Help children find their mission and purpose by allowing them the space to practice mission in the church, mentoring their education. Participation with mission teaches leadership, organizational skills, and the impact of active faith. In addition, rather than isolating children from every aspect of church life, allow for cross generational interactions to encourage the ability to connect with people from every age.This skill not only grows their social and community skills, but bridges the gap which allows for deeper understanding and an exchange of knowledge. As a result, the isolation of mission as a “grown up” action is removed, promoting relational respect which expands the mission as something that has space for every age and every skill. Mission is a privilege, not an obligation. In presenting it in the spirit of something that you get to do, not something you have to do, releases it from feeling like a burden. We are all called to serve and be active in our faith, however removing the element of drudgery and presenting it as an outpouring of love is inviting to kids who are shaping their perception of God and lead to greater investment in mission.
Anyone who has spent extended time with a child knows, kids are little mimics. They copy our tone, our words, and especially, our actions. This trait can be a hindrance or an invaluable tool to help them understand the importance of active mission. The Director of Children's and Family Ministry for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Orathai Chureson, spoke at the virtual camp meeting on the importance of children in mission. She is the guest of Jennifer Stymiest and Sam Neves on this episode of ANN InDepth to discuss her presentation and the nuance of mission purpose for children.
For parents in the church, it is desired for their children to not only stay in the church, but be active in mission. But how do they do this? Simply put, it begins in the home. Mission and faith are learned by example. If parents want their children to be passionate about mission and stay in the church, they must display that passion. If mission and faith are discussed, but never done, or done with a hard heart, kids will learn that mission is optional and not a bedrock of Christian faith.
The majority of children raised in the church leave due to a perceived hypocrisy. Either their parents presented a false Christianity on Sabbath, only to become passive or unloving at home, or warp scripture to use it as a weapon for control, not loving action. The nature of mission must be shown in the proper context: an act of obedience done out of love to a faithful God. This context must be shown first and foremost, in the home.
The importance of this example must also be shown in the community. The stronger the community, the more examples available for children to reference. In this case, not only are there examples of active Christianity, but a reference of how to build and maintain healthy relationships. In this way, children are given an environment in which they are supported, loved, encouraged, and educated. Their ability to identify and participate in a healthy community provides them the building blocks upon which they may build their own community in adulthood, which is the foundation for living mission. In this way, mission is not something to be heard, but a calling to be lived. Strong relationships with children are required to allow trust to be built, and safety to be felt.
Chureson elaborates, “trust is so important. When they can trust the adults through their consistent life living out their faith, they will learn to trust God automatically. I believe that is the way that we should go as a faith community.”
Covid has caused an isolation of many communities, lessening opportunities for traditional missions. However, mission is something that goes beyond official structures. The pandemic has forced us to grow as missionaries, thinking outside ridged examples of what mission can look like. We as a church have been forced to adapt, and our children are the audience to our adaptation. Rather than throwing up our hands in mourning that we can no longer engage in mission, show our children that mission is available in any form. In doing so, they practice creative problem solving for ministry, understand that we as believers are called to grow and adapt, and most of all, that the purpose and calling to share the Gospel is greater than any obstacle. Chureson encourages believers to celebrate this shift, saying, “I feel that God has opened up another door for us when Satan has closed the one that is regularly being opened, and so I believe that through this situation we have come out stronger.”