Teaching Children About World Missions

From the time our children were little, we've tried to make them aware of and involved in world missions. We do this in many ways. One of our favorite ways has been to get to know missionaries who are visiting our church and provide childcare for them during the time they are here. Often missionaries are traveling and need to know that they have support and that their kids are loved on and cared for. Besides being involved in this ministry to missionaries, we've tried to expose our children to world missions and missionaries in other ways.

Teaching children about world missions
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Read about well-known missionaries.

Last year I was able to review two resources for doing this.  I love the biographies from YWAM. Their Christian Heroes Then and Now series has biographies of many, many missionaries who devoted their lives to God's service. (You can see even more here.) The Torchlighter DVD series is another great resource, videos that tell of the lives of men and women who served God in their time- like this video about Jim Elliot. Sharing with our kids about missionaries can give them real life heroes to look up to.

Reading about well-known missionaries can also help your kids to understand that missionaries are real people, just like you and me. Sometimes we set missionaries up as perfect people. When we do we come to believe the lie that God could never use us in missions because we aren't good enough. We want our kids to know that God uses all kinds of people from all walks of life, not "perfect" people.

Use concrete, hands-on ways to help your children understand missions and the importance of sharing the gospel.

Our former children's ministry leader found a great way to help the kids at our church remember to pray for missions. Every year during missions week, she handed out M&Ms. This reminds the kids to be Missions Minded.

Take a field trip to a local mission organization near you. We live near JAARS, a missions organization that helps make Bible translation happen. We've been able to visit JAARS and take a tour around the facility. The people there love sharing with kids and adults about the work they're doing and the people God uses to do His work. Even if you aren't close enough to visit, this website from Wycliffe (connected with JAARS) has some great free lesson plans and activities for teaching kids about missions

Get to know missionaries.

I've already shared how we've done this through caring for the missionaries children. But here are some other things we've done to get to know missionaries. We've shared meals with them when they are here for missions week. We've signed up for prayer letters so that we can get their updates. We've made care packages for them to give to them during missions week. As we've gotten to know missionaries, they have become "real" to us. They are not just names in a prayer list now. We know them.

Pray regularly for missions and missionaries.

Because we meet and get to know these missionaries each year, we've begun praying for quite a few. It usually starts by signing up for a missionary's prayer letter. As we begin to get a regular prayer letter, we know specifics about what to pray for. Then we can keep track of those missionaries and get in contact with them again the next time they visit our church.

Make sure to really commit to pray when you sign up. One way that we found to help us actually pray for our growing list is to have a rotating list of missionaries that we pray for each day. I created a daily schedule, and as we do our morning Bible time we pray for the missionary or missionaries for the day.

Get involved with local missions.

Not all missionaries go to far away countries. We can be missionaries by spreading the good news about God right here where we are. There are many ways to be involved locally- a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a tutoring program for underprivileged kids, collecting coats in the winter for the needy.

We're really fortunate to live close to an Operation Christmas Child processing center where we volunteer to process the shoeboxes that are sent around the world. Even if your kids aren't old enough to volunteer at a place like this- the age requirement at ours is thirteen- you can pack a shoebox with your kids. To learn more, read this post. When children have opportunities to serve others, they can be missionaries themselves.

Teaching children about world missions

Here are some additional resources for learning about, supporting, praying for, and encouraging missionaries.

Wycliffe's How To Pray for Missionaries

Kids of Courage- from The Voice of the Martyrs; teaches kids about missionaries and other Christians in persecuted places.

The North American Mission Board has a great free activity book for kids.

Ethnos360 has an interactive missions site for kids.

The Brinkman Adventures series is audio drama that tells stories of real life missionaries. We've reviewed two seasons of the these adventures that feature a large family and their interactions as well as the missionary stories.

Helping your kids to know and support missionaries gives them opportunities to serve now and can encourage them to be open to God's leading in their own lives.

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