Raising Up Global Kids
How can parents and pastors help kids develop hearts that want to live and share the gospel across cultures? My wife Lore and I have tried to do this as we raise our four children. Many of the ideas I share below are responses from my children to this very question. I’ve also added other suggestions based on my experience as a children’s pastor, church leader, and cross-cultural traveler.
Model and Celebrate Values That Support Cross-Cultural Outreach
Values give rise to consistent actions. As parents and those who have influence in the lives of children, it’s important that we model appropriate values and facilitate experiences that help children embrace these values. Global kids need to have values like compassion, curiosity, adventure, humility, patience, and self-sacrifice. When children embrace and grow these kinds of values, they are much more likely to:
- Build bridges with people from other cultures anywhere
- Lovingly share the gospel with them
- Be willing to go wherever God leads them (whether it’s across the street or around the world)
Immerse Them in Scripture
The entire Bible is a story of God’s redemptive heart for people. We cannot engage in Scripture without acquiring something of God’s heart for the nations. With our younger children, we have typically read Bible stories to them every day from Bible story books like the Beginner’s Bible. With our youngest, who is currently five, we are using Your Every Day Read and Pray Bible for Kids and The Jesus Storybook Bible (this one in particular carefully connects every story with the gospel message).
Pray Scripture Over Them
Several years ago, someone gave me a bookmark that contained 30 Scriptural prayers to pray over children. Almost every night, usually after the kids are in bed, I pray Scripture over my children. I’d like to do that for the children in your life right now.
Father, I pray for the children in the lives of every person who reads this blog. Help them to love you with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. Help them to love their neighbour even as they love themselves. Father, help them to make disciples of all the nations. Help them to be like Isaiah who responded to your call on his life by saying, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” Increase their faith in you. Help them to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
I believe that God delights in answering prayers based on His Word.
Expose Kids to Inspiring Christian Biographies
About five years ago, we read a book to our children called, Kisses from Katie. It’s the story of a young college student who went to Uganda on a short-term trip. She was so impacted by what she saw that she returned to Uganda to start a ministry, Amazima, that helps needy children and their families. In the process, she adopted 14 Ugandan children and continues to live with them and her husband in Uganda.
All of us were impacted by Katie’s story as we read it. Yet, God seemed to place a special burden for orphans on our youngest daughter’s heart. Who knows how God will use that growing passion in the years ahead.
We have read many biographies to our kids. One of our favorite series is Christian Heroes: Then and Now, which is available in both print and audio through YWAM Publishing (you can get some of the books through Amazon as well). We are currently reading the book on David Livingstone to our five-year-old. These kinds of biographies show how God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people who trust Him.
Water the Seeds of Cross-Cultural Interest
Children will sometimes express interests that can be nurtured into global values and practices. For example, our oldest daughter caught a vision for the persecuted church in North Korea and other places. To expand her understanding of the persecuted church, we ordered a subscription to Voice of Martyrs magazine, which she eagerly read for a couple years. Now, it’s a little scary for her mother and me to think about the outcome of this kind of growing interest. Yet, we know that it’s more important that our children follow God’s leading, no matter where it may take them.
Facilitate and Encourage Cross-Cultural Experiences
We live in a community where we don’t have to go far to engage in cross-cultural ministry. Lore and I encourage and support the development of cross-cultural friendships at school and other places. As a family, we adopted a Karen family from Myanmar that our church had sponsored. We spent a lot of time helping them settle into life in Canada.
A couple years ago, we heard about an opportunity to help refugees through a ministry called New Hope. We ended up moving into their newly acquired apartment building to live with refugees and help them adjust to life in Canada in the name of Jesus (for more on this adventure, check out Do Something).
We also have encouraged our kids to participate in cross-cultural mission trips, whether it was going to Mexico with our church youth group or participating in a service project to Nicaragua through their public high school. In addition, I’ve taken my daughters with me to India with STEP International. We also moved to Thailand for nine months and served with Power to Change. Even though our Thailand experience occurred eight years ago, our family still regularly talks about that experience.
Of course, in our multicultural society, the nations have come to our doorstep. For many of us, cross-cultural ministry could happen anytime.
Raise Money for Worthy Causes
Jesus told us that what we treasure works its way into our hearts (Matthew 6:21). When we give money to worthy causes, we are much more likely to own those causes.
One day at school, our kids heard about child soldiers, so we raised money to help them (we typically put a labelled container in a prominent place, so we and our guests are encouraged to contribute). My oldest daughter was deeply moved by the images of Syrian refugees a few years ago, so we raised money to help them (by they way, this was instrumental in growing our heart for refugees so that we were ready to live in community with them). We have regularly put together gift shoeboxes through Compassion’s Operation Christmas Child program. After hearing about the Dalit in India during a Missions Fest Conference, we decided to raise money to help them. Not only does collecting money for a worthy cause raise awareness, it helps us feel like we are making a positive difference.
Sponsor Children in Other Countries
Organizations like Compassion and World Vision have child sponsorship programs. Over the years, we have supported several children through Compassion. We try to pray for them every night during our family prayer times and send them letters. It’s one more way to help us grow our heart for people around the world.
Build on Church Missions Emphases
Churches can do many things to help raise up global kids. If you’re a children’s ministry worker, your class or group can adopt a missionary. You can have both long-term and short-term missionaries share their experiences with your class. You can adopt an unreached people group or country and regularly pray for it. You can talk about world news events and then pray for the people involved. When a missionary is speaking in your main service, I would encourage church leaders to make sure that the older kids are in the service to hear the stories. If you are part of a multicultural church, reading the Scripture in multiple languages or having cultural events can also help children appreciate other cultures. Of course, you can adapt many of the other ideas in this blog to build global awareness in your class.
There are many other ways that we can raise up global kids. Here are several more ideas:
- Pray for and support missionaries
- Go to missions events (e.g. missions conferences, missions fund-raisers)
- Pray for countries around the world using Operation World or other resources (my oldest son and I prayed through the entire Operation World book one year)
- Display global reminders around the home (e.g. we have a world map underneath a plastic table cloth on our kitchen table)
- Build global awareness (e.g. expose kids to what’s happening in the world, provide resources for learning the geography and history of other countries)
- Stock your house with missions magazines and newsletters
- Participate in a homestay program
- Host a missionary in your home
- Travel (physically and/or virtually)
- Encourage kids to do a cross-cultural gap year after high school
- Adopt an unreached people group
- Take the Perspectives Course
- Pray for Muslims during Ramadan (excellent prayer guides are available through World Christian Prayer)
- Hand out Jesus videos to new immigrants in their language
- Have your children learn another language
- Go to cultural events in your community
These are the kinds of things that help children care for people from other cultures and to be willing to lovingly share the gospel with them.
What are some ways that you have found helpful for raising up global kids? I would love to hear your ideas!
Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at MB Seminary. This article is based on a workshop he developed and delivered at Missions Fest Vancouver in 2018. You can contact him to inquire how this training can be customized to fit your context.