It was not our intention to raise Missionaries.
In truth, we did not set intentional parenting goals. We were just happy to have babies! Instead, we had a vague framework of ideals within which we parented. They were not lofty ambitious but they have proved to be a solid foundation. First, we wanted our children to Know God, then, to Obey Him from a place of Love and, lastly, be Productive members of society. As is true in most situations, hindsight has brought awareness of things we could have done better - that’s where we find God’s grace and mercy. Yet, distance has also brought reassurance of seeing the things we did right.
When I look back at our early parenting years, I am so thankful that we decided to frame everything we did as parents within the context of the Word of God. This decision made knowing God personally a natural event. Prayerfully, we chose a few scriptures for the basis of all our family expectations. Their behavior, work habits, relationships - everything was taken to God’s word for comparison. As they grew older, turning to the Word of God became a natural practice. During tough times, I would ask them, “What does God say?” My young teenage son did not always like this, once complaining, “I hate it when you bring God into things because then I can’t argue with you.”
I think that was a parenting win.
Secondly, I am glad we taught our children obedience through service. From local soup kitchens to foreign refuge camps, we served beside our children. Most importantly, we served beside our kids in the local church. Service was a natural act for our family. We volunteered in Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, garage sales, yard clean ups and social gatherings - Together. This service extended into our home where we have hosted meals, bible studies and student gatherings. We wanted to teach them that everything we have belongs to God and we should use it to serve others. This servanthood requires obedience. To go where it was scary. To talk to others who didn’t look like us. To hug the smelly. To treat everyone with the respect due a child of God. To give when we’d rather keep. To do tough things.
Our goal seemed like an unlikely standard. Being a Productive Member of Society sounds very foreign to most Christians. Perhaps if we substituted the word ‘Community’ for ‘Society’, it would be more engaging. Yet “community” is too small. Our Society carries the same connotations as the word “neighbor” when God commands us to “Love our Neighbor as ourselves,” Matthew 22:39. Our Community Neighborhood is our world at large and it must be engaged in an intentional manner. Where we live and work. How we spend our money and where we shop. It’s speaking Truth with Love. It’s serving the disenfranchised and the broken but it’s also serving the affluent and those who hide their brokenness. We are all God’s children and in need of a Savior.
It was told to me as a child, “You are either a Missionary or a Mission Field - you chose.” This statement became the launching pad for raising our son and daughter. They had to chose Christ for themselves. And they had to decide to obey the Great Commission for themselves as well. We use this same mantra as we disciple University Choice - You Must Choose.
Christians seem to believe that Matthew 28:19 is optional. Jesus said, “Go into all the World and make Disciples.” The entire world. Their home nation and foreign nations. Neighbors near and neighbors in nearby countries. We love verse 20 in which Christ promises to be with us always, but we fail to fulfill the first conditioning of Go and Disciple. They go together.
It has been an honor to watch both our son and our daughter serve in local organizations as well as seeing them serve internationally on short-term missions. More importantly, every day when they leave their homes, they choose to use their skills and talents to be Christ’s Ambassadors in their place of work - their personal Mission Field. When they are in their homes, they are Servant Missionaries to their spouses and family members as well as those that enter their house.
God’s Word, Serving Others and Engaging our World - these are areas in which I see where God has led us as parents in order to develop our children as servants. I continue to ask God for verses for my husband and I as we serve together. And I continue to pray God’s Word over my daughter and my son and his wife as well.
We are a Missionary Family. Serving Together. We count this as success of the highest order. Not our success but God’s alone - we were just His willing Ambassadors. This is the true parenting win - 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth.”
Challenge: Ask the Father for 5 verses for your family. Don’t be shy! Then prayerfully ask, How can I apply these verses to my parenting?