How can we help our kids view themselves as part of the global church? I had an interesting conversation in a restaurant with someone who was visiting the United States from Argentina. He was eager to interview Americans and test the stereotype that Americans are loud and opinionated but uninformed about the rest of the world, thinking they don’t need to travel and learn from anyone else. Having interviewed a few hundred people before me, he had determined that not having enough vacation time to travel contributed to the problem, but the stereotype of a superior and uncurious attitude about the rest of the world was bearing out from his conversations. I told him I had traveled in my early 20s, my young adult children have been outside our country, we had a significant emphasis on geography in our homeschool, and had befriended and followed some people who live in other countries. Apparently my family was outside the norm for him.
It’s interesting to learn about other cultures, but world evangelism needs to be our main motivation—concern about the millions who don’t have the opportunity to know what Jesus has done for them. But without being intentional, we can neglect helping our children and teens to view themselves as part of the global church.
So, I’ve been thinking about this, what can we do to be intentional?
First, I think we should start with accurate information. It’s easy to think, “well there’s us, we’re the church, and then there’s everybody else that’s also part.” Actually, three-fourths of believers live outside of North America and Europe. That means three-fourths of believers have a far different culture than Americans and Europeans. We can tell our kids, “We are just a teeny tiny part of God’s big, worldwide church.”
Second, don’t slip into a superior tone. Avoid world maps that place your country in the center, visually reinforcing that everything revolves around “us”. Identify positive factors in other countries and that we are privileged, and humbled, to be their brothers and sisters in Christ. For instance, Korean and African brothers and sisters are known for their dedication to prayer. Chinese and Middle Eastern believers are known for their courage because they can lose their jobs, homes and family for believing in Jesus. Many believers in other countries are known for loving to gather and worship so much that their church services go much longer than ours. Many sacrifice dearly to own a Bible. We can learn much from worldwide believers’ great love for Jesus.
Third, talk about how, when Christians travel, we can meet believers in other countries and right away have a special connection with them. Because we share the most important thing in their lives and our lives, belief in Jesus, that connection is stronger than with people in our own culture.
Fourth, tell how the church of Jesus is growing in other countries and how children witness. You can get many stories and photos about children in other countries by subscribing to Impact Magazine, by Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Fifth, when talking with kids about what’s happening in missions, use the word “partnership” frequently. Describe how we can assist others who are doing the work and thus be a partner to them. Then, move into the responsibility God has given this particular group of children that you are teaching. For starters, they can pray, using the knowledge they are privileged to have. God has given them material blessings to share, and given them abilities to perform special projects for world missions.
Through CEF, your family or Sunday School class can choose a country to support a national believer who holds Good News Clubs in schools. You can send a box of Bible lesson visuals so a teacher can put them in his or her backpack and ride their bicycle or motorbike from school to school teaching the children, or even from group to group in a refugee camp. It’s truly amazing how many children these dedicated believers teach every week!
It’s really fun to help children experience the excitement of being part of God’s world-wide church!