Raising Mission-Minded Kids, Part 2 {Guest Blogger Tanya Dennis}

Wednesday, I introduced the topic of raising mission-minded kids. We talked about exciting their spirits and equipping them to share. Today we’ll dive into a third element: Elevating their global awareness. This encompasses both education and action. Below you’ll find a number of resources for teaching your kids about missions and global cultures and concerns, but you’ll also find practical ideas for getting personally involved in missions, right where you are.

Educational Resources
You can raise cultural awareness in many ways. Geography and language study are obvious choices, but they’re only two avenues. Consider taking field trips to cultural fairs, ethnic celebrations and museums. Invite multi-cultural friends over for an international potluck or explore exoticflavors with your own culinary experiments. The possibilities are endless! Here are a few of my favorite books and websites to get you started:

·         Passport to the World {book} Written by Craig Froman, this book offers fast facts, cultural details, tons of photos and interesting stats about 26 different countries. All of this is presented from a missional perspective of reaching the world for God’s glory.
Target Age: 9-12

·         A Faith Like Mine {book} : This is not a Christian book, but it is an excellent resource for teaching children about major world religions. Vibrant photographs, maps and symbols help introduce 11 different faiths, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. It discusses their basic tenets, major holidays, traditions and unique characteristics.
Target age: 8 and up

·         My Passport to India {website} : This is my absolute favorite! I wish one existed for every country. This site features high quality videos with excellent content. Families follow an American guy as he explores India: the culture, the people and what God is doing there. It also includes family devotionals and activities for further exploration and involvement.
Target age: 6 and up

·         Quest for Compassion {website} : Hosted by Compassion, Intl., this website offers an interactive exploration of four countries: El Salvador, Brazil, Ghana and Bangladesh. Kids create a buddy character and then embark on a cultural scavenger hunt to learn about education, economics, living conditions and more in that country.
Target age: 6-10

·         The Caravan {website} : Hosted by IMB, this site explores the continent of Asia with all sorts of activities! Photographs, maps, stories, printables, coloring pages … seriously, a ton of stuff. There is also a tab with helps for parents and teachers.
Target age: Preschool – 6th grade

Ideas for At-Home Missions

Continuing our pattern of concentric circles, let’s start at home. Before children can care what happens on the other side of the planet, they need to care about what happens near home. What can they see that might increase their compassions and awareness? Here are some activities to initiate service and conversations:

·         Neighborhood Prayer Walks: A prayer walk is exactly what it sounds like – you walk around a neighborhood praying for each person you see and home you pass. It’s easy to do with your children and need not be conspicuous. Simply go for a walk. The benefits include exercise, prayer training, community awareness, and possible interactions with neighbors that could lead to opportunities to share the Gospel or serve in tangible ways.

Extend Invitations: Kids love inviting friends to anything – VBS, Sunday School, church clubs … whatever! Encourage them to do just that. It’s simple, friendly and free of pressure.  

·         Participate in Service Projects: Every community offers abundant opportunities to serve, regardless of your children’s ages. When my kids were toddlers, we would prepare and deliver meals for shut-ins or new mothers. We still do that, but now we also help by shoveling snow, raking leaves or weeding gardens for our neighbors. We’ve participated in mural painting projects, food banks and coat drives. My kids’ favorite activities, however, involve hosting garage sales or lemonade and cookie stands to raise money for orphanages or our local crisis pregnancy center.

·         Donations: Got clutter? Use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about poverty and missions!

Ideas for Reaching Abroad

You don’t have to leave your home to make an impact overseas, but you do need to be intentional and take the initiative. Here are some reasons to do that and tips on how to start.

Most missionaries say feeling isolated is their greatest struggle. They don’t fit in there and they don’t fit in here; they feel nomadic. By building relationships with these families already on the field, you’ll encourage them while gaining an indispensable education for yourself and your children. Relationships are the foundation to healthy partnerships – and that’s exactly what missions should be!

·         Adopt a Child: For a monthly donation, you can adopt a child through Compassion International, World Vision or a number of similar organizations. You can correspond with these children and their families; learn about their lives and what struggles they face. If sponsoring a child is too much, consider a one-time gift of farm animals, medications or other necessities.

·         Adopt a Missionary: Select one or two families that you know or that your church supports and get to know them. Post their picture in your home. Talk about them with your kids. PRAY for them regularly. Try to reach out to them consistently. Once every couple months is fine. Let them know that you care and are interested in what they’re doing. Thanks to the internet, this is much easier than it used to be. Imagine having your kids Skype with someone in Kenya or Tibet! How fun (and educational) could that be?

·         Send Care Packages: Little things from home can make a big impact. When I lived in Bosnia, we couldn’t find ketchup or peanut butter. One day a box arrived with two bottles of Heinz57 and a jar of Jiffy. You would have thought we’d won the lottery! Due to customs regulations, be sure to check with the missionaries or mission agencies before sending anything. Some countries get a bit tricky.

·         Champion Specific Projects: Perhaps your family could sponsor a well in Africa or help build a school for girls in India. You could host a shoe drive in your community or partner with your adopted missionary family on something specific they need.

·         Visit or Participate in Short-Term Trips: Most recommend that your kids be at least thirteen before joining a team mission trip, but there are no specific limits to visits. If you build a good relationship with a missionary family, why not spend your family vacation in service to them? You’ll get to see first-hand the people and ministries you’ve actively prayed for.

Armed with three ridiculous French phrases, Tanya Dennis taught ESL to Chinese students in German-speaking Switzerland. This after working as a church planter in urban Philadelphia and a humanitarian worker in war-torn Bosnia. Her current role, as mother of two, has proven to be the most challenging. Learn more about her and what she's doing now at www.TanyaDennisBooks.com.

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