4 Ways Missionary Parents Can Use Everyday Moments to Disciple Their Kids

by Alicia Bennett

In today’s demands of ministry, missionary parents often feel overwhelmed by the challenges of discipling their own children, especially when living outside their country of origin. Many fear they aren’t doing “enough” to spiritually influence their children with the demands of ministry to the lost. It can be easy to assume that your children are “getting it” just because you serve as a family overseas. But that simply isn’t the case. Discipleship is something that can be taught as well as “caught,” and it is very important that you do both with intentionality.

Whether you serve overseas in direct evangelism or in some sort of support role, these tips are for you. The key to effective discipleship lies in using everyday moments in your family life, as well as leveraging worldwide and current local events to point the next generation to Christ.

1. Embrace Everyday Moments

Everyday activities offer abundant opportunities for discipleship. Whether it’s during meals, car rides, or bedtime routines (see Deut. 6:7-9), all parents can use these moments to instill biblical values in their children. For example, while preparing dinner, parents can discuss the importance of gratitude and thank God for the food, appreciating the different ethnic food or being thankful for what is available.

During car (or motorbike rides!), they can talk about God’s creation and the beauty of nature they see around them while praying for safety as they travel. When challenges arise from living in a foreign country, you can talk about how to have a godly response, giving practical real-life examples as you navigate these experiences together.

Events, both ordinary and extraordinary, can be powerful teaching tools. Use them to highlight God’s presence in all circumstances. For example, if your child experiences a disappointment, discuss how to trust God and seek His comfort. When your child is confused about why people in the country where they live do things differently than what their family or culture of origin does, explain the differences in worldview and share what Scripture says about the topic.

At athletic or artistic events, talk about perseverance, dedication, and using our talents for God’s glory. When your children face conflicts with friends from the culture or their own siblings, discuss what Jesus would do. Use birthdays and anniversaries to reflect on God’s blessings and faithfulness to your family, especially in a foreign land.

To make the most of everyday moments, consider these practical tips:

  • Model faith in daily life: Let your children see your faith in action. Pray openly, read the Bible together, and discuss how God is working in your own life and the lives of those you are ministering to. Bring your children around to age-appropriate ministry opportunities and let them serve alongside you.
  • Create a routine: Establish regular times for family devotions and prayer. Consistency helps children understand that you serve Him out of a thankful heart and not just in obedience.
  • Incorporate faith into everyday language: Use playtime to teach biblical lessons. Bring Scripture into challenging moments and discipline. Discuss differences in worldviews as you go about your day overseas.
  • If you’re not sure where to begin: Create a list of daily family activities or ministry activities where you can naturally incorporate faith-based conversations. Plan specific topics or questions to discuss during these times.

2. Leverage Current Events

World events such as the war in Ukraine, a tsunami in Japan, or global events like the Olympic Games provide unique opportunities to teach children about different places, peoples, faiths, and cultures than even the foreign land you are living in. Living abroad, you are in a unique position to contrast what you know and believe with what your children see around them, giving them the opportunity to put their biblical worldview into practical use.

Whether you choose to talk about these specific events or other more local events in your area, you are informing their worldview. A worldview is the lens through which we interpret life and the events that happen around us. It is our job as Christian parents to give our children a biblical worldview, a biblical foundation on which they will live the rest of their lives. When we choose to talk about world events through a biblical lens, it will:

  • Inspire and feed their faith in a living God.
  • Create hearts of compassion and encourage them that their prayers are important.
  • Provide them with tangible ways to get involved with God where they are at.
  • Enlarge their worldview to trust God when they see how others go through trials.

You can use events like these to discuss biblical themes such as perseverance, trust in God, and honoring God in our choices even when the culture around us does differently. The Olympics, for example, can be a great starting point for conversations about how athletes use their gifts and how we can use ours to glorify God.

Children are naturally curious and will have many questions about faith and the world around them, especially when they grow up in a culture that is different than their own. Encourage open dialogue, allowing them to express their thoughts and doubts. This fosters a deeper understanding and personal connection to their own faith, giving them a solid foundation as they grow up.

3. Address Difficult Events with Sensitivity

Living in a foreign country can present additional challenges when addressing difficult events. Whether it’s natural disasters or local conflicts, it’s crucial to be honest yet sensitive to your children’s age and emotional maturity. When a difficult event occurs, take time to pray and reflect on how to discuss it with your children. Use it as an opportunity to teach them about God’s love and care for all people.

Some strategies to consider:

  • Prepare emotionally: Ensure you’re emotionally ready to guide your children through these discussions. Process your feelings first so you can provide a calm and biblical perspective.
  • Use age-appropriate language: Simplify complex issues using terms your children understand. For younger children, describe conflicts in terms of “bad guys” and “good guys” without going into graphic details.
  • Be aware of cultural differences: Understand how local culture might influence your children’s perspectives and filter the issue through what the Bible says first, not just cultural norms.
  • Focus on prayer and compassion: Encourage your children to pray for those affected and to have compassionate hearts. Explain how prayer can make a difference and show empathy. Turn your hearts to God and His ways.

4. Integrate Lessons from the Bible

Scripture should be the foundation of all discipleship efforts. Relate everyday family and ministry experiences to biblical stories and principles. Don’t worry about knowing the “address” for each reference you make! In fact, make it a habit to look them up and then write them down and post commonly used scripture around your home so you and your kids will learn the Bible together.

Another option is to choose a few key Bible verses that align with the themes you want to discuss with your children. Post them up around your home and refer to them during relevant everyday moments.

Discipling your children using everyday moments and current events provides rich opportunities to instill a biblical worldview. Living overseas, your children have a ready-made opportunity to see the differences between people of different worldviews. By embracing everyday moments, addressing difficult events with sensitivity, and grounding your discussions in Scripture, you can effectively nurture your children’s faith. Remember, discipleship is a continuous journey (for you and for them), and every moment is a chance to point your children towards God.

For more insights and practical tips, consider grabbing your copy of Alicia’s Olympic Family Devotional to follow along during the 2024 Summer Olympics starting July 26th! This family devotional will equip you with the tools and confidence to show you how to make the most of every opportunity to disciple your children. Order your copy here.

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Alicia Bennett grew up living and traveling overseas from a very young age, but it wasn’t until college that God captured her heart for unreached peoples. After majoring in East Asian studies, she worked with an international mission agency until she and her husband started a family. Today, Alicia and her husband live in Colorado and raise their four growing boys. She serves in both children’s and mission capacities at her local church and writes for various ministries. You can find her online at MobilizerMom.com and Instagram, where she seeks to equip other parents to raise the next generation of Daniels and Esthers.

 

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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