Being Missional With Young Kids
Blog post written by Kati Berreth, faithful mom to four kids, loving wife to Rob, and one heck of a Redeemer Kids Coordinator.
From a dad who recently attended one of Redeemer’s Family Dedication classes:
“I would love wisdom on what it practically looks to engage in mission with little kiddos. My wife and I have often heard the encouragement to be on mission at your kids' t-ball games or in their extracurriculars, but what does it look like for a family with really little kids to engage in mission in a regular, repeatable, low-bar (we're just so tired already! :-) ) sort of way.
I absolutely love this question for three reasons. The first is that this young family is seeking to engage those in Whatcom County so that Everyone, Everywhere, Every-day can experience the Gospel, even though they have young kids and are tired. The second is that this question came from a Dad, who is trying to lead his family to love Jesus, love the local church, and love his neighbors, even though he has young kids and is tired. And the third is that he was honest…being on mission is hard and tiring and takes effort and so they need hints on how to do this in a sustainable sort of way that also allows for them to have rest and to enjoy these three young kids!
So let me take these three great categories (regular, repeatable, low-bar) and give some ways to engage in mission with young kids.
This word can be used synonymously with every day. I brush my teeth regularly or every day - even a few times a day. And that is how we have to think of mission with our kids. We have to make mission “normal” and something we often do or all the time. So start by having regular conversations and prayer times with your kids for those in your spheres of influence who do not yet believe in their need of the Gospel. This might be those in a playgroup or preschool group with you or family members or physical neighbors. These prayer times will help align your heart and the hearts of your kids with the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, so you are ready to share the Gospel when you are given the opportunity.
Then invite these folks into your home or on a playdate at the park or out for ice cream or even just pursue conversations across the fence if they are your neighbors and invite your kids into these conversations or at the very least, pray with intentionality as a family before you see them. We often try to “cast vision” for our kids to help them feel a part of our mission - whether it be when Rob is traveling to help coach potential church planters, or if we have invited specific people over for dinner just so they know the spiritual importance of the meal and can help us create a hospitable home.
When Rob and I were first married, we began attending meetings for a new church plant in Boston. The Pastor used these Sunday night meetings to train us in being missional. Although he shared many stories with us, the one that I have always remembered is him talking about going to the same barber every couple of weeks to get his hair cut. He said that he chose the shop intentionally and would go to the same person because he was cultivating a relationship with the barber with the hope that he would be able to share the Gospel with her.
This advice is good…and easy. I noticed when my kids were young and still able to sit in a grocery cart that I could pick the same person to check out with each week. And the great thing about kids is there is always something to talk about and people tend to remember kids. So whenever possible, I would pick the line with this one specific worker because we could always talk about our kids - she would remember mine - and we got to know each other a bit. And even when her line was super busy, I made a point to at least say “Hi” as we walked by with our cart full of groceries.
Now that my kids are older, I try and share with them why I have certain conversations with folks, again at the grocery store. As I buy a lot of craft supplies for Redeemer Kids, people often ask what they are for. When I respond that the supplies are for a craft at church and the person checking me out stops talking to me, I know that this is not the right time to pursue that conversation, and I share this with my older kids so they know how to be sensitive to the Spirit working in people's lives as they share their faith with those in their school. I also share it with them so they can see that it is not scary to talk about church or Jesus or their faith even with strangers. Again, this goes back to having regular conversations with our kids so they can be a part of the mission.
We talk with people outside of our homes every day, and we repeatedly go to places in our City. So if you have shared with your kids how you are intentional with your conversations, you have prayed with your kids for specific people and cultivated relationships with those people, and you have prayed with them for opportunities to share the Gospel regularly, then a low-bar approach for being missional with your kids is simply starting conversations with people, as I mentioned before and see if the Holy Spirit is moving in their hearts for more questions to be asked.
For example, we were having a conversation with one of our kids about one of his friends who he found out is a Christian. It was awesome that he knew that information as he felt bold enough to ask if his friend went to church, but when I asked where his friend attended, he said he didn't know and didn’t know how he might find out. I said, “Ask your friend what he did for Easter. And if he says ‘I went to church’ then ask ‘where?’”
And these are the same low-bar conversations we need to be having in front of our kids, so they know how to have them. Next time you are with your hope-to-be-Christians-soon friends or neighbors, ask what they did on Saturday and Sunday. And if they ask the question in return, then share how you attended a service on Sunday and what it was about. Or if you are at a playgroup, and one of the moms is looking for some “mom-time” on Saturday, invite her to the next women’s breakfast or even out for a walk and just get to know her and her story.
4) Be intentional
I know this wasn’t one of the words mentioned above and I have used it over and over again throughout this post, but I don’t think I can stress this phrase enough. When our family has given itself to mission with intentionality, we have seen our lives and the lives of those around us changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it has been fun and effortless.
When God brought a family to live in Bellingham for just one year and we felt called to get to know them and spend time with them, not only did we make life long friends, but a thirst for the Gospel became evident and questions about who Jesus was and what He accomplished on the cross just seemed to spill out of the mom. Our kids played sports together; we regularly had them to dinner, we invited them repeatedly to our holiday celebrations since they didn’t have family in town, and I joined her gym with the kids so we could spend time weekly together. We even went on a family vacation with their family right before they moved away from Bellingham. The times of playdates soon turned into a Bible study/playdate and our last holiday together, Easter, the mom, was baptized in front of our whole church. Even as I write this story now, years later, it still makes me cry with joy and amazement that we got to be even a part of this redemption story!
I pray that as you seek to lead your young kids in mission that you too would get to experience the power of the Gospel through the work of the Holy Spirit in your lives and those you minister too.