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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Honestly, the first time I was asked to do a short-term mission trip, I agreed only because I could not figure out a good enough reason to say no. I was in college, so I even called my parents because I felt sure that they would want me to come home in the summer . . . but, in fact, their answer was, “You need to do what you think God wants you to do.”  I finally committed with my heart and not just my head—and I’ve never stopped. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

So here are a few tips about making the decision the first time, and I say the first time because I do believe that if you go once and do something meaningful, you will continue to find ways to go.

  1. Don’t expect all of your motives to be spiritual. I think many people do not hear the call of God because they love to travel, love to experience new things, love to meet new people. Who do you think gave you these desires? For what possible reason could He have done this? Instead of viewing these as personal or selfish desires, recognize their intended use and go!
  2. In two weeks or less, you can change the focus of your life!Especially if you are at one of those critical points in life, where you are trying to decide what you are really doing that is meaningful?  People who are now unemployed, who fear unemployment, who are nearing retirement, who are into retirement and finding it boring, who are disabled from physical work, who are unhappy in their profession with just punching a clock—a short-term mission project can give you brand new glasses to see your life with.
  3. You will never have more fun! Time spent doing the will of God—all day long—will beat fishing, skiing, cruising, touring, hunting—because it is everything you enjoy about these activities wrapped up into the same package, but framed with an eternal purpose.  When you show someone how to pray, or tell them who Jesus is for the first time, or hear them trusting you with the burdens of their heart because you care about them; when you see the light of understanding go on in their eyes, when you see your new friend baptized—and the huge smile on their face . . . it is so much more than a great round of golf.
  4. “Can you afford it” is really the wrong question. The fact is that a two-week mission trip will probably be much less expensive than a two-week vacation.  However, your investment in a short-term mission trip will come back to you for the rest of your life—and afterwards. Can you afford not to go?  (I’m going to write about raising funds shortly, so watch for those tips too.)
  5. Age doesn’t matter very much!Eighty-year-olds have gone with LST on missions. Eight-year-olds with their parents have also gone. In many cultures, age is revered.  Years ago, a man said to one of our older workers, “I’ve never met a Christian with gray hair.” His comment was the result of too many American Christians thinking that short-term missions were just a youth group or college student activity.  A friend of ours in her 70s just lost her husband this year, but she took her grief and her loneliness to eastern Europe to fulfill a mission call. Now  she exchanges the grief with the joy of pouring her life out for Christ and the loneliness with all the people God brings to her.  Her new life and joy is palpable.
  6. Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid!Fear is our enemy. God spoke these words to His people over and over again in scripture. Count them up if you don’t believe me—then do something to overcome your fears.
  7. Don’t procrastinate. Do it soon! Why should you wait? Does it sound like any of the excuses given for not coming to the Great Banquet? (business, relatives, obligations) Don’t surrender your seat at the table because of just couldn’t decide to do it.

 

I’m not particularly proud of the story of my first decision to go, but I did learn something that stuck with me. Whatever your reasons for not going are, if you will simply set them aside and go, your life will be changed because you are right in the middle of the will of God. I know that is true.

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The biggest hindrance to Christian youth and college students participating in short-term missions is their parents. I really hate to say that but after thirty years of recruiting college students for summer mission projects, I know this to be true.

Here are a few thoughts for Moms and Dads to think about to help them be more comfortable with what their young people want to do for God.

1. If your goal for your child is that he/she holds on to—even grows in—the faith you have tried to share with them, you need to let them go when they feel called. A great study done by a psychology professor at Abilene Christian University may be all I need to cite:  His study of 25,000 young people in churches of Christ showed that a “summer mission experience” was the top factor correlating with those students who continued in their faith after high school.

2. Before you ask your child to be “sensible” and …….(you fill in the blank with summer school, job, visit Grandma, internship, etc), you should ask yourself what message you are sending about the place of the kingdom in his/her life. Young people tend to “walk by faith” a little more naturally than we adults who have learned what the worst case scenarios are and who try to cover ourselves with insurance against such.

3. Check to see if you are afraid for yourself or are you afraid for your child. Some parents have not traveled much, never been out of the country, never had a passport (even if you are governor of Alaska!). No wonder you are a bit anxious about releasing your student to go to China or Africa or ………  Millions of Americans go overseas every year—for much less important reasons that sharing their faith.   “Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid.” We have to teach our children Christian bravery.

4. You don’t want to teach your children fear of random violence! One year we had a grandmother who offered to pay her granddaughter to stay safely in Oklahoma.  While the daughter was safely in Germany, the Edmond post office massacre occurred near her “safe” home in Oklahoma.  Unless we want to be crippled by fear, we cannot be live our lives afraid of random violence.

 

5. The best response to your child is to say YES–and to go with them! There is no better activity for Mom and/or Dad than to share some special time serving with your young person in serving the Lord.  Yes, you can do that any weekend at home, but to really step out on faith together, going somewhere very different, meeting people that are very different, but doing the most important task in the world together—there is nothing like it!

Sherrylee and I sometimes wondered if we were ruining our children by taking them with us each summer to do Let’s Start Talking—from early children through their teen years.  I guess I better let them tell you what it has meant to them. . . . but I know that God used it for good, and they are all people of strong faith.  Isn’t that what you want for your children?

 

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Clint Loveness, a friend and Let’s Start Talking participant has created a great story video that speaks about young people, video games, and missions. You probably want to share this with your teens and grandteens!  It’s just over four minutes, so click below and enjoy it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJGuAInoOlk

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Several of you have commented on this series or have written with specific questions, and I just want you to know how much I enjoy hearing from you!  One of your comments that I have heard several times is how much you appreciate the concrete suggestions that I offer you for raising children with a heart for missions.

I have observed a certain reticence in many younger parents that we are around, a hesitance to be both concrete and confident in their own child-rearing ideas.  I’d like to just talk with you briefly about knowing what you are doing because I think it is pretty important if you want to raise children with hearts for the mission of God.

Post-modernism says that you can’t be certain. Most young couples are highly influenced, if not completely post-modern in their thinking, and so this worship of relativity has framed their thinking about child-rearing as well.  It’s suggested in all kinds of common remarks:

  • You don’t just want to indoctrinate your kids!
  • Each child just has to find his/her own path.
  • I don’t want to over-control my kids.
  • Who knows what they will become!

The best lies have a certain truth to them, and so it is with these comments! But for Christians, there are other Words that are more important than what we hear from our surrounding culture.  Try these Words and see if you can get comfortable with them.

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This does not sound hands-off to me!

Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. Psalm 34:11.

This sounds like parents who know not only what they believe, but WHO they believe, and they want more than anything else that their children will be believers also.

Have you ever thought what a statement and commitment the act of circumcision was for both the parent and child? At eight days, the parents committed their child to faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They physically marked the child to distinguish him from all the children who were not of Jewish families.  And circumcision was the command of God, so it wasn’t thought up by over-zealous, religiously, fanatical parents.

Here are now my words of encouragement to you about parenting your children so that they will have a heart for the mission of God.

  • Be confident in your own faith, so confident that you MUST share it with your children first! Youthful questioning and searching needs to give way as we become parents, not to dogmatism, but to confident faith—faith that doesn’t have all the answers, but knows that God is God!
  • God picked YOU to be the parents of your children; it wasn’t an accident. YOU were chosen to be the caretakers for one of His precious children, so He must believe YOU can accomplish with those children what He wants.
  • Of course, you have to depend on HIM for wisdom and help in child-rearing because you feel inadequate! But God has put ALL of His earthly treasures in earthen vessels. He is OK with our weaknesses and inadequacies. If we are fearful because of our weakness, we are confessing our own doubts about the power of God in our lives.
  • Enjoy the work of God! We are happiest when we are doing His work within His will. Teaching your children to love God and walk in His way is undoubtedly His work and His desire, so . . . delight in doing it!  Then your children will delight in Him also!

Letting children just happen is not the way of God! Your children are meant for Him. Your children were created for Him!  And God blessed your children with YOU! Be confident in your parenting and repeat the Word of God to them “again and again!”

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We were sitting with friends last night and talking about mission trips–probably no surprise to you!  They are a family of four, with a boy of six and a girl of four.  This couple is very active in their local church, but also have a heart for foreign missions, so the dad asked me what I thought was a good age for their children to actually go abroad.

Great question, Dad! And the right question!  Let me try to answer it with a variety of insights for all of you whose children might be of very different ages.  Let me just say that I will be talking about mission projects like Let’s Start Talking projects that have always been pretty family friendly in that workers

  • go to one place and stay there for the duration of their mission project,
  • they have a pretty regularly scheduled day,
  • they are usually housed independently,
  • they are working with people in a pretty contained environment, and
  • they have a certain degree of control over their eating arrangements

Of course, if you are going on another type of mission project, you will have to weigh all of those factors in order to make your decision.

I don’t think there is a too young! Parents who take their very infant to school age children–and we have many–have great experiences that shape their children, even though the kids themselves will only have the vaguest memories of the actual trip.  What they remember though are the pictures you take and the fact that they have been to Japan or Germany or Argentina! And they have a passport!

Here’s how some parents with very young children make this possible!

  • The parents each work half with the children and half with the mission project. Of course, I would argue strongly that each parent is working full-time with two different mission projects, if you see your children as the most important mission God has given you!
  • Many parents recruit an older teen or college student to go with them as their helper. The helper gets to do some of the mission project too, but is mostly responsible for helping with the children.
  • Some families travel with other families with children and share the fun!
  • Many families recruit grandparents to go with them and be a part of the mission with the children. (I especially like this one!)
  • Sometimes both parents can’t go, so then the single parent definitely will need a helper–but he/she can still make it work!

Elementary school-aged children make the very best mission partners! They are independent enough not to need your constant attention, but still eager enough to please you that they really want to be a part of what you do!  This is perhaps the most impressionable time in their lives–and they will remember almost everything they do.  They can’t really “work” a full day, but they will be just fine if you can give them a couple of hours of good attention each day!  Here are some special ideas for elementary-aged children

  • They can accept certain “tasks” as their responsibility and this makes them feel like part of the mission!  I’m talking about things like playing with children that might come with their parents to your project, or even telling younger children Bible stories–not all day, but certainly some time spent “working” will be just what they want.
  • Playing with or spending time with the local missionary’s children. Forget about language barriers; children hardly even notice language differences.
  • They especially love preparing for parties or social events. If you need name tags or something special, perhaps your kids can help you make it.
  • Giving them private chronicling tasks, like journaling or creating a picture album of their mission, whether by drawings or a simple camera is something that helps make their mission project meaningful!

Teenagers are the hardest age–only because they have a mind of their own–which is, of course, what you are wanting for them–someday! Younger teens can be great mission partners. Until they are 14 or so, they probably want to work right beside you on your mission project–and you should let them.  But, by 15 and later, the mission project is competing with summer fun with their friends, Bible camp, summer school, summer sports activities–just lots of stuff, and I think you need to respect their needs, not just assume that they will continue to be ready to go whenever you call.  Here are some points to remember:

  • Teens are not the center of the universe even though they think they are! You can still set their agenda, but you may have to negotiate it instead of dictating it. This means something like what we did with our kids at this age: you have to spend six weeks with us in Europe, but we will send you to camp for four of those weeks.  Or you can stay home for two weeks with your cousins, then you can go to soccer camp for two weeks, but then you join us for the last three weeks.  Everyone needs to learn to compromise–teens and parents.!
  • Sometimes all it takes with teens is letting them have their best friend go with them!  Why not?
  • Whether at home or abroad, teens may think they are adults, but they are not, so don’t expect them to be! Once when Emily was about 16, she was staying with her brothers (18 & 20) at home for a week or two before we arrived home. Naturally, all kinds of household disasters happened: the dog chewed up the curtains and tore down a door trying to get to a bird that had come down the chimney, a squirrel got into the house and wreaked havoc, and then the hot water heater in an upstairs closet sprang a leak and dripped down through the ceiling. Emily called us in tears and said, “Please come home. I don’t want to be responsible any more!”  Of course not!

The best answer I can give you about when to take your children on mission projects is to start with them as young as you can and go often! The absolute worst answer is to wait until they are older and will appreciate it!  I promise you they will appreciate it when they are teenagers so much more, if they have already fallen in love with it as children.

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Our  seven year-old granddaughter Anna was dressed for Sunday a little early last week, so she sat down with her Bible and started reading Psalms.  Then I heard her start singing Psalm 1, just making up a melody as she went. It was actually pretty good. When finished with Psalm 1, she went on to Psalm 2 and so forth until her sister got ready and we could leave.

We got into the car to drive to church and Anna was still singing. I noticed then that she stopped, flipped the pages in her Bible, then burst out into “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.”

I didn’t slam on the brakes, but I did look over and see that she had opened her Bible and was beginning with Chapter One to sing the Song of Solomon. Yikes!  I said, “Anna, what are you singing?” She stopped and said, Well, I’ve never read the Song of Solomon before, but if he wrote a song, it must be beautiful, so I wanted to sing it!”

No matter how precocious she is, I did not think her ready for the fawns and gazelles, so I diverted her attention from the Song of Songs—only temporarily, I’m sure.

Sherrylee and I will not have much to leave to our kids when we are gone, but we will leave with all of them our love for reading. Our parents gave it to us as a special gift—and we are both very grateful.  Both Sherrylee and I were the kind of kids who would check out ten books at a time—the weekly limit—from the Bookmobile that came through the neighborhood during our childhood summers.  I don’t read that many anymore, but I did just get a Kindle for my birthday.

When we were taking our younger children to Europe each summer, one of the most pleasant pre-departure tasks we had as parents was to find and pack enough books for the 8-10 week trip. We often took a whole suitcase full of nothing but books for the family—back before the airlines charged for extra luggage.  We would buy them at the half-price book stores, or we would check them out of the local library.  We may still have some lost book fines to pay in Edmond—don’t anybody check, please!

Now Philip and Emily both got into reading pretty easily, but Benjamin was more of an outdoors kid, so he didn’t really want to slow down long enough to read much. We worried a little about his reading—not his skills, but his love for reading, whether or not he would develop it.  The summer before third grade though, however, was the breakthrough. Before he had only been reading the simplest little books to satisfy his teachers at school, but that summer, I remember walking up to the attic room in Hannover, Germany, where we were housed and finding Ben totally absorbed in Lord of the Rings!  He read the whole book—and has continued to be a great reader to this day.

Rarely do our grandkids come for anything that Mimi (Sherrylee) doesn’t pull out a book or two to read to anyone who will listen to her!  But what does this have to do with raising children to have hearts for the mission of God??  I think you know, but let me just remind you.

  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path!(Ps. 119:105) If children grow up loving to read, they will also learn to love to read the Word. With the Word in their hearts, they will have a lamp for their feet and a clear path in front of them.  Don’t you want that for your children?
  • How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.(Ps. 119:9) Purity of heart is part of knowing and fulfilling the mission of God. Purity of heart is not an accident. Purity is a result of the Word in the heart of your child, and at some point, what they read will become more important than what you tell them.
  • Then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.(Ps. 119:42) The taunts of children and/or teens are devastatingly damaging to the desires of our children. Reading gives them both the shield they need and the trust they need to win those battles.
  • Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. (Ps. 143:8) Confidence! Self-confidence is what we are tempted to desire for our children, but much better is God-confidence and they will only get that from knowing Him and how He has dealt with His creation throughout history. Past experience is what builds confidence.  Reading is a way to gather all those rich experiences and make them our own.

Our grandkids are just like yours or your own children: some like to read, some would rather watch movies, some only want to play outside, others are struggling to learn to read—just normal kids like yours. But their grandparents are praying that they will be children, then teens, then adults who love to read. Their grandparents are giving them books, reading to them, and reading in front of them.  IT’S VERY IMPORTANT!

Over and over again, Jesus raises the question during his ministry:  Haven’t you read . . . ? Just look up the word read in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and be amazed at how often Jesus assumes that people should have known God’s will because it had been written for them.

I think he was saying, you are going to live in the heart of God’s Will so much more easily if you love to read . . . His Word!

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I really love my children.  Because I really love them, I’ve always thought it was important for them to love other people.

I also really love God. Because I really love God—who really loves people—I think it is important for my kids to learn to love other people.

Some children are just naturally more people-oriented than others. We have one little granddaughter whom we have to be a little cautious with because she is so easy with people that she will walk up to strangers, introduce herself, find out if they need anything, then proceed to try to take care of them. I once watched her at an ice skating rink–where she could just barely stand herself—find two teenagers who were less certain on ice than she was, introduce herself , and spend the next hour with them, teaching them how to ice skate.

Other children are just more shy, more self-conscious, more inhibited—pick your adjective! I don’t think parents get any credit for either of these types., nor should we think that either is more righteous than the other.  The fact is a person can be very gregarious and not love people. But you can also be reserved and not love people.

If we want our children to have a heart for the mission of God, then we must teach them to have the heart of God for people.

Here are a few suggestions for teaching your children to love others.  We’ll start with the most obvious tip of all.

  1. Show your love for others both publicly and privately. Being civil and polite in public, but critical and abusive about people in private will only teach your child to be a hypocrite. 
  2. Actively teach love for other people, starting with brothers or sisters. Encourage familial love. Don’t just stop abuse; encourage, reinforce active love for one another.
  3. Teach friendliness. Teach your child to introduce herself to people that she meets with you. Teach him to shake hands if people you are with are trying to be friendly. Teach them to look at people when your friends are talking to them. (I’ve tried to qualify all of these situations to recognize the danger of being too friendly with strangers—but don’t let fear keep you from teaching your child to be friendly.)
  4. Encourage your child to make new friends in appropriate situations. It’s not easy for the more naturally timid or fearful children, but that’s why God gave them parents!
  5. Take your children with you into appropriate community-building situations. I love the trend back towards children in worship with adults, in service projects with adults, even in team building/community building activities with adults.  Sharing experiences are where adults learn to love! It is no different for children.
  6. Expose children early to Diversity—before they even recognize it as Other! Kids barely notice “unloveliness” until they learn it from adults.  Be an adult who helps your children’s innocence develop into appreciation—even love for Others!
  7. Be aware of your child’s friendliness level. Be aware of their socialization skills. Be sensitive to their willingness to show love for others. Make it a point to talk about what you see with your child, so that they know it is important to you. Don’t ignore unloving behavior—ever! 

Kids can be friendly—all kids. Kids can act lovingly—all kids.  No excuses! As they grow in their capacity to love others, they are growing their capacity to have a heart for the mission of God.

 

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