One of the most important directives of the Bible is Mark 16:15, which says, “[Jesus] said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'” How do we know it's one of the most important? Because these are Jesus' parting words to His disciples. He was leaving the earth for heaven, but He wanted the work to continue. Jesus has a heart for missions, and He wants us—and our children—to have the same.
I'm a mom of ten children, ages six to twenty-seven. Having a heart for missions has always been important to me, and it's something I've aspired to grow within my children. My oldest daughter has wanted to be a missionary since she was nine years old. She's currently twenty-four years old, and she's been living and serving as a missionary in the Czech Republic for the last four years. I asked Leslie to share ideas for how parents can raise kids with a heart for missions. Her ideas all focused on the parents' hearts first.
1. Have a Heart for Missions Yourself. “The most important thing is for the parents themselves to cultivate a passion for missions,” says Leslie. “When the children see their parents' heart for the lost of the world, they will have it, too.”
2. Educate Yourself. Leslie recommends parents inform themselves about mission work throughout the world. Consider taking a course such as Perspectives to learn about the state of missions and opportunities in the world today. “Perspectives is one of the best tools for exploring God's heart for the world. Whether someone wants to go, send, pray, mobilize, or welcome, it helps God's followers recognize the needs of the world and the commission we share.”
3. Read. Read biographies of famous missionaries and articles from organizations such as The Traveling Team. Subscribe to prayer email updates from Open Doors. Leslie also recommends Simple Obsession by Jamie Zumwalt and Passion for the Heart of God by John Zumwalt.
4. Pray. Don't just learn about missions; pray for missionaries. Also pray for persecuted Christians and unreached people groups worldwide. One great book to use is Pray for the World.
5. Connect. “Step out and build relationships with internationals in your community,” says Leslie. “Whether immigrants, refugees, or international students, open your hearts and your home. Let your kids get to know their kids and learn about their countries and cultures.
“Looking back on my childhood, we had sponsor children, and I remember praying for missionaries and reading biographies. We met internationals in our community. In college I met some Rwandan students and many of their International friends. My vision and heart for God's peoples grew.”
6. Memorize. Memorize verses about missions, such as Romans 10:13–14, which says, “'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Also, read quotes from missionaries.
7. Pass it On. After educating yourself, reading, praying, connecting, and memorizing, encourage your children to do the same. With my seven children still at home we sponsor two children, read biography stories, and memorize Scriptures together. Raising children who have hearts for missions will not only impact them today but also in the future. Who knows? Maybe it'll be your children—and my children—in the future who will forever impact the world for God's glory.