent post! I really enjoyed it and find it most helpful!

    Also, I think we need to pray for our kids (and parents as well) to have a tender heart towards missions and to hear that still small voice and respond in obedience. We need Godly young people that are living pure and right to be worthy of that call.

    Thank you for all you do!
    Your friend,

  12. Really enjoyed this!

  13. Amanda,

    Yes, I was able to take some missions classes as electives and enjoyed them very much!

  14. What a good post. Thanks for sharing it and I copied down each point quickly as we are leaving for deputation and this would be a great "extra" to share with others.
    God bless your ministry!


Thank you for your encouraging comments! "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." Proverbs 25:25