“Mission work? Isn’t that only for singles or married couples without children?”
“Surely God would not call us to uproot our entire family, children and all, to move to some far-flung country?”
If we were asked to consider getting our families involved in mission work, these might be some of our instinctive responses, especially if we have young children.
Consider, however, what God says about mission in the Bible. In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus gives all believers the Great Commission:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptising 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.”
Jesus calls all believers—young and old, single or married—to “go and make disciples of all nations”. As a family, we can and we must obey this commission too. As verse 20 makes clear, this means teaching others to believe in Him, and to obey “everything” He has taught us. And this “everything” is summarised in the Great Commandment—to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:36–40).
What we need is a broader understanding of what mission entails. It is not just about long-term overseas mission, but being missional in everything that we do, so that we can be a blessing to others.
Perhaps the acrostic M-I-S-S-I-O-N can help us consider some ways to raise a missional family:
Give Us This Day 13
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Anne with her family on a mission trip to Sri Lanka
M is for Modelling
Being missional starts with us parents. As our children are our first mission field, our first disciples, we need to model the Great Commandment and Commission by first obeying it ourselves.
“We already saw you living that way—being a ‘walking Jesus’ and doing everything with a ‘Jesus twist’. Only when we heard you share with others at meetings and conferences, did we learn the word for it—mission.”
This means leading by example—by being authentic in our faith, in our walk with God, as well as in our relationships with people.
As Jesse, my eldest son, once told my husband and me: “We already saw you living that way—being a ‘walking Jesus’ and doing everything with a ‘Jesus twist’. Only when we heard you share with others at meetings and conferences, did we learn the word for it—mission.”
I is for Intercession
As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us, we are to “pray continually” about anything and everything. Let’s . . .
. . . Pray for our children and their future spouses, that they will have a missional love story and will raise missional families themselves in time to come.
. . . Pray for specific events and projects. Consider gathering a team of intercessors for every local outreach programme and overseas mission trip to battle alongside through prayer.
. . . Pray for vision and direction, both individually and as a family, which will enable us to proceed into action when God shows us whom to reach out to and how.
S is for Spirit-led
As followers of God, we naturally want to align every decision we and our children make to His plans and purposes, for instance, which school or course to opt for. As Romans 8:14 notes, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”
In order to do this, we need to be able to hear and follow God’s voice—which means learning to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and being ready to go, stop, or change direction anytime.
If they seem reluctant to join us for a mission trip or local outreach, for example, we can encourage them to pray about it—and ask the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts.
This is where it’s important for our children to have a personal, living relationship with God. We can pray that God will prepare their hearts from young, so that they will go wherever He wants them to go. If they seem reluctant to join us for a mission trip or local outreach, for example, we can encourage them to pray about it—and ask the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts.
S is for Sharing
Sharing our missional approach with other families can inspire more families to respond to God’s call, and, over time, lead to the formation of a community of missional families who can “spur one another on towards love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
In sharing, however, we need to be authentic and not shy away from talking about our struggles and difficulties. As we also communicate the triumphs, and share how we learn and grow through our experiences in mission, more may be encouraged to take up the challenge!
When our youngest daughter, Aimee, was two years old, our family went to a rural area in China during winter. Soon after, another family from our church who had been following our adventures picked up the courage to bring their children—including a toddler—to the same area. Since then, their children and ours have become close friends, and our families continue to cheer each other on in our missional endeavours.
I is for Integrated
Being mission-minded also means leading a missional lifestyle every day, for God’s mission is found in every aspect of daily life. As Jakin, my second son, once observed, mission “is being a Christian every minute. When you talk about stuff with others, they will know what Jesus is like.”
Whether we are in school, the workplace, or our neighbourhood, each member of the family can learn to be a living ambassador of God’s love wherever He places us.
Whether we are in school, the workplace, or our neighbourhood, each member of the family can learn to be a living ambassador of God’s love wherever He places us. Ephesians 2:10 offers a good reminder:
“For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Indeed, God has equipped us with gifts and talents—which could be in any area, from the arts to culinary, finance or IT skills—as well as resources. Let’s consider how we may use them to be a blessing to others!
O is for Orphans and Widows
We need to be concerned with what concerns God. What good is sharing the gospel with others if we do nothing about their physical needs?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as
pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows
in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Former American president Theodore Roosevelt succinctly put it this way: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
We can introduce our children to the practice of caring for the needy in simple ways, such as encouraging them to donate their Chinese New Year “angpao” money to charities, or by collecting donations in place of birthday presents.
Anne and her family, leading an arts mission team to reach out to a tsunami-hit town in Japan
N is for New and Developing
Other than exploring mission fields both locally and overseas, we can also go beyond geographic boundaries to reach out to non-traditional people groups, such as online communities. Or, we can reach out to people groups defined not by ethnicity or geography, but by particular needs (for example, those struggling with mental health) or subcultures (such as gamers). On my own blog, I write to connect with K-drama fans!
We can also think of creative ways to reach out to people, like online mission, business as mission, or partnering secular groups and grassroots organisations—for example, joining community groups to perform in public for charity.
We can reach out to people groups defined not by ethnicity or geography, but by particular needs.
James 1:5 instructs: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Just ask God and He will give us the ideas!
Every Family Is a Missional Family
Imagine this: What if every family rises up to go to all the nations? And what if every family reaches out to those in their neighbourhoods, schools, and workplaces?
Then we would truly be God’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
May our families be ready to go wherever God leads us to and do what He directs us to! And surely, we will see “the earth . . . filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).