When God first called my parents to being church leaders and then missionaries, a big question in their mind was how to raise kids in the context of being church leaders. The stories of children that had grown to hate ministry after being raised by church leaders were some of the first that came to mind as a recently married couple called to go into ministry who wanted kids.
My parents wanted my sister and I to grow to love serving God and to love serving his body, the church, even if it wasn’t what we did full time. So the question became, “How can we raise our daughters in the context of our ministries in such a way that they will not grow to resent this life?”
One of the most important ways that my parents chose to tackle that question was by making sure my sister and I always felt included in our family and ministry decisions. My parents always saw my sister and I as integral parts of their ministry, knowing that we had valuable contributions to make. And yet at the same time they did not force my sister and I to get involved; they extended an invitation. My parents worked in the areas of pastoral training and youth leadership development while my sister and I were growing up. I remember very fondly as an 8-year-old helping my dad plan activities for the youth group with the other youth leaders. I also remember being part of the debriefing meetings where we talked about what had gone well and what we could improve next time.
When I was nine years old, the time came to finally go into the missions field. We took a family visit to Nicaragua to see if that was the place God was calling us to go. After the trip they asked my sister and I how we would feel about moving there to live and work with the people we had met, and we prayed about it as a family asking for God’s direction. My sister and I played an important part in deciding whether or not Nicaragua was where God was calling us to go, and when my sister and I very excitedly replied that we would love to move there, my parents took that as a confirmation from God that Nicaragua was our future home.
Once in Nicaragua, because my sister and I were bilingual, my parents encouraged us to help with translating for mission teams that would come from the U.S. to serve in Nicaragua. However, my sister and I did more than just translating and because my parents saw the huge potential that we had knowing two cultures, they also encouraged us to become bridge builders helping people navigate some of their first interactions with people from different cultures.
My parents did not shy away from talking to my sister and I about the hard aspects of their ministry, and also helped us process negative experiences we encountered being a missionary family. And when it came time to make tough decisions regarding our family and our ministry, my parents asked for my sister’s and I input.
The main reason I am currently a young person working full-time for the church is God’s grace and His perfect plans for my life. I also know that I owe a great deal to my parents and the ways they used those faith nurturing moments to help my sister and I begin to develop our ministry gifts. They ensured that their ministry never felt like an imposition upon us.
What about you and your church? How do you include children and their contributions to your church’s ministry? If you are a church leader, what advice do you have for helping your kids grow to love serving God and His body, the church?
Leave a comment below or tweet us at @crc_ffm. We would love for this to be a conversation starter that can help those wrestling with these questions.