HARTFORD, Conn. – We live in a self-obsessed culture in which children are bombarded with messages from media, peers, and sometimes well-meaning adults to take care of themselves first.
While a certain amount of self-care is needed for physical, emotional and spiritual heath, clearly our society has gone overboard with the issue and we are producing a generation of narcissists who think the entire world revolves around them.
As a church planting missionary for nearly 20 years, I have often pondered how we might help our children go against our self-centered culture, focus on something other than themselves, and learn to care for missionaries in general and church planters in particular.
Here are 10 ways families with children can help plant churches:
- Adopt a church planting missionary with the same age children so your children can become pen pals with those missionary children.
- Make two posters with the missionary family’s picture and various prayer requests on it. Hang one in a prominent place in the house so your family remembers to pray and hang the other one in your child’s Sunday School classroom so that other children can be praying too.
- Encourage your children, akin to tithing to your local church, to use some of the money received for birthdays and Christmas to send an age-appropriate gift for a missionary child, along with a card.
- Plan a vacation near the area where the church planter serves. Offer to take their children (or perhaps their whole family) with you to a nearby amusement park for the day as an expression of your appreciation for their parents’ missionary service.
- Invest one day of your vacation helping the church planting missionary family with some type of ministry project (clean a park, paint a porch for an elderly person, serve in a soup kitchen). Make sure it is a project the children can fully participate in.
- When parents do their “Back to School” shopping, consider sending a “tithe” of the amount spent in a gift card to a church planting family so they can do the same type of shopping for their children.
- Request a list of small items the missionary needs (office supplies, Sunday School supplies, etc.) and have your child become the advocate for collecting the items in a “Christmas in August”-type promotion.
- Learn all about the missionary and volunteer to teach a missions class at your church’s annual Vacation Bible School. Have the children pray each day for a current prayer request from the missionary. Have the children make cards to mail as a group to the missionary. Have them bring in change each day for a love offering to send to the missionary. Make prior arrangements to Skype with the missionary and his family one day during VBS so the children can interact with them.
- Select one thing your family enjoys but is willing to “fast” from for one month (going out to eat, going to movies, bowling, etc.). Each night before bed, pray for the missionary family. At the end of the month send all the money saved by not doing whatever activity you fasted from to the missionary and suggest they use the money to enjoy the very thing you fasted from. In other words, your family skips going to the movies for a month so a missionary family can go the movies, or some other similar activity.
- Consider paying for a missionary child to join your own child at his favorite summer camp. This will not be feasible for all families due to cost, but imagine how cool it will be for those who can do it.
I could keep listing ideas, but the key to all of them is teaching our children to pray for church planting missionaries, to advocate that others pray for those missionaries and to give up something in order to bless someone else.
Some may ask why focus on church planting missionaries in North America over missionaries in other nations. As we look at what is happening around us, we clearly are losing our nation. And the reality is that if we lose America, we will not be able to send missionaries to other nations. That means we need a wave of missionaries right here at home, and church planters are on the front lines of that effort. So be passionate about those who go to other nations, but do not forget to be just as passionate for our North American church planters.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Dorsett is a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board based in Hartford, Conn., and the author of several books including Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church.)