Missional Mamas

Creative, easy ways to engage your children in outreach
Missional Mamas

Last year, Buffy Smith and some of the other moms from her church in Jacksonville, Florida, visited a local apartment complex to get to know recently-immigrated moms from Burma. These Burmese families had resettled in Florida with the help of World Relief. The ladies started baking bread together, which turned out to be a major culinary fail. Buffy explains, "It was a total mess—both because of the bread and because we didn't speak the same language—but we just went believing that the Lord is bigger than all that."

Despite some awkward moments, relationships were forged.

These unlikely relationships included and engaged the women's American-born and Burmese-born children. The fact is that day in and day out, moms like us are making decisions about how our kids will spend the hours between school and dinnertime. Or we'll noodle on ways to make the most of the weekend hours we spend with our children. We conspire to minimize screen time and maximize time spent in meaningful ways. One of those ways—one that we can share alongside our children—is engaging in ministry to the world God loves.

Mission fields at home

Helen Lee, mom of three and the author of The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose at Home and In The World, equips parents to engage their children in mission. She explains of her own family, "We are always on the lookout for ways to be and share Christ to those around us. We see our block as a mission field and spend time building relationships and serving our neighbors, whether this means shoveling the driveway of the elderly widow across the street, or having our boys bring birthday gifts to our empty nesters next door, whose own children are far away, or talking freely about Jesus with the 10-year-old who frequently comes to play." Helen encourages moms like Buffy who are willing to step out in faith to share Christ's love. One woman and her family have invited strangers into their home. Another family has moved to a struggling neighborhood to love those who live there. Another woman started a group of "missional moms" to encourage and inspire one another to minister in Jesus' name.

While building bridges of relationship may require a bit of courage, the good news is that these bridges begin from where you already are, and use the gifts you've already been given.

In Jacksonville, Buffy and her children have offered their playtime to God. On a typical weekday, Buffy might load her three daughters into the family minivan after school and head out to a local park. But instead of going to the newest state-of-the-art city playground, Buffy and her girls cross town to play on the simple equipment in front of the apartment complex where their Burmese friends live. Buffy notes, "It is super hot, kinda dirty, and again we still can't speak their language, but it is really fun." Actually, it is more than fun. It's something that is shaping Buffy's daughters.

"I began to see a change in my kids as they wanted to do things to help their friends at World Relief," she reflects. "They wanted to purge their toys and give away things they didn't play with anymore so their friends could have some toys. They would write notes to their friends, and draw pictures to take them when we went to visit."

For some moms, of course, what has worked so well for Buffy's family won't be the right fit. In fact, chances are good that engaging your children with the needs of your community will look different. Perhaps you will take crafting items and introduce new projects to kids at the homeless shelter. You might connect with a local nursing home where you and your kids can engage with residents by playing Bingo or browsing through their photo albums. Or you might find someone on your own block who's in need of company. If you have a heart to serve alongside your kids, ask God to show you the needs in your own backyard. Then keep your eyes open for an opportunity that seems to be a good fit for your clan.

Do small things with great love

Don't expect it to be marked by grandeur. In fact, Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." I think she knew that if we make engaging with a world in need a really big thing—which might require getting passports for the whole family—we would use that as our excuse to avoid God's call to mission. I'll be frank: Because my kids have three soccer games on Saturday, there's no way we can hop on a plane to Haiti on Friday. That's convenient, because it gets me off the hook. But when we allow mission to be small, and local and personal—aiding the boy in a child's classroom who can't yet read, visiting the widower next door who lights up at the sight of a child, or inviting a child with a disability for a play date—then we're back on the Jesus-hook. Mother Teresa nails it when she explains, "I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one." Moms who are missional are those who recognize Christ in the faces of the ones, or perhaps the one, whose life intersects with their own.

Love on the world's margins

Don't expect it to be marked by grandeur. In fact, Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." I think she knew that if we make engaging with a world in need a really big thing—which might require getting passports for the whole family—we would use that as our excuse to avoid God's call to mission. I'll be frank: Because my kids have three soccer games on Saturday, there's no way we can hop on a plane to Haiti on Friday. That's convenient, because it gets me off the hook. But when we allow mission to be small, and local and personal—aiding the boy in a child's classroom who can't yet read, visiting the widower next door who lights up at the sight of a child, or inviting a child with a disability for a play date—then we're back on the Jesus-hook. Mother Teresa nails it when she explains, "I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one." Moms who are missional are those who recognize Christ in the faces of the ones, or perhaps the one, whose life intersects with their own.

View every interest or skill that your children exhibit as possibilities for ministry or mission.

And there it is.

At the intersection of "mothering" and "Jesus" is a love for the ones who are so often on the world's margins. They're the kids whose parents don't speak English. They're the elderly folks who are too often forgotten in our communities. They're the children and families who might be culturally different than our own. And while building these bridges of relationship may require a bit of courage, the good news is that these bridges begin from where you already are, and use the gifts you've already been given.

Helen explains, "View every interest or skill that your children exhibit as possibilities for ministry or mission." She continues, "All my kids play instruments. We frequently remind them that the purpose of developing this skill is not just for their own glory, but to be used by God in service to him and for his glory. My sons have shared music at homeless shelters and at church events such as VBS, which helps reinforce the idea of the purpose of taking all those lessons and practicing all those hours."

How cool is that? The Lee family also finds ministry opps at Saturday morning sports.

"Whenever my boys are on a team, we pray for their team members and their families," says Helen. "We encourage our kids to see themselves as a witness to Christ in how they behave and treat the other kids, coaches, and parents, and we keep our eyes open for ways we can be a blessing to the other families on the team."

So now I've got to cross "Saturday morning sports" off my list of excuses to not engage with the world God loves.

Which, of course, is my pleasure.

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Margot Starbuck is a regular contributor to Today's Christian Woman and the author of Permission Granted.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.

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Child-rearing; Creativity; Evangelism; Family; Motherhood; Motivation; Parenting; Service
Today's Christian Woman, October Week 4, 2013
Posted October 15, 2013

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