Around the World from Your Living Room: Peru

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

Around the World from your living room - Peru

The other night after my husband came home from work, our family gathered around the table and ate a simple Peruvian dinner of chicken, rice, potatoes, and salad.

Together with our two little girls, we talked about the nation of Peru, learning some basics about their culture. We located Peru on a map (it’s in South America!) and listened to a song in Spanish. (We may have danced along with it!) Then we prayed for the people of Peru before heading to bed.

It was a sweet, meaningful, and simple time, and I’d love to empower your family to do the same.

Today I’m thrilled to share the first installment of a new resource called Around the World from Your Living Room.  It’s a simple series that I’ve put together providing resources for a meal, activity (like a craft or game), and prayer for different countries.

south america

Here’s how it works:

Your family (or small group, or Sunday school class, or whatever) gathers together for an hour or two to focus on a country.

  • You’ll prepare a simple meal together from that country, using easy-to-find, real food ingredients.
  • As you eat, you’ll learn about the country.
  • Then you’ll do a craft or play a game originating in that country.
  • Finally, you’ll gather together to spend a few moments praying for the people there.

Today I’ll be sharing a guide for Peru, and in the months to come, I’ll share about several more countries. I have traveled to Peru twice, so I was especially excited to share about Peru with my family and all of you!

Peru

Around the World from Your Living Room: Peru 

Learn about Peru:

Peru location

First, talk with your children about Peru. Look at some of these facts together. You can also view some photos of Peru from National Geographic… I particularly enjoyed the “Faces of Peru” slideshow.

Overview: Peru is a beautiful, mountainous country with a rich history, known as the seat of the Incan empire in the 1500s. Peru is famous for housing Macchu Pichu, an ancient palace for the Incas, located high in the mountains near Cusco. Most Peruvians face poverty, though for the past years they have had a good economy under good government.

Location: Peru is on the coast of South America, bordering Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia.

Population: 30 million people

Capital: Lima

Language: Spanish is the most common, but a small population speaks Quechua.

Major Religions:

  • 81% Roman Catholic Christians
  • 12% Evangelical Christians

Weather: Near the coast, Peru has mild weather, with warm summers and cool winters. In the mountains, it can be very cold, though there is rarely snow except on the very top of the Andes mountains. Peru is located south of the Equator, which means summertime happens in December/January/February and wintertime happens in June/July/August.

(Many of this information was found at the CIA World Factbook).

A Simple Meal: Chicken, Rice, Fries, and Salad

peruvian food

Peru is known for many delicious foods, but a typical every day meal includes chicken, rice, potatoes, and salad… plus perhaps some Inka Cola soda to wash it down.

Roasted chicken. You can make a roasted chicken yourself (a whole chicken or just parts like the legs and thighs). Here’s a recipe I like (but you can skip seasoning it two days ahead).

We purchased a whole chicken from El Pollo Loco (a fast food chain in our area), or a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store works, too.

French Fries  

Did you know potatoes originated in Peru? (Not Ireland!)

Here is a recipe for baked French fries.

I sliced two potatoes lengthwise into “French fry” shapes, tossed them in some olive oil, then put them in the oven on 400*.  But, I had to go pick up the chicken… so, I just turned off the oven a few minutes into cooking, and let the potatoes sit inside for 30+ minutes while we were gone. They turned out great!

Salad

Chop up some iceberg/romaine lettuce for a salad. Top with shredded carrots and tomatoes.

For dressing, you can make this cilantro avocado dressing… or if you go to El Pollo Loco, just ask for a side of their avocado dressing – it’s very similar!

Alternatively, look for a bottled avocado and/or cilantro dressing (Trader Joe’s carries a cilantro dressing in their refrigerated section.) Or just use ranch!

Rice

Make a batch of white rice using your normal method. We use a rice cooker.

If you are willing to spend a little more time on it, this simple recipe for Peruvian white rice with garlic and lemon juice sounds delicious.

Even if you usually eat brown rice (we do!), I highly recommend white rice so it’s a more “authentic” experience.

Optional: Inka Cola

Your local grocery store may carry Inka Cola, especially if you live in an area with a larger Latino population. I found some at Target.

Inka Cola is a staple of Peruvian culture. It is a caffeinated, BRIGHT yellow soda and tastes just like bubble gum.

We didn’t buy any for our dinner because my husband hates bubble gum flavoring and our girls are too little for soda yet. But, it will definitely give your meal a genuine Peruvian flavor!

Alternative: Check if you have a Peruvian restaurant in your town… many communities do!

Hands-on Activity: Nazca Line Pictures

nazca spider

The Nazca lines are a famous location in Peru featuring incredible, huge sand drawings of animals and shapes, somehow created by an ancient civilization. To learn more about the Nazca lines, click here.

The Nazca lines were likely made as an offering to ancient gods. You could talk with your children about how we worship the One True God. You could talk about creating your art project to worship God, our Creator.

nazcalines craft directions

Inspired by this site, we made sand pictures in honor of the Nazca Lines.

  1. Look at photos of the Nazca Lines. You can look at this page for examples (or just google “how to draw the Nazca lines” and view the images that appear.
  2. Have your child draw a picture with a pencil or marker. Younger children can draw any shape; older children may want to draw an animal that looks like the Nazca lines.
  3. Trace over the drawing with glue. (You may want to do this on behalf of younger children.)
  4. Sprinkle sand (of any color) over the glue, then shake it off into a trash can or a piece of paper.  Let dry.

Tip: We didn’t have any sand, so I actually used unsweetened Kool-aid mix instead. It worked at first, when it dried, it “melted” a bit. My preschooler wasn’t picky, but an older child may prefer the precision of colored sand.

peru coloring page

Alternative: you could just print out this cute llama coloring page and color it.

Pray for Peru:

praying for Peru

As a family, spend a few minutes praying for Peru. If you have a globe or world map, locate Peru and have each family member place a finger on (or near) the country. You can lead the prayer, or invite each family member to pray about a specific request.

Your prayer time does not need to be lengthy! Don’t feel intimidated by thinking you need to pray for 10-20 minutes or more. Just a couple minutes focused on these requests, or others that come to mind, is fine.

  • Economy: The economy in Peru has been improving, but 25% of Peruvians still live in poverty, surviving in shanty-towns without electricity, running water, or other basics. Pray for job opportunities and for hope for the people there.
  • Religion: Many Peruvians are Roman Catholic Christians, but not all are actively practicing in their faith. Pray that Jesus would be a real, daily presence in their lives.
  • Health: Malnutrition rates in Peru have been dropping, thanks to government campaigns to teach good hygiene and provide clean water. Pray that this continues!
  • History: The Quechua are a native tribal group (you might think of them as “Native Americans” or “American Indians.”) Missionaries have worked hard to translate the Bible into their language and to bring Christ to this group, and God is transforming the Quechua! Pray that He would continue to be known among them. (I found this request on Operation World).
  • Ministry: Pray for local Peruvians who are reaching out within their own country, offering physical and spiritual support. Pray for the ministry of Krochet Kids as they provide jobs making knit hats and help support a community among the women who work there.

For additional prayer requests, visit Operation World.

Additional Resources and Ideas:

  • The Goodfellow Family works with Krochet Kids in Peru. Their blog has many pictures about their life in Peru, both every day life and their travels around the country.
  • Listen to Spanish worship music. When I visited Peruvian churches on a mission trip, I loved these two songs: “Te Alabare Mi Buen Jesus” and “Tu Eres Todopoderoso.” If you know basic Spanish, you will probably understand part of the songs (Alabare = worship/praise & todopoderoso = all powerful). I highly recommend dancing along. 🙂

Tell me about your experiences!

Did you spend an evening focused on Peru?

I would love to see your photos or hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below or share your photos using the hashtag #AroundtheWorldfromYourLivingRoom.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

Living Overseas as a Missionary

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

Maybe You Can Move Halfway Around the World! Living Overseas as a Missionary

living overseas

My Story

I’ve shared already about my childhood interest in the persecuted church and my mission trip experiences as a teenager. Along with this came a developing desire to move overseas in some way.

As a senior in high school, I pursued entrance into two colleges on the East Coast (American University and Seton Hall) known for their international studies programs. I envisioned myself serving as a U.S. Foreign Service Ambassador or working for the United Nations. But when those universities proved too expensive, even with scholarship opportunities, I began to look toward some Christian universities closer to my California home.

concordia

I ended up attending Concordia University in Irvine, California, and I am so thankful. It was a perfect fit for me, and it turns out that though moving across the country seemed glamorous, I ended up loving coming home some weekends to do laundry and hang out with my family!

I loved my Concordia experience, but at the time, there were few options for international involvement. (Now, they have a program called Around-the-World Semester which is amazing! Students travel to ten-ish different countries to study and serve).

Without any viable options for international studies, I entered a wonderful program to become a Director of Christian Education, which is roughly the Lutheran church’s equivalent of a youth pastor (but not actually a “pastor.”)

I took classes in youth ministry, children’s ministry, adult education, world missions, teaching strategies, church leadership, and theology. I thought perhaps this would be a good tool to serve overseas as a missionary.

countries

After graduation, DCE students are expected to complete a one-year full-time church internship, and the leaders of the program assign you to an internship. Students stand up in front of a chapel service and they say, “Kelly, you are headed to…”

In the months leading up to the chapel service where I would find out my future, I had hoped to be assigned to a location overseas, perhaps in South America. However, a few weeks prior, I learned that wouldn’t be an option – all assignments would be within the United States.

Looking back, in my heart, I closed the door on serving as an overseas missionary at that time. I figured God wasn’t sending me overseas, so I would just work at a church here, leading short-term mission trips, and that was that.

cross

When the day of the chapel service rolled around, they said, “Kelly, you are headed to First Lutheran Church in El Cajon, California.” I was pleased, and prepared to move to San Diego at the end of the summer (2008). (But only after a last-hurrah trip with some girl friends to Europe to be tourists and also participate in a mission trip in Hungary).

I didn’t know it at the time, but my assignment was truly life-changing. I had met this guy, Jay, a few months earlier when he visited Concordia – he was a friend of a friend. Turns out he was a member at my new church in San Diego. Since the church didn’t have many young adults, we naturally started hanging out as soon as I moved there. One thing led to another, and we’ll celebrate six years of marriage next week! 🙂

wedding

For some time, I worked at First Lutheran, happily leading our youth ministry, organizing some mission trips, and helping with ministry to refugees in our community.

But soon after Jay and I got married (November 2009), we both started to feel a gentle call to serve in overseas missions. He is a pilot, and we knew of an organization that uses pilots to serve isolated people in remote areas of the world.

We began looking more into this organization. As we read blog posts by current overseas missionaries, talked to a recruiter, and prayed, we felt God’s leading to begin preparations to join the organization.

It was a lengthy process, since Jay needed to receive his airplane mechanic’s license  – a two-year process, along with some other requirements like more Bible training. We took the course Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, which was wonderful preparation, too!

airplane

Eventually, we were ready. Shortly after our daughter, Elle, was born (June 2012), we traveled to Idaho and spent two weeks being evaluated by the organization. We passed, and a few months later (January 2013), our family had joined as official members of the organization.

We both serve them, though technically, my husband is the “employee” and I am the “accompanying spouse,” meaning most of the time, he is the one working full-time and I just assist as possible in the midst of my role as stay-at-home mom.

We spent our first year (2013) support-raising – a process called “deputation” in missionary circles. The process was long and we were impatient to finish and get overseas, but looking back, that was a wonderful year. We witnessed God’s provision and met so many lovely, Godly people who generously provide the financial support, prayers, and encouragement we need for our service.

Jay and I were able to work together on deputation, and he was home for the whole year as we worked from home and traveled a lot to visit supporters… which meant he was a significant daily presence in one-year-old Elle’s life. (Something we miss now that he works a typical 8 to 5 job).

But, we didn’t realize all that at the time, because it was stressful to work together and we were living on a small monthly salary and therefore living with family to be able to afford to be in California, which has a very high cost of living. So when January 2014 rolled around, and we received 100% of the monthly support needed to move overseas, we were ecstatic.

idaho

We headed to Idaho for two final months of training, and planned to move to Asia in June 2014.

We were crushed when a few weeks into our training, we learned that safety concerns in our country of service meant we couldn’t go right away. In the meantime, we learned we were expecting another baby!

Life seemed so topsy-turvy. We had already been packed up and ready to go overseas, and instead, we were facing several more months in the United States.

and then there were four

We regrouped and made plans to stay in Idaho until the baby was born. We did language study, spent time with some teammates from Asia who had returned to the U.S. because of the concerns, and enjoyed a peaceful, faith-stretching time in Idaho. It ended up being a very hard year, but also a very good one, as we felt we were truly depending on God to sustain us through all the changes we were facing.

But it wasn’t over! As issues calmed down in Asia, we made plans again to head overseas after our daughter was born.

baby

Our sweet Ava was born in October 2014, and within a few hours of her birth, we learned she was born with microphthalmia, a condition where one of her eyes never really developed – essentially, it’s as though she is missing that eye.

There’s no known cause, and we were relieved to quickly learn through an MRI and eye exam that everything in her brain is fine, and her other eye has normal vision. (Something confirmed by her present-day ability to pick up the tiniest of crumbs off our kitchen floor as an afternoon snack!!)

Thankfully, she was eligible to receive a prosthetic “glass” eye (they’re actually made of silicone!), so by the time she was six weeks old, we had started the process. It’s been painless for her – just a lot of doctor visits to insert a slightly larger prosthetic into her eyelids to stretch her eyelids and encourage growth in that area. A year later, it’s impossible to even tell that she’s wearing a prosthetic – it looks wonderful!

Some of the clear prosthetic shells Ava has worn...
Some of the clear prosthetic shells Ava has worn…

But, the frequency of these appointments (every one to four weeks) meant that yet again, our overseas departure was delayed. So, we continue to live in the U.S. (We actually relocated to California to be closer to medical treatment, since there was none available in Idaho).

We hope to head overseas in 2016, as her eye treatment gets more established and we can wait several months between appointments. It’s tough when we have willing hearts and a love for the people of our intended area of service, but we can’t actually go yet! But we know the Lord is at work, leading and guiding us through every step of this crazy journey!

 

revelation 7

Hear from Missionaries Overseas

Since I don’t have any overseas experience to share, I wanted to point you toward some wonderful missionary blogs I enjoy reading. For my husband and me, reading blogs was one of the first steps God used to get us thinking and talking about mission work.

I encourage you to check out their blogs! Many of them also have an option to sign up for newsletters. (Also, if you are still looking for a missionary to support or encourage, here are some great options! Each of these people are supported by donations of a team of ministry partners.)

All of these missionary families have children – so as you envision global missions with kids, they are great examples of how to do it!

  • Marla and Gabe Taviano  serve in Cambodia, serving in photography ministry, working with trafficking victims, and doing whatever God calls them to. 🙂
  • Lisa and Matthew Lind serve in DR Congo, after recently completing language school in France. I like their blog because they write very frequently, so there’s always something new!

love 3

Resources for Missionary Wanna-Bes

 

  • Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is a top-notch class offered all over the world or online. It is not just for missionaries, but it covers Biblical, historical, strategic, and cultural factors of missions in a well-done way. Perspectives offers a free at-home Family Journey.
  • A Life Overseas is a blog for missionaries and other overseas workers, with high-quality, thoughtful posts from variety of authors. Most missionaries I know read this blog. 🙂
  • Urbana is a missions conference for college students that takes place each year – the next one is coming up in December 2015. If you know a young person interested in missions, Urbana is considered the best! (Unless you attend a Concordia University, in which case, go to Beautiful Feet!)

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Do you have any questions about overseas missions? Have you ever served as a long-term overseas missionary? Leave a comment below.

Should I Send My Teenager on a Mission Trip?

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

All month long we’ve been talking about ways to get involved in global missions with kids. Today I want to address a pretty typical way for young people to be involved in missions: going on a mission trip!

should i send my teenager on a mission trip

When I was 13 years old, my older sister started getting brochures in the mail from Teen Missions International, an organization that leads summer-long mission trips around the world.

I poured over the brochures, reading about the building projects and evangelism trips teenagers could participate in. Every participant had to wear work boots and they were advised that most would have to take bucket showers.

It sounded perfect!

For the next two years, I was desperate to go on a mission trip, and for those two years, my parents said “no.”

teenagers 5

Then one day, an old friend of my parents, Jan, was in town on a business trip. At the last minute, we went out for Mexican food with her, and she shared about the ministry her family was involved with in Peru.

Jan’s husband was a pastor, and they all would go down to Peru to serve at an orphanage and encourage some Peruvian pastor friends. I listened with great interest, but at the end of the evening we said goodbye, and that was that.

Except that over Christmas break that year, I read God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, and my faith grew. I realized that perhaps God was using my parents’ reservations about a mission trip as the means to keep me from going on the wrong trip. I wrote about it in my journal, and I came to peace with not going on a mission trip until they saw fit to have me go.

Within two weeks, we had received a letter in the mail from Jan’s husband, who was leading another mission trip to Peru, asking if anyone in the family, especially me, would like to attend. My mom read the letter and cried, saying she knew I was supposed to go.

So that summer, my dad and brother dropped me off in Chicago and I traveled with the team down to Peru. For two weeks, we served at orphanages and children’s shelters, visited schools, and enjoyed fellowship with Peruvian believers.

Since then, I’ve gone on a number of other mission trips, have led several trips, studied short-term missions, and now am planning to move overseas. So, you might say it made a big impact on me. 🙂

teenagers 4

Benefits of Sending Teenagers on a Mission Trip

  • They are participating in God’s global mission in agreement with His heart for the world.
  • It will likely change their worldview as they gain understanding of new cultures, economic status, and needs around the globe.
  • It may increase their faith as they see God’s provision in a new way, deal with the challenges of poverty and suffering, and enjoy spiritual community with their teammates.
  • It may offer them new friendships with teammates and with local Christians in the area they serve.
  • It may inspire future language learning, an interest in international studies, or a desire to serve in full-time Christian ministry.

Things to Consider Regarding Teenagers and Mission Trips

As a parent, I’m guessing your two concerns are likely:

  • safety – will my child be safe?
  • cost – how will we pay for the trip?

Safety: Generally speaking, mission trips are safe, at least as safe as any other youth ministry activity. Of course, you’ll want to check the State Department’s travel recommendations for the particular region.

I encourage you to really pray about this trip. Is this the Lord’s will? I remember a line I learned on my first mission trip to Peru: “There is no place safer than in the center of God’s will.” Is this a guarantee against physical peril? Certainly not! But it is an encouragement that His all-surpassing peace and faithfulness accompanies us everywhere.

teenagers 6

Cost: Likewise, I encourage you to consider the Lord’s provision. If this is His will, He will provide the funding. Perhaps that will be out of your own budget, or perhaps through donations of friends, family, and fellow church members… most likely, a little of both.

In addition to those questions, here are some additional things to consider:

  • Who is hosting the trip? Do they have experience leading a mission trip?
  • Will the group be working with a local church? (the answer should be yes!)
  • Could you go along? (more on this below)
  • What is your child’s temperament? Will they enjoy being away from home, in new conditions and a strange environment?

Yesterday I wrote a lengthy post about some general considerations regarding short-term mission trips. I encourage you to check it out if you want more to think about regarding the pros and cons of mission trips, and some recommendations.

teenagers 2

Recommendations for Teenagers and Mission Trips

Think about going on the trip yourself. I’m usually not a big fan of “helicopter parenting,” but if possible, I would encourage you to consider participating in the trip with your child.

I don’t suggest this because of safety, but rather because this will likely be a big experience for your child, and it would be nice for them to have you  (or another trusted adult, like an older sibling or grandparent) along for the sake of the shared experience.

A few years ago my mom and brother joined me on a day trip to Mexico, and I’ve also gone on a lengthier house-building trip with my sister. Both of those memories are special to me, and it helped me to be able to have that experience with someone close to me!

Send your child on an inter-generational trip (not just teenagers), if possible. I have been on both teenager-only trips (of course, there were adult leaders, but everyone else was a teenager) and inter-generational trips (people of all ages – teenagers, younger adults, and older adults), and I encourage you to consider an inter-generational trip.

Generally, a trip with multiple generations affords a richer opportunity for mentorship and wisdom from the older members of the group. It also is likely to be more “missions-focused” and perhaps less focused on friendship-drama, relationship-drama, or other issues that can be more present in a trip just for teenagers.

Prepare your teenager ahead of time. Hopefully, the team leader is doing training and preparation, including cultural training and lots of prayer. If not, consider partnering with your teenager to do some training of your own. A great place to start would be reading and discussing Serving with Eyes Wide Open by David Livermore together.

Be an encourager and prayer warrior during the trip.  If you’re not going on the trip with your child, be prepared to encourage and pray for your child!

Ahead of time, you can write letters for your child to pack in a suitcase and open each day they’re gone. I’ve had friends and family members do this in the past and it’s such nice encouragement and a reminder to stay”grounded” even when I may not be feeling well, am tired, or am frustrated with a team member.

Also, if your child will have access to the internet, a daily email will be a great encouragement. Don’t expect your child to communicate much with you, however, and I would encourage you to not send them with a full-capacity cell phone while they’re away. The purpose of the trip is not to converse with you (or friends!) back home, but to focus on the task at hand.

teenagers 1

Be ready for afterwards. Homecoming is always the hardest part of a mission trip for me.

First, there’s the physical stuff – I’m tired from jet lag, lengthy travels, and probably little sleep on the mission trip. My body is getting used to eating our food again.

Second, it’s emotionally difficult, as I’m facing a totally different “world” than what I was used to on the trip. Not only is our culture different, but on the mission trip, I formed bonds with my teammates and am now sad to miss that community and comraderie.

Third, I’ve just had this great experience, and I come home, and not many people want to talk about it!

Be aware that your teenager is going through these issues (or others not listed)! If possible, clear your teenager’s schedule and your own schedule for a few days. If they want to sleep and veg out, just watching TV or hanging out, that’s fine. They may be excited to spend time with friends.

Set aside a time to look at photos together or hear memories from the trip. Then, keep asking. They may not want to share everything right away. Ask in a week, a month, two months, if they have more memories to share or things they are missing from the trip.

If you have more questions about mission trips, feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to answer any questions or offer my input on your specific situation. 🙂

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Have you ever sent a teenager on a mission trip?Did you go on a mission trip as a teenager? Leave a comment below.

Go and Make Disciples… in Two Weeks?

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

Mission Trips as a Family?

Have you ever been on a short-term mission trip? If you have children, have you ever considered taking them on a mission trip with you?

I’ve been on many mission trips through the years, to places like Peru, China, Poland, Hungary, and Mexico.

Though we plan to move overseas ourselves, we have not yet taken our kids (ages three and age one) on a mission trip… though we’re talking about a weekend trip to Mexico in a few months (just a few hours from home, we figure we can make an early exit if needed!)

I’ve been inspired by reading stories of families online who have taken their children with them, including:

I’m not sure that there are any hard-and-fast rules about taking your children on a mission trip… so much will depend on your particular children, where you are going, and what you’ll be doing.

If you have a specific question, feel free to leave a comment below and I’m happy to let you know my thoughts.

So, today I want to talk about just some general thoughts on short-term missions. I’ll warn you – this post is quite long. I’m intending it for those who might be very interested in thoughts about mission trips.

If you’re not interested, no problem! Check out some other ways to be involved in global missions with kids here.

go and make disciples

Should We Go on Short-Term Mission Trips?

In recent years, some have criticized short-term mission trips, wondering their value and whether they cause more harm than good.

I’ve been one of those critics – during my final year of college, I did an extra project all about short-term missions, questioning  whether we as Western Christians should keep doing them. Spoiler alert: I think we should still do short-term missions.

 

A fifteen year old girl, camera and bag of souvenirs in tow, walks out of the secure area of the airport and into the arms of her parents, anxious to see their daughter after her two-week mission trip to Africa.

They ask her about her experiences, and she describes, “It was wonderful! I held this little boy at an orphanage for two whole hours, and I can just tell that his life was totally changed because of me.  It was kind of hard because I don’t speak their language, but my group and I learned how to say ‘Jesus loves you,’ in their language, so I’m sure that lots of people learned about Him from us. 

Also, my group went on a safari, and we saw elephants and giraffes. I got to try eating ants, too.  It was a great trip.  I just feel so on fire for God now, and I really bonded with the other people on my team.” 

Scenes like this occur at airports around the United States throughout the year, as short-term mission trip participants of all ages return home and tell others about their experiences.  Their testimonies make short-term missions sound godly, adventurous, and fun, and partly based on their stories, people continue to participate in short-term mission trips.

Unfortunately, these reports of short-term missions frequently focus on or even overestimate the positives without considering some of the negatives.  There are numerous reasons or goals for short-term missions, and it is not always clear if the goals are being accomplished.  Some wonder whether short-term missions is truly as effective as many claim it is, while others question who should be the focus of short-term missions: the participants or the recipients.

peru 2

 

Positives of Short-term Mission Trips

  • The Bible indicates that God’s people are called to show His love and do His work cross-culturally, and short-term missions is one way (but not the only way!) that can be done. 
  • The Gospel of Jesus can be spread through mission trips. Through drama and puppet presentations, day camps, distributing hygiene kits, or operating a soup kitchen, teams can bring the message of Christ to the people they encounter.
  • Mission trip participants can improve the welfare of people they meet. They may focus on housebuilding, medical missions, or food distribution.  In many regions of the world there is a need for relief or poverty alleviation, and many short-term teams are able to help with poverty issues in powerful ways through their work.
  • Christians of all ages can grow spiritually and emotionally through a short-term missions experience.
  • Many long-term missionaries are recruited through short-term experiences.
  • Even if they never return to the foreign mission field, short-term mission participants can be excellent informers and supporters of missions back home. Participants have seen first-hand what needs to be done, and their stories can often reach friends, family, and church members much more effectively than a long-term missionary who does not have the same direct connection to a congregation.   They are able to tell their congregations how to pray, because they have specific names and needs rather than simply a vague, general prayer request for a career missionary on the church prayer list, and they are also able to encourage others to continue to support missionaries and their work financially.
  • Short-term missions enables laypeople to be directly involved in carrying out the Great Commission. It does not require extensive training for participants.  The short-term missions movement has been extremely empowering for laypeople by showing them their role in the priesthood of all believers, meaning that all Christians, not just professionally trained ones, are able to serve God’s kingdom. In short-term missions, nearly any Christian can be a participant in mission work.
  • Short-term missionaries can encourage long-term missionaries and help meet a specific need. Short-term teams can meet a specific need for a long-term missionary, like providing the manpower and funding to build a new church fellowship hall or running a Vacation Bible School program.  Long-term missionaries can also find great encouragement in simply having someone visit them from their country of origin and show that someone cares about the missionary’s work; in a ministry where discouragement and loneliness is prevalent, this can be a huge boost in energy and enthusiasm for the continued work of the long-term missionary.
  • Mission trips carry out the “mutual encouragement of believers” described in Romans 1:11-12.mexico 2

Concerns regarding Short-term Mission Trips

  • Sometimes short-term mission trip participants overestimate their spiritual impact. They often don’t have language ability, they don’t have long-term commitment, and they may not know the culture of the people they are reaching. Cultural barriers can be hard to deal with in a lifetime of mission work, and infinitely more so in a short-term setting.
  • Unfortunately, short-term teams do not always do necessary or effective work as they seek to improve the welfare of others. Sometimes, mission projects are initiated by the participants, rather than nationals within the country. Westerners think they know how to help, so they think they are bringing a valuable economic resource, like a new home, food, or toiletry items, when in truth, the people living there did not want or need that economic resource.
  • Westerners can have a patronizing attitude, thinking we’re the great American saviors, without respecting the culture we’re meeting.
  • Short-term missions experiences can result in a spiritual “mountain-top experience” where participants come home with aspirations of a changed life, but typically don’t end up making many changes.
  • Short-term mission participants often are unequipped, receiving zero-training before their mission experience.
  • Sometimes, mission trip participants go because they just want the adventure, rather than out of a sense of service to God. There is nothing wrong with travel and adventure, and Christians can be encouraged to go on vacations and see the world, but if the purpose is adventure, and not missions, then it should not be called a “mission trip.”
  • Short-term mission teams likely mean more work  for the long-term missionary hosts.  Along with their encouragement and enthusiasm, short-term mission teams can bring grumbling first-time travelers, people naturally insensitive and unaware of cultural issues, and the need for the long-term missionaries’ time.
  • Short-term missions can be too focused on the participants rather than the receivers.
  • Some wonder whether the cost of a mission trip (flights, hotel rooms, food, passports) would be better donated directly to the people being served.poland 4

 

Practical Recommendations for Short-term Missions

1. Train short-term mission participants before their trip. Training should include education about culture in general and the destination culture in particular. Training can help participants nurture their spiritual growth and teaches people about missions.

Depending on the situation, training can take place in different formats, for example, as a weekly class for several months before the trip, or as a three day intensive training session at the beginning of the trip.

I recommend at least 10% of the length of your trip be spent in training beforehand. So, a 10 day trip should include at least one full day of training beforehand. A 10-hour day trip to Mexico should include at least an hour-long training ahead of time. Note: this is training, not just information about what to pack or what to expect.

2. Partner with nationals in the receiving country.

Some of the problems with short-term missions, like the existence of unnecessary work projects, stem from a lack of relationship between the short-term mission team and a national church in the country where the short-term mission is taking place.

There  needs to be a partnership between the short-term mission team and national churches in order for effective short-term mission work to take place.  Ideally, national churches should be at the forefront, and they should be the ones suggesting a short-term mission team be involved in some way.

3. Pursue meaningful missions experiences during the trip.

Rather than settling for repainting a freshly painted church, mission trip leaders should intentionally pursue missions experiences that are meaningful for both the recipients and the participants.

Trip organizers should work with their national church partners to develop projects that will benefit the receivers, rather than simply inventing something that may or may not actually help them.  This not only serves the recipients, but the participants as well, as they see that their presence is truly making an impact in the lives of others.

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4. Implement an ongoing missions ministry rather than simply taking once-a-year trips.  

Some churches label a two-week section of the annual church calendar “short-term mission trip,” and ignore missions the rest of the year.  Churches should pursue an ongoing missions emphasis throughout the year through Bible classes, missions presentations, debriefing sessions for past trips, and support of missions through church ministries.

Likewise, as a family, participating in missions year-round, rather than just during a mission trip, is key. I know of some great ideas for how to get involved in missions wherever you are!

5. Participate in missions wherever you are, both in your own community and overseas on a mission trip.

While there are certainly people in need, both economically and spiritually, all over the world, there are also people in virtually every community in the United States that need to hear the Word of Christ and need to experience His love.

In order to truly serve missions as a whole, Christians should be involved in missions both far away and close to home.

6. Debrief after the missions experience. The same 10% rule can be applied here – a 10 day trip should result in at least one day of debriefing… not just a rest or vacation day, but a time specifically devoted to thinking through the mission trip and praying about changes to make back home.

7. Seek excellence in short-term missions.

In order to improve the quality of short-term missions, the people involved need to continue to aim for improvement.  This involves diligence and dedication to doing short-term missions well.

Seeking excellence requires time, and trial and error.  It might mean writing goals for the short-term missions experience.  It means evaluating motives.

Before they begin, participants can ask themselves why they are going on this trip, and leaders can ask themselves why they are leading.  They can evaluate if it is because of a sense of adventure, or because everyone else is doing it, or if it is because they want to serve God and others through their experience.

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Yes, We Should Continue Short-term Mission Trips!

In an “updated” version of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters concerning short-term missions, Frampton Fox speculates about a conversation between two demons, in which Wormwood, one of the demons, says, “We must inspire more indigenous scholars to criticize [short-term] missionaries for their colonialism to the exclusion of the considerable damage that their sacrifice has done to our interests.”

The demons go on to discuss how enough criticism might stop short-term missions altogether (something they view as positive, of course).

The demons’ comments provide an important reminder to those that closely examine short-term missions: the negatives of short-term missions should not cause people to become discouraged and disillusioned and give up.

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Yes, there are flaws in short-term missions.  Inexperienced trip leaders go without the right preparation, and participants join the team for the wrong motivations.

Short-term mission teams make cultural blunders, complete unnecessary construction projects, and do not speak enough of the native language to say much more than “Where is the bathroom?”

Teams embarrass their long-term missionary hosts and exhaust the national churches trying to work with the short-term participants.

Participants spend far too much time thinking about their own needs – including needs for photos and souvenirs – than they do thinking about the people they are trying to serve. Although they return back home vowing to change their lives as the result of their short-term mission experiences, their lives are back to normal within a few months.

Yes, there are flaws in short-term missions, but in spite of all the mistakes that are made, God works anyway.  Participants have the wrong motivations, but God uses them.

Someone goes on a trip primarily because she wants to see the Great Wall of China, and God changes her heart to love the Chinese people.  Leaders are unprepared to lead a short-term mission trip, but the team arrives home safely and happily at the end of the trip.

As God’s people, let us strive to do His will with diligence and in a way that glorifies Him as we do short-term missions.  Let us use our knowledge and intellect to study short-term missions and develop ways to touch people, using the knowledge He has given us.  But in the meantime, let us not stop doing short-term missions.

Let us not throw our hands up in the air and think, “If I can’t do it well, I shouldn’t do it at all.”  Instead, let us continue to seek improvement, but let us remember when we do not do short-term missions well, that God “chose the foolish things of the world” and “the weak things of the world” to serve Him.

 

For further reading…

** What are your thoughts and experiences on short-term mission trips? Leave a comment below.

How to Support the Persecuted Church

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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When I was younger,  I somehow found out about the plight of the persecuted church. I began reading publications from Christian Freedom International, Open Doors, and the Voice of the Martyrs.

I learned about the Karen people living on the border of Burma (Myanmar). I learned about Chinese people without access to Bibles.

I began to pray for the persecuted church, read magazines about them, and asked for God’s Smuggler for Christmas one year.

I even put together a proposal for having a display at our church during the fellowship hour with photos and stories about the persecuted church.

Since then, the persecuted church has been a cause dear to my heart, even inspiring much of my call to serve in overseas missions, and I can trace the roots back to those early days.

I was 12 when I learned about the persecuted church! I wasn’t an adult with an advanced understanding of the world and religious freedoms. I wasn’t college-educated, or even high school-educated.

I was just an awkward middle school student with a heart for Christians living in tough situations.

I share this story to encourage you to consider sharing about the persecuted church with the children in your family, or the young people you mentor.

Even from a young age, children can understand, pray for, and make a difference in supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ideas for Sharing and Supporting the Persecuted Church with Your Kids

Learn about Christian persecution. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Christian persecution, you can check out this overview here.

Read stories about persecuted Christians. Here are some stories and photos from Open Doors. Their World Watch List is worth exploring together with your children.

Sign up for mailings or emails from Voice of the Martyrs and/or Open DoorsYou can receive free books, posters, magazines, and other resources from these organizations. Both do a great job of educating you about the persecuted church. Share these resources with your kids.

Read God’s Smuggler as a family. This story of Brother Andrew, a young man who took Bibles and other Christian literature behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union, is interesting and inspiring.

I haven’t read it in a few years, but I don’t believe there is any violence… only perhaps near the beginning when he is serving in the military. I would feel comfortable reading it aloud with my 3 year old, editing it as I read, if necessary.

It’s available on Amazon, but is much cheaper straight through the Open Doors web site… not sure about shipping though.

Explore Kids of Courage, a free web site for kids from Voice of the Martyrs. This resource is excellent! There are videos, stories, downloads, coloring pages… definitely worth checking out.

Don’t traumatize your children. You know how much “graphicness” your kids can handle. Consider the level of violence of movies/TV shows/video games your child views, and match your descriptions/exposure to that same level as you share about the persecuted church.

Even the youngest of children can be told there are places where it’s hard to follow Jesus, or where you get in trouble for following Jesus, without needing to know the gory details.

Take action. 

Check out these additional resources:

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Do you have any ideas to add to this list? Leave a comment below.

Bless Babies and Mamas Around the World

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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Babies and pregnant moms hold a special place in my heart. There is something so precious about new life coming into the world!

Today I want to share some ways you and your children can bless pregnant moms and/or babies around the world. Most children seem to naturally enjoy babies, and many of you who are parents may find this fits in well with this stage of life as you raise your own babies or experience your own pregnancies!

bless babies and mamas around the world

Donate to a Compassion Child Survival Program

These centers focus specifically on moms and young children, offering mentoring, check ups and assistance with birth, baby and toddler supplies (diapers, clothes, etc.), emotional support, clean water, healthy food, and spiritual guidance.  Child Survival Programs are located in places like Haiti, Bolivia, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

My family’s goal is to have a Compassion sponsorship on behalf of each member of our family. We have a girl who shares my husband’s birthday and a boy who shares my birthday. When firstborn was a baby, however, we decided to sponsor a child survival program on her behalf, since it benefits children her own age (0 to 3), prior to them being able to be sponsored individually. Though we don’t send any letters, we’ve appreciated the updates about the program! (It’s also a little cheaper than a regular child sponsorship!)

Pray for ladies at the Heartline Haiti Birth Center.

I’ve loved reading about this birth center where women’s practical needs are being met and lives are being saved as women and children receive great medical care in child birth.

I remember reading that many women in Haiti don’t believe in breastfeeding, because they see formula cans with chubby American babies on the front, and believe formula is best. However, not being able to afford formula, they’ll just crush up cookies and mix it with (likely unsanitary) water, which makes the baby sick, and causes them to lose weight. Heartline offers breastfeeding support and helps moms after birth.

Tara Livesay, who works at Heartline, posts photos of mamas to pray for at the birth center. Also, they keep an updated wish list of supplies that can be purchased and mailed to North Carolina so they can be delivered to Haiti… it would be fun to shop with your kids and pack a box together! Last week, Heartline was the recipient of an awesome “Love Flash Mob” – you can read the encouraging posts about what happened here and here! Amazing!

Support the work of your local pregnancy care center.

Contact a pregnancy care center in your area and see how you can help. They may be in need of diaper donations, translators, volunteers, baby-blanket-makers, or counselors. While your children may not be able to participate in all of these activities, find out if there’s a way you could work together to support a pregnancy care center.

Put together baby care kits to send overseas.

Lutheran World Relief offers instructions for sending a variety of kits overseas, including baby care kits. I’ve never put together these kits before, but it seems like with a little preparation, this would be a hands-on way to bless little babies (and moms!) overseas… great for putting together at a Sunday school class, scout group, homeschool group, or even a birthday party!

The kits include baby clothes, inexpensive cloth diapers, pins, and soap.

Alternatively, blogger Adriel Booker has info on birth kits you can send overseas. We tried to make these for Mother’s Day last year, but I flaked and never got the stuff for it! 🙁 Check out the instructions… I’d encourage you to email Adriel to make sure she is still accepting kits.

Check out the Love a Mama Initiative.

As I was looking at info for the birth kits above from Adriel Booker’s blog, I found this whole page of ways they have helped love moms, particularly around Mother’s Day. Such wonderful, practical ideas!

Honestly, I’m not sure whether she’s still doing any of these endeavors, but if one of them captures your heart, I’d contact her! I don’t know Adriel personally, but I know she works with YWAM, which is a highly respected missions organization, and I love her heart for helping moms!

Here are a few blog posts worth reading:

It is worth poking around her site! 🙂 A few projects that caught my eye include:

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**What other ideas do you have for blessing babies and moms around the world? Leave a comment below.

Discussing Poverty with Kids

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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Today’s topic is short,because honestly, I’m not an expert on talking about or helping poverty on my own, much less with kids.

Every time we see a homeless person, I’m torn over whether we should give him a dollar, buy him lunch, send him to the closest shelter, or ignore him completely. It’s even worse when I’m visiting another country and see even more begging and poverty!

So, I don’t feel like an authority on this topic by any stretch, but here’s what I’m going to do to learn more and try to tackle this issue… I encourage you to do the same!!

1. Check out this excellent post about 4 Ways to Help Kids Engage with Poverty Issues. Read the comments too, they are great! (Incidentally, it’s a guest post on another site written by Adriel Booker, the one whose blog I loved when we talked about babies and moms!)

2. Get the Step into My Shoes curriculum from Compassion International. They sent me a free copy of it to review here, and it is amazing!!!!!

I’m not quite done with it yet, so I’m going to do a whole post about it next month… I’ll be sure to link back here about it! – but I can confidently say: get it! It’s worth it.

I swooned over just the directions for a couple days because they are so well-written and they thought of everything, even adjustments for preschoolers and for teenagers (so appreciated!)

3. Read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor – and Yourself. I’ve started this book a few times but have never finished it… it’s just so good, I feel like I ought to savor it!

This book is highly respected in the missions world, and I have a feeling it would give me the answer to my question about what to do when I see a homeless person.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**How do you address poverty with your children? Leave a comment below.

How to do Global Missions as an Adult Mentor

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking one of the links, I may receive a small commission to help support this site, at no additional cost to you.

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If you are someone who mentors young people outside your own family – perhaps you’re a grandparent or devoted aunt, or you volunteer with your church’s youth ministry, or you serve foster children as a CASA… I hope that nearly all of the posts in the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids will be helpful for you.

I hope you might be inspired to put together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox with your youth ministry small group, or you’ll write to a Compassion sponsored child alongside your grandchild. Maybe you’ll buy a fair trade gift for your nephew or purchase a Little Passports kit for the child you babysit.

If you are an adult mentor, please know that my heart is for you! You are doing a valuable service as you teach, lead, and love young people, particularly those who are not your own children.

how to do global missions as an adult mentor

How Can I Do Global Missions AS an Adult Mentor?

A little different than the ideas described above, I have some additional ideas for ways you can do global missions as an adult mentor. These aren’t ideas for doing missions alongside the young people you mentor, but rather ideas for reaching young people by serving in global missions.

In other words, if you are an adult thinking, “I’d love to make a difference in the life of a young person, particularly a young person from another culture and possibly living in another country,” here are some ideas for you!

You’ll notice that many of the ideas are connected to ways we’ve already talked about serving alongside young people… now, we’re just considering how you can directly mentor the young people you are serving.

Ideas for Global Missions as an Adult Mentor:

  • View yourself as a mentor for your sponsored child. As you write letters and pray for your child, consider how you can serve as a mentor. Write words of encouragement and inspiration. Commit to writing regularly and encouraging your sponsored child. You could even consider saving up for a visit to your sponsored child in person someday!
  • Sign up as an English tutor or English partner for a child who speaks English as a foreign language.
  • Serve as a friendship partner to an international student, particularly one who is on the younger side, in elementary school, high school, or college.
  • Host a foreign exchange student in your home for the school year. Occasionally this is even an option for just a brief period of time – some groups of elementary school students will come to the U.S. from places like China. They will stay for a couple weeks to learn and have fun. This would be a great way to try this out for a short period of time!
  • Volunteer with a Backyard Bible Club in a multi-ethnic area of your community. Make an effort to get to know the boys and girls who participate. Are there any older children who participate in the club? Consider how you can raise them up as student leaders for the Backyard Bible Club.
  • Go on a short-term mission trip that focuses on serving young people. In the past, I’ve helped with several English-language Bible camps in Eastern European countries. Middle school and high school students would come for a week to learn English, participate in Bible studies, and have fun together. This was a great chance to mentor these young men and women!

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**What ideas do you have for serving in global missions as an adult mentor? Leave a comment below.

How to Befriend and Serve International Students

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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Wouldn’t it be great…

  • to build friendships with young people from all over the world, even people from countries where Jesus is totally unknown or even outlawed?
  • to befriend the world’s future leaders – the children of top business leaders, government officials, and even royalty – from around the world?
  • to do this right from the comfort of your own community, without ever spending a night away from your own bed, and without ever packing a single suitcase?
  • if your children and teenagers could easily join you, meeting young people from another country and developing a global mindset in the process?

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, all these things are possible through ministry to international students!

international students

What is an international student?

An international student is a young man or woman who leaves his own home country and comes to the United States (or another country) to study. Most are university students, seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree, but some may be high school students or even elementary school students.

Some international students come for just a single semester or year (similar to how we might participate in a “study abroad” program, while others remain to receive their full degree.

Are international students really that important?

According to several speakers from International Students, Inc…

  • Last school year (2014-2015), there were over 1.13 million international college students in the United States.
  • International students come from places like China, India, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Taiwan.
  • 60% of international students come from the 10/40 window – this is the area between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude that contains the majority of the world’s spiritually unreached people. In other words, most international students are coming from areas where most people do not follow Christ.
  • 40% of current world leaders were international students in America.
  • These are highly competent students whose families have the capacity to send them overseas. They will return home and be the “movers and shakers” in their homelands.

What can I do?

The key word for international student ministry is “friendship.” You are aiming to build a friendship with an international student… in fact, many people involved in ministry to international students call themselves “friendship partners.”

Some ways you could serve in international student ministry include…

  • inviting an international student to your home: for Thanksgiving dinner, for pizza on a Sunday afternoon, for a midweek meal… any of these options work!
  • serve as a conversation partner, speaking in English with an international student for an hour or so each week over coffee, dinner, or a walk around campus.
  • participate in international student friendship parties or special events. Many international student groups sponsor get-togethers, holiday parties, and field trips. You could join the group for one of these special events, or help with logistics like providing food or offering transportation for students.
  • picking up an international student from the airport when she first arrives here (you’ll need a minivan/SUV/truck to hold lots of luggage!)

How can my children and teenagers participate in international student ministry?

By nature, this ministry is a very easy way to include your own children or teenagers of any age.

They can join you in befriending an international student, welcoming the student into your home for a meal or meeting students at a friendship get-together on campus. Your kids can show love to the international student the same way they’d show love to anyone: drawing pictures, playing games together, and praying for the student.

I just recently heard about a group of women that gets together once a week at the state university in our city. They are the wives of international students who have come to California to receive a graduate degree – so many of these students are a bit older than a typical student, and have wives and families. Each week, they connect with friendship partners for fun, fellowship, and sometimes, a field trip.

I’m hoping to participate, since it would be a simple way to get to know some young women from other countries. As their own children run around, I know my kids will be welcome too!

Keep in mind…

  • The only exception to including your children would be formal English language lessons. While your children would obviously be welcome to practice English with an international student at home or a fun event, if you are getting together for a formal time to practice English as a conversation partner, I would leave your kids behind so they are not distracting.
  • Beforehand, talk to your children about any fears or concerns they may have. Discuss that you may encounter new smells or new tastes. Your child may not be able to understand every single thing the person says – remind your child to speak slowly and clearly, as possible. Talk about some ways to meet new friends, like saying “hello,” shaking hands, and offering to play a game.
  • I would imagine that most international students would be thrilled to meet your children!! In many countries around the world, children are highly valued. A student who is caught up in the stresses of studying and acclimating to a new culture will likely welcome the relief of a sweet child who wants to play a game, build with Legos, or color a picture. So, don’t feel bad about including your children – this is a great way for them to be involved in meeting someone from a new country!

How do I get connected with international students?

First, find out if your own church has a ministry to international students.

If not, there are several groups with full-time staff dedicated to international student ministry. Click on the underlined links to learn more about these groups:

If none of those options work, you could just contact the International Student office at your local college or university. Let them know you’d be interested in building a friendship with an international student, and ask if they have anyone to recommend.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Have you ever been friends with an international student? Leave a comment below about your experience.

How to Start a Backyard Bible Club

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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As I shared yesterday, for four years I was involved in a lovely ministry called Afternoon Blast, where leaders from our church operated a weekly children’s program on the lawn of an apartment complex about a mile away.

Today I’d like to share the practical how-tos of organizing an Afternoon Blast-style program in your own community. The typical term for this type of program is a “Backyard Bible Club,” which can refer to either a weekly club or a week-long VBS program during the summer.

In this post, I’ll mostly talk about the weekly club, but these concepts will also apply for a VBS program, and I’ve added some additional tips for a summer program at the end of the post.

how to start a Backyard Bible Club

 

4 Reasons to Start a Backyard Bible Club

1. You want to be involved in cross-cultural ministry to children. 

Though your Bible club doesn’t have to be aimed at cross-cultural ministry, it’s a great opportunity to try. Even if your church is not located in a cross-cultural neighborhood, you can launch your club in an area where there are a variety of other cultures.

2. You want to be involved in ministry to your own neighbors.

Many people host Backyard Bible Clubs in their own home or neighborhood. Here’s an example from Smartter Each Day, and I loved that she invited moms and kids in her own neighborhood to attend.

Whether you already know your neighbors and want to go deeper with sharing Christ, or whether you want to get to know your neighbors, a Backyard Bible Club is a great way to be involved in ministry from your own home.

3. God is reminding you of His call to “go and tell,” not just “come and see.”

It is easy for churches to fall into a mentality that “We’re here! If anyone wants to know Jesus, they can just come to our church!” We forget the call to “go and tell,” doing more than just inviting people to attractive events at our own church.

4. A Backyard Bible Club is simple and economical to lead.

After the initial start-up, our Backyard Bible Club took little weekly preparation and was practically free, with just a few expenses for supplies (soccer ball, crayons, clipboards) and the occasional snack – but most snacks were donated by church members.

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All about Our Backyard Bible Club

Our Backyard Bible Club was called Afternoon Blast.

Who Was There:  Usually it was me, one or both of our church’s children ministry leaders, and one to four other adult volunteers.

We had anywhere from 10 – 40 kids on any given Tuesday. They were mostly elementary-school-age, though a few were in middle school (and often brought homework to do), and a few were younger. For awhile we had a little one-year-old who just ran and ran and ran the whole time… he kept us busy!! 🙂

What We Did:

We would bring the supplies in the trunk of our car.  I usually organized the craft/coloring page area, so I had a tarp (in case the ground was wet) with a blanket to spread on top, a tub of clipboards, a box of crayons, and coloring pages stored in manila envelopes.

Our children’s ministry leader would bring some kind of game/sport (a soccer ball, cones for relay races, Frisbees, a soft Nerf football), along with a children’s Bible for our Bible story.  She also brought snack.

We followed a very simple, loose schedule:

  • 4:00 – 4:10 pm Arrival & get set up
  • 4:10 – 4:40 pm Activities: games, coloring/crafts, hang out
  • 4:40 – 5:00 pm Bible story & snack, departure

We sometimes followed a curriculum, sometimes just did random Bible stories.

For awhile, we were following the lessons that our at-church children’s program did during their weekly event. This worked to some extent, though sometimes the lessons were a little harder for this context.

One year, we used The Jesus StoryBook Bible to plan out a whole schedule. I liked this a lot. Each week we covered a new story. Prescheduling which story we would do each week helped because we could plan coordinating activities as possible.

I usually selected coloring pages or a craft that coincided with the story, and sometimes we could find a fun game that worked too. Sometimes we just read the Bible story (truthfully, The Jesus Storybook Bible was a little long for our context), and sometimes we planned out a lengthier Bible lesson… this one about the paralytic man was one of my favorites.

Snack time was always a highlight – every week we distributed some kind of prepackaged snack: often fruit snacks, pudding cups, bags of chips or Chex mix, but sometimes a special treat like homemade cookies or Popsicles. Typically, these were donated by church members who picked up an extra box at Costco, but occasionally paid for out of the children’s ministry budget.

We did have to make a rule that “we only give snack to kids who are here” because most children would want to take several so they could give one to their siblings, parents, or best friends.

When & Where We Met:

We met most Tuesdays from 4 to 5 pm at small lawn on an corner of the apartment complex. Children from the complex attended our program, including many refugee families.

We live in California so it was possible to meet outside year-round. I know this is a gift not everyone has! (Do you have a home or apartment community room where you could meet during the winter?) If it rained, we would just cancel till the following week.

 

For one or two summers, we also hosted VBS at the Afternoon Blast site (more on that below.)

 

 

Challenges we faced:

  • discipline among children, particularly 8-12 year old boys.
  • keeping attention during the Bible story
  • recruiting leaders to help. At our church, there was excitement from our members that someone was doing Afternoon Blast, but few wanted to join us to participate. Nearly everyone involved was a paid church staff person, or the spouse of staff.

If you haven’t already, read my post about refugee ministry for more about Afternoon Blast.

afternoon blast 6How to Get Started with a Backyard Bible Club

  1. Pray! As with any ministry, but particularly with this new-to-you style of ministry, prayer is vital.
  2. Form a team of leaders. Gather together to pray and discuss some of the following issues (purpose, location).
  3. Determine your purpose. This is key and will help you make some other decisions in this planning phase. Is your goal to disciple your own church’s children? To meet new families within your same demographic? To engage in cross-cultural ministry? To aid children of a certain ethnic group or economic status? To invite families to attend your own church? To expose families to Christianity for the first time? To get kids to become interested in your church so they’ll ride your church’s Sunday school bus to church each week?
  4. Choose a (potential) location. After you’ve determined your purpose, use that information to help choose a location. For example, if you want to engage in cross-cultural ministry, you’ll want to choose a location where people of other cultures live. If you want families to attend your own church, you don’t want to choose a location 30 minutes from your church.
  5. Prayer walk. I highly encourage you to prayer walk in the neighborhood of your potential location. Walk around with your team of leaders, and pray aloud as you walk. Pray for future ministry and for any people you see. Ask God to set up some opportunities for you to talk with people who live there!
  6. If needed, seek permission for your location. If your program is taking place at your own home, this is simple. However, if you hope to meet at an apartment complex or community room, you’ll need to meet with management. Pray ahead of time! Set up a meeting (or just drop by) and explain your goals. I’d focus on why this is good for the complex: keeps kids out of trouble, selling point for potential renters, you’ll pick up trash afterwards, etc.
  7. Think through legal stuff. Your church’s insurance should cover events that occur outside your church property, but you’ll want to double check the terms. Make plans to carry a first-aid kit with your Backyard Bible Club supplies.
  8. Invite children and families to participate. Walk through the neighborhood, handing out flyers and talking to people you see. Consider advertising with posters on community bulletin boards or  flyers on doors, if permitted (but don’t make a lot of trash! Maybe come back the next day and clean up any that have fallen to the ground). Personal invitations are really key, so if needed, walk through the neighborhood several times. Pray for an advocate within the neighborhood who will catch a vision and invite their friends and neighbors to participate.
  9. Plan lessons. Plan a few months of simple lessons – games, crafts, Bible stories, snacks, or whatever else you want to include. Keep it simple. Being outside or away from your home “turf” can be exhausting! You’re having to transport your supplies and figure out a new environment. So, choose fun stuff that will keep the kids engaged, but keep it as simple as possible.
  10. Start small. Don’t be discouraged if only a few children show up the first day. Put up a banner and balloons (or something to draw attention to yourself) and be prepared to invite anyone who walks by when they see you! (Even if they don’t have kids, tell them to invite any kids they know.)

afternoon blast 5

Additional Tips for a Summer VBS-style Backyard Bible Club

When I googled “Backyard Bible Club,” it seemed like many churches hosted Backyard Bible Clubs that only happened for one week in the summer, like a VBS program.

We did this with Afternoon Blast for a couple years (in addition to our weekly program) so I wanted to share some extra tips.

  • Schedule for a shorter amount of time and fewer days than your typical at-church VBS. If you are outdoors and not on your home turf (or, you’re actually at your own house and have to clean every day in preparation for Backyard Bible Club!), it will get wearying to do all five days of a typical VBS program. Skip a day or two of the curriculum and meet for three or four days. Also, schedule for less time than you meet at church. So, if you meet for three hours at church, schedule your Backyard Bible Club for just 1.5 – 2 hours. You won’t need to spend nearly as much time transitioning between stations, and you will likely not spend quite as much time on each activity.
  • Do a test-run at your own church first, if possible. We did a three day VBS at our own church the first week, then a second three-day VBS at Afternoon Blast the following week. It was good to have the kinks worked out at our own location first.
  • Host an event for the whole family. We didn’t do this with our summer program, but I wish we would have. We easily could have gotten a bunch of pizzas and concluded our final day of VBS with a pizza party for everyone. (Of course, BBQ would have been an option but would have required bringing grills – too much work!) Looking back, this would have been a great way to meet parents.
  • Think about how you’ll follow up. Will you use this to begin a weekly program? Or, do you already have a weekly program that could use more volunteer leaders? We had a few leaders who participated in VBS and then continued volunteering through the following school year.

afternoon blast 4

How to Involve Your Own Children and Teenagers in a Backyard Bible Club

For each post of this Global Missions with Kids series, I’ve been trying to point out specifically how to involve your children and teenagers… but this one seems pretty obvious. 🙂

Just bring your kids! They can play and participate just like any of the other children. If you have older children or teenagers, invite them to come along as leaders. Give them a purposeful and age-appropriate job to do.

Even after I stopped working at our church when my daughter was born, I remained involved in Afternoon Blast, often bringing her along with me. She would stay in her stroller or portable car seat, or I would put her in the Ergo carrier… the kids loved tickling her feet (though, they also loved handling her pacifier and sticking it back in her mouth! My new-mom-fears freaked out, but she never got sick!)

More questions? Want prayer?

If you are wanting to lead a Backyard Bible Club, please leave a comment below or email me (kelly{at}FaithPassedDown{dot}com.) I would be honored to answer any questions and pray for you and your ministry.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Have you ever been a part of a Backyard Bible Club? Is it something you’d be interested in doing in the future? Leave a comment below.