As usual in a home with four kids ages 11 to 18, it’s busy all the time in the Ebert household. Sometimes it’s like a ride down a racing river—you just strap on the helmet and life jacket, paddle the best you can, let the rapids carry you and try not to get thrown from the raft!
Families are busier than ever these days and that makes parenting an even greater challenge—especially if you want to help your children focus on God’s plan for their lives and how He wants to use them to impact others. Raising a child to be on mission for Christ isn’t about doing just one or two key things. It’s about fostering a lifestyle in your home where on mission conversations and activities are a normal part of what you do.
My wife, Linda, and I have learned that a big part of this process is giving your children the chance to participate in mission projects. There is something about the spiritual “stretch” they get from God when they head out to a place they don’t know to interact with people they’ve never met and talk to them about Christ.
Our oldest daughter Brianna, participated in her third World Changers project last summer. Refurbishing substandard housing is hard work, but Bri is always ready to go back the next year because of how much she enjoys it and what she gets out of it. She had several opportunities to share Christ, but also told us she felt some strong nudging from God that she needs to become more focused on sharing Christ with her classmates at school and with other people God has placed close by. During Spring Break this year Bri went to Honduras with our church doing evangelism, VBS, and outreach to orphanages.
Last summer was our son Justin’s first World Changers project. He came back saying God taught him two years’ worth of lessons in just that one week. In addition to working on rooftops and sharing Christ with homeowners, Justin led devotions for his crew during the day and for his youth group one evening. It was a big stretch for him, but I have no doubt that was part of why Justin got so much out of the week.
Brandon, our oldest son, spent three weeks in Uganda on a mission trip. Not only was he talking to people about Christ every day, but he experienced a completely different culture and gained a whole new perspective on the kind of economic conditions a big part of the people in our world endure day in and day out. He also appreciates simple things like reliable running water and electricity a whole lot more! This summer, Brandon will be serving at a Christian camp in Sweden where he will lead skateboard clinics and small group Bible studies.
Even though she hasn’t been on a mission trip yet, our youngest daughter Jessica loves filling shoeboxes with gifts and sending them off with a gospel story to needy children overseas. She can’t wait to go on her first mission project.
Don’t let your kids miss out on these experiences. (If finances are a concern, start planning right now so you and your child can raise money in advance to cover the trip.) God will use a mission trip to shape your child’s spiritual life for years to come. He will also use it to teach you some things you might not otherwise have discovered about your children’s interests and where God might ultimately be leading them in the future.
This has been a guest post by Mike Ebert. Mike is Vice President of Communications at the North American Mission Board.