My parents were Missionaries for a time and while they were stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, I found out what it meant to have family literally on the other side of the world. Not just across the country, but across the planet. At the time, I was living in Sacramento, CA and if you pulled out a globe and put one finger on my city and one finger where my parents were, they were almost exactly opposite sides of the world. Until then, though I had always liked learning about missions and was proud of our mission programs, I didn't really understand what it might be like for those on the mission field who were so far away from their loved ones. I decided that we would make Mission Education a much bigger part of the Children's Department than it had been up to that point. Here are a few of the things I have done to help our Mission Lessons have a more memorable impact.
1) Adopt a Missionary Family
In our denomination, each church is given the name of one or two Missionaries that they can connect with on a regular basis. Because I went to college with a few people who became Missionaries and also through my parents, I have the honor of knowing some of our Missionaries personally. Because I do, it makes news about the things happening in their areas of the world stand out and makes me more connected with what they are doing. I want our kids to have that connection too. So, every once in a while, we will adopt a missionary family and the kids send them letters or packages, we Skype during a service (when the time difference allows) and they love getting to know the people who are living in another country. You can even connect via your Children's Ministry Facebook or Twitter feeds too. We try to stay in regular contact for at least a year. It's a great way to make missions come alive in a very real way.
2) Mission Stations
I am a huge fan of using hand-on activities to connect the kids with a particular lesson. Several years ago, I created some stations for my department that specifically taught about different sorts of missionaries. Each station had an activity that taught the basics of what that type of missionary would be doing. For example, at the medical missions station the kids played "Operation." At the station for translators the kids had to decipher coded messages. (I realize that is not exactly translating, but it got the point across.) The Work and Witness station (These are short term mission trips where those on the trip tend to build or do repairs on buildings), the kids built a picture frame in the shape of a house using popsicle sticks or they painted a sun catcher. There were about 9 stations total, but you could do as many or as few as you like.
3) Mission Lessons and Prayer Stations
Several years ago I wrote a series called "Mission Possible" where each week we would look at a specific country and learn about the mission work and Missionaries in that country as well as what it would be like to live in that country. I included a game popular with the children from that part of the world as well. At the end of each lesson, the kids rotated through simply prayer stations meant to remind them of the things we had talked about and help them pray for each area we mentioned. It was a lot of fun and the kids really enjoyed learning about each country and how God was moving in those places.
I hope you find these ideas helpful. If you've done a mission's lesson or program that your kids loved, I'd enjoy hearing about it, so please feel free to leave me a comment telling me all about it.
Until next week!