In times like these, we begin to realize how critical our foundations are. We all strive to value strong foundations all the time, but we all know that we struggle to put down strong foundations. It is often easy to build and grow and expand during the good times without giving detail to the first steps that are required. Really…who wants to waste time to read the instructions? Come hard times, we start to remember how important it is that we not let ourselves get too far ahead of what our foundations can endure. Indeed, foundations are critical.
One of the greatest challenges for churches and church leaders is determining what type of missions foundation might be holding up the missions ministry in their church. The first article in this series dealt with the financial foundation related to missions. The second article in this series dealt with getting a congregation engaged in missions and growing that foundation. This particular article will deal with the foundation related to growing the next generation in missions.
If you were asked what does it mean to engage in missions or be a missionary, how would you respond? You might be interested to ask someone from the next generation that very same question and compare his/her response to that of your own. The newest research shows that the next generation has some distrust of traditional missions. A new report entitled “The Future of Missions” just came out. In partnership with the International Mission Board, the Barna group published this report that indicates that more Christians in the age 18-34 bracket have concern over missions’ past than those in older age brackets. Some of them even label mission work as unethical! The study also indicated that those who know a missionary personally are more likely to give to missions, pray, and/or go on a mission trip. While all of these findings are very interesting, the key lesson to gain from reading these statistics and trends is that a philosophical foundation to missions will indeed impact the way in which someone is inclined to engage in the future.
As you or your church seeks to invest in the next generation by strengthening their mental/philosophical foundation to missions, here are some things to consider:
1) Make sure missions is defined.
Matthew Ellison and Denny Spitters wrote a book called “When Everything Is Missions” because of the fact that everything can tend to become classified as missions. The authors do a good job of explaining the foundation of the word, its biblical meaning, and how that applies to our churches and our culture today. The point is that the next generation needs to have a clear foundation for understanding what missions is and what missions is not. For example, passing out a cup of cold water at a local baseball game is not missions, at least not according to the way most would define it. It is absolutely a wonderful thing to do, but it does not directly promote the gospel and/or cause churches to be planted. In most cases, the activity of passing out water does not cross cultures. Consider whether or not you and your ministry/church are training up the next generation to have a clear understanding of what missions is in accordance with the Great Commission’s definition.
2) Make sure training opportunities are available.
The next generation needs to be taught and not just shown examples. Taking students or young people on a mission trip is a wonderful way to show them missions, but without proper training, they are not receiving a true foundation for how this fits into the grand scheme of missions world. Training programs like Perspectives and Kairos are great for adults, but maybe the next generation needs a version that will train them in an age-appropriate manner. Here is a great free resource for training the next generation: There are many other options available, but the next generation needs to have training opportunities that do more than tell them ABOUT missions and instead teach them the foundational principles to be APPLIED.
3) Make sure there is creativity involved.
In the age of video games and sports and social media and other things that make up the entertainment world for youth and young people, the next generation will not be engaged in hearing from a veteran missionary and looking at a few photos. There are ways to teach and lay a foundation that are far more enticing to the next generation. Maybe youth and young adults need to learn through experiencing a missions escape room (contact email listed below to get this free service brought to you) or need to participate in a small group study related to missions (momentumyes.com). Maybe the next generation needs to participate in activities where they are contributing rather than just absorbing information. Maybe the next generation needs to know about online games, activities, and forums so that missions comes to them in a creative way.
Consider the way missions is taking root in the next generation today! If the results are not what you would like them to be, reach out and contact a church missions consultant today. Reaching the next generation will not be easy, but the Great Commission is for everyone. They need to know how they can fulfill their missions mandate as well.
Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various free resources that OMF uses to come alongside churches and individuals so that they can do missions well. [email protected]