This article was written by Judy Shaddox, Ministry Assistant to the Church Health Team at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Thoughts often expressed these days range from “we are navigating through this the best way we can for now” to “let’s just get through 2020”. That may describe a bit of your current reality as people, families, schools, businesses, and churches.
Yet our people trust God who has been with the church in challenging times before and they continue to move forward with sensitivity and caution during the existence of a dangerous virus. It is amazing and impressive to see the way churches have risen to the occasion and continued worshiping God as well as reaching out in ways that are unique, creative, and sometimes technologically tricky.
While Sunday School and other activities may be curtailed for a stretch, this could be a good time for your church to look ahead and ask God for a fresh vision for your children.
With more than 3,600 International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries and thousands of North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries currently on the field, consider children’s missions discipleship. I was a second-grader in my Girls Auxiliary (now Girls in Action) class at First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Illinois when I came to understand that the New Testament Jesus I learned about in Sunday School died for us and that millions of people around the world did not know about Him at all. I marveled at the missionaries and their families who traveled far away to tell those people about his love for them. And every Sunday afternoon in that little room with the teacher, a story, a map, and a Bible, I learned, in my seven-year-old way, to pray for the safety and health of the missionaries, and for the people they befriended to accept the good news and trust Jesus.
Why children’s missions discipleship? Childhood is a perfect window of time for boys and girls to discover they have an active part to play in God’s plan for their lives and for the world. The three groups – Girls in Action, Royal Ambassadors for boys, or Children in Action for coed groups – are designed for boys and girls in grades one to six to come to faith in Christ as their Savior and to make missions a part of their daily lives. The pledges they recite weekly, which vary a bit in each group, encourage them to live a missions lifestyle that honors God by:
– learning about missions
– praying for missions
– giving to missions
– doing missions
– participating in the work of the church
The 2020-2021 theme is “Unstoppable.” The children learn how they can rely on God’s power to overcome anything as they hear stories from the Bible and from missionaries. The theme is taken from Hebrews 10:39. “But we don’t belong to the people who pull back and are destroyed. We belong to the people who believe and are saved.” Ultimately, they find that God equips them to be everyday heroes in sharing God’s love. Kids “travel” to various places around the world, including our own continent and even locally, where missionaries are at work in unique and creative ways in order to share the gospel. They do projects and fun activities that enhance what they are learning. Any given week, kids may be creating and/or eating a cultural recipe, playing a nation’s traditional children’s game or sport, or learning new words or songs in the language of that area of the world. And always, they pray.
A love of missionaries and missions can start even earlier through Mission Friends for preschoolers. These are all ministries through the national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).
It is not too late to promote giving to the Lottie Moon Missions Offering. Remind kids who Lottie Moon was and how our giving impacts a lost world. Pray often in church for our missionaries where young ears catch the passion for the lost and care of our workers who are serving the Lord on the field.
Are your programs on pause right now? It is okay. Bridge the gap by including the children and their families in ways your church is ministering locally to medical personnel or teachers during the pandemic. Let them help, pray, write notes, etc. so they feel like an important outreach arm of their community of believers and realize that they too are missionaries. Maybe you have other ongoing ministries in which they can take part. Prayer, giving, and doing missions unites them with their church and families in support of God’s mission. What a grand opportunity for the church to help them develop a spiritual foundation for the rest of their lives – one that includes a love for their neighbor and a desire to share the good news of Jesus!