“My job as a parent is not only to teach my children these are the things you’re supposed to do, but teach my children that they’re supposed to be a part of God’s mission as well.”—Paul Tripp
Mission is the duty of every Christian believer, young and old. We are all called to be
missional Christians who share the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness with the world. So what does it mean to be missional? Ed Stetzer wrote, “Being Missional means actually doing mission right where you are. Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound.”1
Not only are we called to be missional as individuals, but also as families. God never intended for us to do mission alone. Every family can be missional together. Your family can be missional; the key is to teach mission to your children and then be intentional about creating opportunities to be missional together. This chapter will explore what it means to be a missional family and will offer some ideas and suggestions to help you live out God’s mission in your family.
Mission Begins with Jesus
Being missional doesn’t begin with us, it begins with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the first and greatest missionary. The Bible tells us that He came from heaven to earth to die for a lost and dying world. As the Father sent Jesus, He also sends us into our time and culture. We have been chosen by God to live in this time and place in order to fulfill the mission of God.
Acts 17:26–27 tells us that God has determined the exact place and time where we should live so that men may find him. That means that the Lord planted your family exactly where you live for a reason: mission. It is truly awesome to realize that you have been chosen by God to be his missionaries to this world. It is both a great privilege and great responsibility. Paul describes our calling in the following way: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to
God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Being missional is God’s way of showing the love of His Son Jesus through the lives of His followers. Being missional is striving to live like Jesus, our perfect example. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This scripture beautifully embodies what it means to be missional. To be missional is to serve and give our lives for others.
Sharing Our Faith Together
There are two primary ways that we can become missional families. The first way to be a missional family is by sharing the gospel message with others through our words. Sharing our faith is the duty of every believer, both young and old. We can share our faith together as a family. After all, Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. There are no lone rangers in the kingdom of God.
The ancient Celtic Christians did mission as a team instead of individually. They didn’t go out and try to win the world by themselves, rather they went out as a team because they understood the power of community. Each member played an important role in the whole of reaching the community. Author John Finney observed that the Celts believed in “the importance of the team. A group of people can pray and think together. They inspire and encourage each other. The single entrepreneur is too easily prey to self doubt and loss of vision.”2 The Celtic approach to evangelism is an important alternative to the modern “lone ranger” approach that is typical in so many Western churches.
One of the most powerful witnesses that we can offer the world is by living out our faith together as a family. If you think about it, most non-Christians have no idea what it means to be a Christian family. They will not know the difference unless they see it in our families. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The love that we share and the way we discipline our children is a powerful witness to the world. The world desperately needs to know and see what a Christ centered family looks like.
Sometimes, our children will be the ones to lead the way. A few years ago we had some neighbors whom I had written off; I never thought they would come to faith. Then, one day my daughter invited them to come to church, and much to my surprise they came. I must admit I felt a little foolish when I ended up baptizing the young mother after she became a Christian.
Sharing our faith with others can begin in family prayer before we ever leave our house. You can pray with your children for your unchurched family, friends, and neighbors. Simply pray that God will give you the right opportunity and the right words to say. Pray that God would open up the hearts and minds of the unchurched people that He sends in your path. You would be surprised how many opportunities God will open up for you to share your faith with others if we simply stopped to pray. The Holy Spirit will open the hearts and the doors when the time is right. I can think of many times we have had a chance to share the gospel with other parents in the park, over a meal, or at the beach.
The second way of being a missional family is by helping to meet the needs of others. Jesus met both the spiritual and physical needs of the people He ministered to. He not only preached to the people, but He fed them too. It is universally true that people don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.
Every day in the United Sates, there are millions of people who are living in poverty in the shadow of our nation’s great wealth. Hunger and poverty are quickly becoming a serious epidemic in the United States. There are many people in every city of our nation who are homeless and can’t even provide for their own basic needs, such as food and clothing. In addition, drugs, domestic violence, and illiteracy are harsh realities for many people. These people are not numbers or mere statistics, but they have names, faces, and feelings. More important, they have real needs that can be helped by believers. They are in our cities, communities, and small towns. They are our neighbors, fellow church members, and even family members. God is concerned about the needy, destitute, hurting, poor, and orphans of the world.
The Word tells us that we are commissioned to care for those around us who cannot care for themselves. Too long we’ve tried to stick Band-Aids on wounds that will not heal overnight. Being missional is going into places where the world doesn’t want to go. Being missional can be very dirty. If we are going to make a difference we must roll up our sleeves and join in the work of Jesus among the poor and disenfranchised of this world.
In Our Own Backyards
Being a missional family starts in our own backyard. Find the needs of your community and begin to fill them by being a missionary to your city and community. We will never know what the needs of our community are until we begin to get outside the four walls of our house. It is amazing how little Christians actually interact with non-churchgoers. Matthew 9:35 tells us that when Jesus went out into all the cities and villages, He saw that the multitudes were weary and had compassion on them. As Jesus went into the community, He saw the needs of the people.
Get out into your community and get to know your neighbors. Too many Christians live in a glass house where they only spend time with church people. Get out in the community and be an authentic Christian day after day. To be a living witness does not remove a Christian’s responsibility to share the faith; rather it gives the opportunity. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 to let your light shine before men. A Christian’s life becomes a light for others to see God. Therefore, believers should show the world that our God is real through actions and deeds. In the words of St. Francis, “Preach at all times, but if you must, use words.”
When you get into the community, you will begin to see what the needs of the people are. This is how your family will begin to develop a heart for your community. We began to canvas our city and assess the needs of the people. When we began to look around our city we saw many people with tremendous needs. Make a personal inventory of the needs, and then you will be able to minister to the needs of your community.
If you are going to be a missional family, you must also effectively communicate the needs of your community to your children. Let them know the facts about the needs in your community and the world. Tell others how they can help. I have learned that children want to help if they are properly informed. Communication is the key.
You will be amazed how willing your kids will be to join the cause of reaching your city and the world. Being a missional family is also working with others to make a difference in our communities for Christ. Do not try to do it all alone or try to reinvent the wheel. Partner with others that are already doing ministry in your church or community. The needs are great, but if we begin to work with others, we can make a difference in our cities and communities.
Working with others is a powerful witness of Christ’s love and shows people how Christians are essential to the community. My local church has taught me the powerful meaning of being a missional family. As a church, we have always looked for ways to involve our families in mission. We have adopted beach accesses, which the church cleaned once a month to show the community that the church cares about the beaches.
The church began an art-mentoring program that reached at-risk youth in our community. The church hosted art shows for young people that have reached hundreds of young people from the community. We even opened an art gallery that hosted art shows and concerts to build bridges between the church and community. Recently, our families have been involved with sending cows to Africa, Christmas shoe boxes around the world through Samaritan’s Purse, and sponsoring children through World Vision.
Maybe you’re ready and thinking to yourself, “I’m in! So now what?” Here are some practical thoughts and ideas that will help you explore being missional as a family together. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it will give a starting place to become a launching pad for mission in and through your family.
Some Action Steps
1. Prayer is a powerful teaching tool to help give children a burden for the lost and hurting. Pray for the people in your community, for missionaries, for global poverty, etc.
2. Get out and learn the needs in your community. Be informed about the needs of missionaries and Christians around the world, especially those suffering in persecution and poverty.
3. Get a map or globe of the world and share with your children about unreached people groups. Let them know about global poverty and the rise of persecution of Christians around the world.
4. One of the best ways to teach your children about mission is to sponsor a child through World Vision or Compassion International.