by Tracy Carpenter
Embrace the reality that kids are not too young to change the world.
Around the world, kids are making headlines every day. Some of these headlines are for outlandish activities, but many are for amazing acts of compassion and concern. All around our nation, kids are making a difference by doing noteworthy things to save the planet, raising millions of dollars for the needy and inspiring others to greatness. People who are dedicated to children’s ministry must get a larger look at the world as it pertains to kids and constantly take stock of the perceptions they inadvertently carry about this emerging generation. Kids are perceptive, intelligent, capable and inventive leaders. We must begin to see today’s kids as powerful, passionate and faithful individuals with a calling from God to do amazing things. It is imperative that we as leaders constantly affirm and nurture qualities in our children which could serve them on the mission field. The local church has a unique opportunity as well as an obligation to equip, encourage and empower kids to convey God’s story in and around the world, not only as they journey through childhood and adolescence but the rest of their adult lives.
Practical ideas for the local church to give kids a heart for missions:
Encourage kids within your ministry to pray for missionaries. A great way to introduce kids to missions as well as support the efforts of our missionaries is to pray for them. Kids have amazing power when they pray and as leaders it is our job to give them the tools they need to become prayer warriors on behalf of missionaries all over the world. Kids will take ownership and interest in a greater way when they are a part of the big picture as it pertains to missions. It can be as simple as giving out pictures, prayer letters and cards or prayer journals for them to refer to as they pray at home or more complex as you integrate pointed prayer into your small groups or large group worship time (Colossians 4:2)
- Share with kids the powerful true testimonies of active missionaries. By educating kids early on about the lives of missionaries, they are quickly able to better relate, grow in compassion, be inspired and begin to form a clear picture of what a missionary actually is and what their lives really look like. One way to this is to read missionary biographies to the kids in your ministry on a regular basis. It is so valuable to share their stories, triumphs, trials and faithfulness as often as possible. Another great way to help share missionary testimonies is to invite a missionary or a missionary family to speak at your Sunday school classroom or children’s church. From a young age, kids can be aware of this amazing arm of ministry and, as they mature, develop a deep appreciation for it (Hebrews 10:25).
- Teach the kids in your ministry the value of supporting missionaries financially.As kids begin to learn about tithes and offerings as well as being a good steward of their money, it is foundational that they learn to set aside money for missionaries. When you set out to lesson plan, build a solid scope and sequence or simply buy curriculum, make sure this powerful principal is present. Most leaders are really good at teaching about our God given responsibilities as they pertain to giving to the church, the poor and needy, but often time missionaries are left out in the learning and giving process. Kids today have a lot of discretionary money and they can be taught and inspired to give wholeheartedly to missions (Proverbs 22:6).
- Find missionary kid pen pals for the kids within your ministry. Relationship is the key to any successful ministry and missions are no exception. We must focus on cultivating environments conducive to building relationships rather than simply accomplishing tasks. It is no secret children need role models on their level. Kids can learn valuable insights about living abroad through the eyes of someone their very own age. Adult role models are wonderful, but peer role models can have an even greater impact. Giving kids positive, godly role models who are peers will give them a whole new level of understanding in their walk with Christ. It will provide them with the modeling they need to be open to God’s calling and ultimately successful on their lifelong journey as a Christian. (1Timothy 4:12).
- Expose the children in your ministry to what is happening in our culture and around the world. Kids today desperately need a Biblical worldview. They are dealing with tough issues: peer pressure, divorce, internet dangers, death, illness, obesity, drugs, physical and mental abuse, poverty, anger, bullying, ADD, witchcraft, suicide, cutting and so much more. At the same time our world is challenged with equally overwhelming and heart stopping injustice. I would love to see an end to human trafficking, starving children and many other horrible atrocities that plague the children of this world, but unfortunately much of what we are seeing is not going away anytime soon. I truly wish we did not have to educate kids about the thousands and thousands of people who do not know Christ, child pornography, gangs, internet predators or the dangers in other countries. However, if we are going to ask kids to have a missional heart, respond to injustice and take a stand for Christ, we must first help them grasp the truth of what is our world today. It is so heart wrenching to think of how many people are lost and have not yet met Christ but it is so awesome to think of the uncountable number of people who can be reached by the kids that are in the midst of what we call children’s ministry in this country (Ephesians 5:11).
- Create programs which teach kids how powerful they are and how they can make a difference in the world. We must focus on transforming lives, not simply giving information. Educate them rather than just entertain them. Design, buy or borrow curriculum which encourages children to know they are conquerors! Make sure they leave your programs knowing they are smart, powerful individuals who God has ordained for greatness. Remind the kids entrusted to you that with God’s help, they have unlimited potential and are part of God’s plan. Never underestimate the power a relevant, experiential, creative and applicable ministry can have on the kids you strive to reach (Proverbs 18:15).
- Give kids a variety of opportunities to serve. In order for kids to truly grasp the love of Christ and live out their faith, they must participate in serving others. Kids need to get their feet wet when it comes to outreach, serving, and missions. Create opportunities of all kinds for kids to participate in giving selflessly to others. Allow them to live out their love for people whether through short term mission trips, long-term mission adventures with their families or simply baking for the elderly. Make sure your ministries are chalk-full of hands-on service projects designed just for the kids in your ministry (Romans 12:11).
- Help parents cultivate an excitement for missions within their children. Providing opportunities for parents to come alongside their kids in order to help others, is essential. It can be done through all kinds of outreach events, from packing backpacks for the poor, giving to the homeless and feeding the hungry to visiting seniors. A good children’s leader is always on the lookout for a need to meet. It does not always have to be a huge community event. Parents can individually take home the names of families in need and with their kids figure out a way to meet those needs. There are so many great resources out there for parents who feel short of outreach ideas. There are literally thousands of people all over the world in desperate need; sometimes those needs are small and sometimes they require great big miracles. It should not be too hard to invite and inspire parents to give their kids the opportunity to express the love of Christ through serving (Proverbs 22:6).
Wherever you are at on your ministry journey, our goals are really the same: to see kids connect with God on a personal level and to live a life honoring to Him. We all want to see kids avoid the traps of Satan, find their true purpose and calling, live a fulfilling life, serve others, disciple others, have unshakable faith and live in victory. I believe that once kids have been exposed to the truth of Christ and have experienced Him firsthand, there will be no stopping them.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).”