Meaningful Ministry for Missions… From Kids
By Lindsey Akers
“I pray for our missionaries, that they know it’s not about having fun.” These are the words whispered in prayer by a nine-year-old in my church sitting in his living room the evening after the World Missions Offering. We had a big celebration and focus on missions that morning at church, and we were over at a friend’s house for some fellowship. Our two families usually try to make a practice praying together as we end the evening, and their son volunteered to pray that night. Though his words were maybe not spoken most eloquently, my heart burst with pride knowing he not only had missions on his heart but that he also knew the life of missions is not easy! I think at times we can forget that children, while still developing in their relationship with Christ, can still minister to the hearts of missionaries and have a vital role to play in our churches’ ministries.
As a teacher by trade, my goal is to empower my students at whatever age, to be as independent as possible. I also feel this in my ministry with our elementary students at church. We cannot overlook them thinking that they are too young or not ready to serve whenever it is our job to guide them, mentor them, and empower them to serve and minister on their own.
Obviously, good ministry must be modeled and coached, but there are four things we need to keep in mind in educating and exposing our students to missionaries and their work. First of all, it needs to be accessible. IM has made exposure to the work of our missionaries so easy to access for our younger students. The travel guide they have created is not only engaging but also super simple to follow and gives great information about our missionaries and where they are serving.
It also needs to be tangible. Students need to be able to see their missionaries’ pictures, hold their prayer cards, look at a map or a globe and see where they live and how far it is from where they are. They need to hold a small toy car and pray that our missionaries have safe travel. They need fake money to grasp while praying that our missionaries have sufficient funds to do what God has called them to. They need Band-Aids to hold to pray for good health and cut-out hearts to clutch as they ask God to soften the hearts of the people these missionaries are ministering to. These small tangible items can help make the work of the missionaries relatable to our students and hopefully may even trigger them to pray for our missionaries the next time they reach for a Band-Aid for a skinned knee.
Something else to incorporate in a consistent routine. In an effort to make prayer palpable and familiar for our students, I researched prayer stations, such as the interaction with the items mentioned above. These stations were created to help guide our students on how to talk to God about their own personal needs, but also to help them think of others. We now use these prayer stations routinely and each Sunday different missionaries are pulled from the bucket to be prayed for. Their place of service is located on a map or globe and a simple prayer is prayed over them as they serve across the world. This constant exposure to the missionaries and their needs helps keep them at the forefront of students’ minds as well as guide them in how to pray for them regularly and consistently.
All of the above would not be possible if our efforts to connect our students to our missionaries is not intentional. We must be deliberate if we want our students to connect with what God is doing around the world. When missionaries come to visit your church, invite them into your kids’ classes. We recently had the Penn family visit for our Global Outreach Day, where we have a huge event to auction off pumpkins. The money goes for our Missouri state missionaries, our youth group missions trip, and other missionary works around the world. Our children collectively auctioned off a pumpkin they had decorated for the event. That morning we invited the Penns to come into our kids’ class for a short Q&A time and to explain their work. It was a special time and some students even recognized the family from our prayer cards. The students asked questions about their work and were able to get a sneak peek into the life of a missionary. At the end, I asked if any of the children wanted to pray for the Penn family. One first grade girl raised her hand and prayed the sweetest prayer over them before they left to rejoin the service. She asked God to allow them to “…Go and do what God wanted them to do.” Isn’t that what we want for all of God’s children?
These things are not revolutionary. Ecclesiastes tells us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) However, these simple acts can work on the hearts of our young students to, “in humility count others more significant than [them]selves,” (Philippians 2:3) and maybe even grow up and “see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35) Until then, we can teach our children to “pray at all times in the Spirit…making supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)