“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters.” -Katie Davis Majors
Sitting at the diner last week, I realized we have an incredibly opportunity as parents to witness to others. My son has a Chicco chair that attaches to the table and has become the topic of many conversations from complete strangers. Some days the conversation takes off because of the chair itself, some days it’s my little boy, but inevitably, he draws attention for us everywhere we go.
That day we basically had lunch with an older Hispanic couple who discussed what it was like to have two teenage daughters. They told us about the difficulties parenting a preteen and an older teen with her license. They reminisced on teething days and what it was like bonding those first few years. While engaging in my newfound friendship, I realized I had a unique opportunity to pray for them right then and there.
There is no doubt we are living in busy times, with many, many things packing our schedules. But it came to me sitting in that diner, that living missionally is not an item to check off my list. Not another event to attend. It’s a fusion into everyday life, not a burdensome task. An identity, a lifestyle, which can be integrated into all ongoing activities.
Parenting is a heavy responsibility, regardless of your situation. It is also a beautiful thing. Like all the other areas of our life, we need vision for our parenting. We need the gospel to permeate our hearts and pour out into our children.
It’s easy to teach what you are naturally living out.
Raising our children to focus on serving and living a selfless lifestyle will happen when we are serious about the gospel ourselves and teaching it to them consistently.
At any age, kids will pick up what you demonstrate for them. They echo our behavior, we all know this. (Although someone please tell me where my kid gets the habit of picking his nose all the time?!) That day in the diner, I felt an intense responsibility to model Christ-like behavior for my son, even though he’s so small he won’t remember. Because one day I won’t realize how he’s always watching me. I pray he sees that truth is being lived out in my life; that Christianity is not just a banner I’m waving.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 (ESV).
Here are some practical tips on incorporating “missional” parenting at different age groups:
- Read books and tell bedtime stories about missionaries’ lives.
- Choose to take your kids into local apartment playgrounds. There is such beauty in this. You have the opportunity to build relationships with those outside of your circle (i.e, your church, mom/dad groups).
- Include as much multi-ethnic material into reading and games as you can find. Here are some great options: A Day in Uganda, Around the World, Colombian Game
- Operation World Book: Once a month choose a country and include it as much as possible in your every day lives. Learn about what they eat, some phrases in their language, find out more about their country with Youtube videos. Pray for the people of that nation at various times throughout your day.
- Let them see you serving others: take them to a nursing home and love on the people there, feed the homeless, etc. There’s enormous possibilities in your community.
- This summer you will likely be swimming in a neighborhood pool which will give you many opportunities like I had in the diner to just strike up random conversation.
- So much of this age is about attitude. Developing a missional attitude is key here. They are on mission fields every single day and it’s our job to help them develop this mindset. When considering youth group involvement, let this be on the forefront of your mind: what is this youth group doing to serve others? How are they serving the church, the community, and global missions? Let’s not forget it isn’t about how the youth group can serve you or your child. Ask the youth pastor where your child can volunteer within the church. Serve in worship or in large church activities like events, plays, etc.
- The different seasons allow for different games and practices, which are huge opportunities to talk with other parents and share the gospel. Let your children see you inviting others to church, sharing the gospel on napkins, or over coffee while they run around on a field. They will see it, make no mistake.
- Find ways to volunteer in the community sporadically, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Random acts of kindness will prompt questions from everyone: “Why are you doing this?” In return, your answer will witness to your child as well as strangers.
- Prayerfully engage in a mission trip nationally. Consider an international trip as a family!
- This is a prime age to develop a sense of evangelism. Help your teens (as much as you are able) to leverage their college years for the kingdom. Help them to prayerfully consider going to college in a strategic place with a church plant – a radical move away from the typical process involved with choosing colleges. Communicate and help them think through opportunities like GenSend. Encourage them to spend a couple of weeks on mission during their summer.
- Encourage an outside mentor to be involved in their life, to be a support that helps them serve in areas -and in ways- you haven’t thought of.
- Do you already have a high schooler and think this is a stretch? I encourage you to continue focusing on the gospel and eliminating battles best you can. Foster consistency in scripture and stay close to good solid community, since it’s easy to be pulled in every direction at this age.
We exist to bring glory to God and share his good news with others. What ideas do you have? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear them!