In the church world in which I work, I’ve heard of an idea known as the three-legged stool of ministry. The three legs represent worship, discipleship, and missions—the three big buckets of ministry. Most everything we do in our churches flows from one of these three ministry areas.
In my experience as a children’s minister, I’ve found that many children’s ministries are successful in discipleship and maybe even worship, but oftentimes, missions seems to be the missing leg. And a two-legged stool won’t stand on its own.
I grew up in the church, but my exposure to missions as a child was limited to the occasional missionary visiting our church on a Sunday. Because of this, I thought missions was for “professionals.” I thought missions was like a job, something you go and do. But missions isn’t just something you do; it’s part of your identity as a believer. Missions is a part of the DNA of a Christian.
Some may think kids are too young to participate in missions. But if a child is a Christian, she, too, can be involved in the Great Commission, starting with the partnership between the church and the home. Parents are their kids’ primary disciplers, but the church and home can work together to raise a generation of children with a biblical worldview focused on the mission of Jesus.
“The church and home can work together to raise a generation of children with a biblical worldview focused on the mission of Jesus.”
Children learn by doing. They want to participate. If we want children to learn about missions, we have to involve them in missions.
Why Children Should Be Involved in Missions
It’s an unfortunate reality that many churches reserve missions opportunities for adults. But the Great Commission isn’t reserved for eighteen years and older. Missions is for Christians—adults and children. Consider these Scripture passages as they apply to your children:
- “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)
Perhaps telling our neighbor about the love God has for them is the most loving thing someone could do. There are many resources available for children to use to share the gospel with their friends.
- “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18–20)
This command doesn’t just apply to adults. The Great Commission has no minimum age requirement. I’ve personally seen children lead other children to Christ.
- “And you will be my witnesses . . .” (Acts 1:8)
We often emphasize the “ends of the earth” part of that verse, but children can be his witnesses in their Jerusalem where they live, go to school, play ball, or go to the park. Children can also be involved in national and even international missions efforts. One of the greatest things our church has done in the past ten years for involving children/families in missions is championing family mission trips. We offer multiple mission trips specifically for families, and it has been very well received.
- “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Tim. 4:12)
The same Holy Spirit that equips and enables adults to share the gospel lives in children who have become believers. If God saves a child, God can use them for his mission. If we are saved, we are sent. That includes children. We are all called to share the gospel where we live, work, and play, whether at home or overseas.
How Churches Can Involve Children in Missions
Missions is vital to the church. Missions programs and events are great, but these only scratch the surface of what we can do to incorporate missions into our children’s ministries. Programs and events should be the launching pad for educating children on how to live on mission. We have to move from thinking missions is an event to teaching our children that missions is a natural byproduct of our relationship with Christ. This begins by asking “How is our church communicating a vision for missions within our children’s ministry?”
“We have to move from thinking missions is an event to teaching our children that missions is a natural byproduct of our relationship with Christ.”
Maybe the question to ask is, “Is our church cultivating a culture of missions in families by praying, giving, sending, and going?” These four areas are a good standard for measuring how your church is educating and involving children and families in missions. Here are some ways you can involve your church’s children in missions.
- Prioritize teaching children about missions.
This is a church and home initiative. The church can equip parents and partner with them in this endeavor. Make it fun and exciting. There are plenty of good resources and curriculums available online, many of which are free.
- Provide exposure to modern-day missionaries, as well as historical missionaries.
You can bring the nations to your children’s ministry through communication with Christian refugees or missionaries who are stateside. Have international meals together. Invite mission teams to visit your children, and host a prayer commissioning before these teams go. Ask them to give testimonies and pictures when they return. Give the children in your church opportunities to connect with missionary kids overseas so they can see how other kids are participating in God’s mission around the world.
- Help children embrace the biblical truth that all people matter to God and all peoples need God.
This begins with Scripture. We need to show kids that the reason why missions matters is because people matter to Jesus, as seen in his Word. The most productive way to teach this truth is with Scripture passages, such as Matthew 28:19–20, Acts 1:8, Romans 10:13–15, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and John 3:16.
- Teach kids to love, serve, and give.
The best way to teach them is by example. We can take kids and families on local mission journeys. We can work with our church’s missions ministries to plan family mission trips and send parents and children together. Give kids an opportunity to give financially to a missions offering.
Let’s make missions a priority in our children’s ministries. Help the children in your church learn that they are part of the church and can participate in its mission. Teach them that missions is part of their identity as a follower of Christ. Encourage them to obey the Great Commission however they are able.
Taylor Johnson is the children’s minister at The Church at Station Hill in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He’s married to Jenai, and they have two children, Graham and Molly-Anne. In 2016, Taylor and his family relocated back to Tennessee from Cape Town, South Africa, where they served as missionaries of Brentwood Baptist Church.