As a church planting missionary for nearly 20 years, I have often pondered how we might help our children go against our self-centered culture and learn to care for missionaries in general, and church planters in particular. I believe that helping children focus on something other than themselves is a positive thing. In that vein of thinking, here is a list of ten things families with children can do to help plant churches.
1. Adopt a church planting missionary with the same age children and become pen pals with those missionary children.
2. Make two posters with the missionary family’s picture and various prayer requests on it. Hang one in a prominent place in the house so your family remembers to pray and hang the other one in your child’s Sunday School classroom so that other children can be praying too.
3. Encourage your children to “tithe” on money received for birthdays and Christmas and use the money to select an age appropriate gift for a missionary child and send it to them, along with a card.
4. Plan a vacation near the area where the church planter serves. Offer to take their children (or perhaps their whole family) with you for the day to a nearby amusement park as an expression of your appreciation for their parent’s missionary service.
5. Plan a vacation near the area where the church planter lives and invest one day of your vacation helping the church planting missionary family with some type of ministry project (clean a park, paint a porch for an elderly person, serve in a soup kitchen). Make sure it is a project the children can fully participate in.
6. When parents do their “Back to School” shopping, consider sending a “tithe” of the amount spent in a gift card to a church planting missionary so they can do the same type of shopping for their own child.
7. Request of list of small items the missionary needs (office supplies, Sunday School supplies, etc.) and have your child become the advocate for collecting the items in a “Christmas in August” type promotion.
8. Learn all about the missionary and volunteer to teach a missions class at your church’s annual Vacation Bible School. Have the children pray each day for a current prayer request from the missionary. Have the children make cards to mail as a group to the missionary. Have the children bring in change each day for a love offering to send to the missionary. Make prior arrangements to Skype with the missionary and his family one day during the class so the children can interact with them.
9. Select one thing your family enjoys but is willing to “fast” from for one month (going out to eat, going to movies, bowling, etc.). Each night before bed pray for the missionary family. At the end of the month send all the money saved by not doing whatever activity you fasted from to the missionary and suggest they use the money to enjoy the very thing you fasted from. In order words, your family skips going to the movies for a month so a missionary family can go the movies, or some other similar activity.
10. Consider paying for a missionary child to join your own child at his favorite summer camp. This will not be feasible for all families due to cost, but imagine how cool it will be for those who can do it!
I am sure I could keep listing ideas, but the key to all of them is teaching our children to pray for church planting missionaries, to advocate that others pray for those missionaries and to give up something in order to bless someone else who is doing mission work.
Some may ask why this post focuses more on church planting missionaries in North America than missionaries in other nations. While I think we need to send missionaries around the world, after having been involved in North American missions for nearly 20 years, it is clear that church planters are often the “forgotten” heroes that no one thinks as being “real” missionaries. Everyone gets excited about supporting a missionary in some exotic land, but few are as excited about planting a church in New England, one of the least evangelized areas in North America. The reality is that if we lose America, we will not be able to send missionaries to other nations. As we look at what is happening in our nation, we clearly are losing our nation. That means we need a wave of missionaries right here at home, and church planters are on the front lines of that effort. So be passionate about those who go to other nations, but do not forget to be just as passionate for our North American church plants.