DALLAS (ABP) — Getting a young family involved in missions might seem impossible, but there are several possibilities available to help children and parents serve the needy locally or overseas.
Violetta Alvarado, volunteer coordinator at Buckner International, offered a number of ideas for families to consider, including creative opportunities to raise children’s awareness of others’ needs.
“A family could set aside a couple of days and create a certain theme,” she said. “For example, they could talk to an international adoption agency and pray for the children from a specific country. Then the family could learn about their culture by eating some of their food or seeing a movie that was made there. They could also write a note and send it to adoption workers to let them know that they are praying for them.”
Other local options could include visiting a retirement community, or hosting a drive to collect books, clothing, or coats in the winter.
“Families can pray together over their donations before giving them to their church or a local charity,” she added.
Susan Williams, office manager for Buckner missions, said families serving together often can help a child form a broader appreciation for missions and service.
“When I was a child, I remember that my mom had an elderly neighbor that we used to drive to the store because she wasn’t able to drive herself,” she said. “I also remember Mom taking me over to her house to visit with her. Things like that make such a huge impression, watching your parents serve and experiencing it with them; family mission trips are a great opportunity for that.”
Although Buckner normally doesn’t offer international mission trip opportunities for children under age 12, Williams said many churches offer opportunities for families to serve together.
“Taking a child on a mission trip, whether locally or internationally, will change their world view,” she said.
Buckner offers a summer mother/daughter mission trips for girls and their moms. This summer’s trip to Guatemala, July 7-12, still has openings, she added.
Marty Lewis, minister to children at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, noted the importance of involving children in service and said the children in his church are active in local service projects.
“Just yesterday, (children from Park Cities) made sandwiches for some children at a community center,” Lewis said. “The children love it. We’ve been working with Cornerstone Academy, a school of Cornerstone Baptist Church, and they are putting together something for the children to be more comfortable during reading. So Girls in Action (the missions program for girls in grades one through six) made some pillows for them.
“Our boys recently did something called Hoops for Missions, which helped raise money for the Texas Baptist Men by shooting hoops.”
Jillian Zeiger is the volunteer coordinator at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid in Dallas. Many families will spend a day, or sometimes an entire weekend, sorting shoes together for international shipment to orphans because children as young as 4 or 5 can help, she noted.
The children work together with their parents to process shoes by taking tags and trash out, sorting them and separating them by size, she said.
“Local mission trips can be a good idea because of the economy. And volunteers can make a huge difference in just a couple of hours of work. It isn’t that going afar isn’t good, but this allows kids to know that they can have an impact right here, too. It also makes it easier to bring friends,” Zeiger said.
“Another advantage is safety. It is really difficult for anyone who has been on an airplane to go through the process with children. Staying somewhere local means they can avoid the airport system. It also saves children the trouble of having to adjust to time zone changes.”
Children also can serve by feeding the homeless in their community, she added.
“I got the chance to do that as a child,” Zeiger said. “I was in third grade and lived in Michigan. … It hit my heart, and so I told my mom and we went as a family. It was a great experience that I will always carry with me and helped mold me into who I am today. That’s why I know it’s really important for children to have opportunities to do missions like that.”