Motivating Young People for Missions :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Motivating Young People for Missions

Joanne Landon
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Impacting the next generation for missionary service may be easier than you think. Many young people have considered the mission field because of a godly parent, a Sunday school teacher, or a pastor’s sermon. Others were inspired by a missions-minded friend or a missionary on furlough. Still others were seeking God’s will and an opportunity presented itself. Your enthusiasm for missions can have life-changing results—in the young lives about you and the souls they will one day reach.

Influence can begin at a young age and on a small scale. As I was growing up, my parents and their five children didn’t have the opportunity to visit a mission field, but two of us would serve on the foreign field for over four decades each. As a preschooler I was encouraged to “Pray for Jim and Betty,” as I said my bedtime prayers. They were a missionary family working with tribal people in Brazil. One week that family came to visit us on furlough, and this would become one of my earliest memories. Five decades later, the black and white photos of that missionary family and their tribal ministry are still there in the family album. I treasure them as part of my family’s missionary heritage.

Here are some ideas you can use to encourage children and young people to seriously consider missions?

Host missionaries

You might think you are the one helping missionaries on deputation or furlough—and you are—but they may be teaching your children more than you realize. Firsthand stories of spiritual breakthroughs, provision, protection, and answers to prayer in another country all come to life as the missionary shares his ministry, culture, and language.

Read missionary stories

What child isn’t thrilled with the daring feats of pioneer missions? Headhunters, slave traders, shipwrecks, death of loved ones, tropical fevers, souls saved, and verses claimed show living and dying faith. Contemporary biographies are also stirring and bring missions into a modern context. Keep track of interesting quotes or short stories for Bible, history, or Sunday school classes, a church bulletin board, prayer meetings, or a missions conference.

Talk about travel

Young people love to talk about where they’ve been, a country they hope to visit, or the countries of their ancestry. Talk about the primary religion of that place and how one might witness to that people group. If your church has a missionary serving in that country, you might arrange for that missionary to speak to your class during the next furlough.

Discuss missionary callings

Every story is different and inspiring! Sometimes the missionary was burdened for one field and ended up in another. Some were rejected by a mission board and went anyway. Others changed mission boards or started a new one. Discuss different types of work missionaries might do, such as church planting, education, medicine, technical support. Whether it is long or short-term, yet all is evangelistic. Talk about why some missionaries are/were “jacks-of-all-trades”? Discuss why we should consider missions.

Explain the required commitment

What does it mean to “count the cost” before you go or “to forsake all”? What hurdles do missionaries have to overcome to get to the field (financial, educational, family responsibilities, a broken romance, visas)? Were spiritual victories or personal blessings gained during these challenging and waiting times? Did this impact the missionary’s future ministry? Discuss these things. 

Inspire them with moral courage

Take note of what God did to help missionaries, past and present, who have faced incredible challenges and kept going when all seemed lost. Bible translations were destroyed, family members or co-workers died, wars closed down decades of work, “converts” left the faith, and fevers incapacitated some. Yet many persevered. Why? How? What did the Gospel do to sustain them?  What special promises of God encouraged them?

Present opportunities for them to develop their God-given gifts

Help young people realize the body of Christ needs members to function and work together, and all types are needed on the foreign field. Challenge them to use their musical, linguistic, or athletic interests in outreach ministries. Do they have a special ability to work with children? Do they love to cook? Do they have a medical, technical, or organizational bent? Regular or seasonal outreaches to a nursing home, day care, hospital, or homeschool group can give young people experience in sharing their testimony, telling Bible stories, and presenting the Gospel. Invest in helping them discover or develop their gifts so that they can gain valuable experience for future missionary service.

Encourage prayer for missionaries

Teach them to pray individually or in a class. Intercede for people on the foreign field by name and remember specific requests. Some may also wish to pray for believers in secular positions in restricted access countries or for the opening of closed countries.

Young people love to dream about their future—inspire them with the possibility of being one who could rise to the challenge and fill in the gap. For example, one unmarried schoolteacher was approached for short-term service so a missionary could go on a long-overdue furlough. That schoolteacher stayed a lifetime.

When praying for missionaries, let young people know that new recruits are always needed as elderly missionaries retire or die, new fields open, or missionaries change fields or leave. Young people can gain knowledge of various fields and of these open doors of service as they pray for missionaries.

Use your influence

Some folks around you or away at college may be seeking God’s will for their lives. Does your influence encourage them to imagine how God might use them? Does your own passion for eternal values and service for Christ outweigh the materialism of our age? Are you actively encouraging missionaries? You might never go to the foreign field yourself, but you can help send forth others with your love, support, and prayers.

Your sphere of influence (prayers, concern, communication, financial support, furlough housing, meals, and lifelong friendship) extends far beyond Sunday children’s programs. Your vision for how God can use the children is vital before you can see lives changed and be used of God to send out missionaries. Only eternity will tell the full effect. That young person you influence today may be just the needed light in some dark tomorrow.

“I have set thee to be a light . . . that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).