The Freedom to Go—Raising the Next Generation of SBC’ers:
Being a dad is a blast! My wife and I recently celebrated the birth of our second child, a little boy named Campbell Schafers Quinn (“Camp”). It is a tremendous privilege to be entrusted with children and bear the responsibility for their rearing, challenging though it may be.
Our desire is to raise kids who will strive to be Great Commission Christians. Far be it from me as a young dad with limited experience to offer parenting suggestions, but do allow me to offer a few thoughts about raising the next generation of SBC’ers as Great Commission Christians. Much could be said about how to do this, but I want to zero in on one thing.
We must raise our children to not only love missions and the Great Commission, but also teach them—even encourage them—that they have the freedom to go.
Could it be that the previous generation of SBC parents raised their children to love missions and the Great Commission, and perhaps even encouraged them to take short-term mission trips, but did not assure them of their support if God called them to leave the comforts of home and serve Jesus overseas or in another state? I fear that too many parents have shamed their children who started college as engineering, pre-med, or pre-law majors, but changed to Christian studies with plans of a career in full-time ministry/missions. My intent here is not to throw stones at my parents’ generation. No one loves their parents and is more grateful for them than am I, but I believe there are some adjustments that my generation can make as we raise our own kids.
So, what do we do? A few thoughts:
Ask God to begin preparing you to say “goodbye” to your children.
Putting my precious, two yr old carrot-top to bed each night is often accompanied with misty eyes as I imagine not only saying goodbye, but perhaps of one day learning that my little girl has lost her life because of the Gospel. Of course, I don’t know if Emma Claire or Camp (and perhaps more in the future) will decide to serve Christ overseas or even in vocational ministry, but should they choose to give their life for the glorious cause of Christ in a country not their own, I want nothing more than for them to have confidence that Daddy is proud of their decision. I mustn’t make them feel guilty for leaving home, and they should know that Mom and Dad believe with them that the cause of Christ is worth it.
Instill a love for missions and the Great Commission accompanied with both a desire to give and go.
Countless young missionaries grimace when asked how their parents responded to their decision to serve overseas. Many tell similar stories that their parents raised them with a love for Christ and the importance of missions, and even encouraged them to give, but not to go. Short-term trips, no harm done; but the call for long-term or career missions for many parents is just “taking things too far.” Let us instill a love for the Great Commission that is accompanied with the desire to give and the freedom to go should God call.
Teach your children that God is a missionary God.
That our God is on a mission to get His Gospel to the nations, and that He has given us as believers the ministry of reconciliation and tasked us as the bearers of this Good News is more than enough reason for us to at least consider how He might use us in other parts of the world. Our children must understand the brevity and burden of our calling—one that calls us to die to ourselves and serve Christ. As a professor/friend recently told me, when we become Christians “we don’t bring Jesus into our world, He brings us into His.” We are not to continue on with our “mission,” whatever it may be, and attempt to Christianize it as best we can. Rather, we have the privilege of joining God in His mission to make all things new. Our children need to understand this. We must not merely tell them, but must convince them with our lives that we believe this.
A few other practical ideas to help instill Great Commission-mindedness in our children:
Take them on mission trips. Let them see that you recognize the need for the nations to hear the Gospel and want to be a part.
Teach your kids about great missionaries of the past. Read the biographies of Jim Elliot, Lottie Moon, William Carey and others with your family and perhaps their childhood heroes will be great men and women of God rather than fictitious super heroes or celebrities and sports figures. A great place to start is with Dr. Danny Akin’s 5 Who Changed the World.
Pray for church planters and missionaries with your family. Consistently keep those serving Christ around the world on your kid’s minds and help them see that God is working not just in your community, but all over the world.
Talk about church history with your family. I’m not a “church history” buff, per se, with some agenda for my area of study. But, I do think it’s important for Christians to understand how Christ’s church exploded in the book of Acts, has triumphed and grown in the face of persecution throughout history, and continues to thrive today all over the globe. Additionally, a working knowledge of the history of the Church helps us to learn from her mistakes and recognize “new” (i.e. dangerous) ideas/doctrines when they circulate around again.