The last couple years I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot more about my kids and missions. It’s strange, because I probably go on more missions trips than 98% of my church (seven summer and winter trips since I came on staff a little under three years ago), but my kids haven’t been on one yet. This is the first summer, where looking back, I feel like I missed an opportunity.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about anyway, and a post on Doug Fields’ blog the other day really brought it to the forefront for me. He’s kind of on the other end of the parenting experience as me; several decades of youth ministry under his belt, his youngest finished with high school while my oldest is still a couple years away from middle school. His son is currently serving in Africa on a missions trip and he had this to say to youth workers on his blog after visiting him:
For those of you who are still in the stage of life where your children are young, I encourage you to take them on your youth ministry mission trips (when you can). Our kids went with us every year on our spring break mission week to Mexico when they were toddlers. Unintentionally, we exposed them to a bigger picture of God’s family and planted the seed of serving others. I’m so grateful that our church (and my wife) allowed them to tag along. It’s an incredible blessing to have children who serve Jesus!
A big part of why I’m in ministry now are the experiences I had as a young pastor’s kid; my dad took me to homeless shelters where I stood up in front and shared my testimony when I was Micah’s age, we were at nursing homes regularly, and quite a few retreats and mission trips, ultimately culminating in us moving to South America when I was fifteen.
At the same time, the practicality of it all is challenging to say the least. Zach really has been too young to make those kinds of trips – but leaving Heather home with the younger ones while the older ones travel with me creates its own set of challenges. I look back on these past trips and I was completely maxed out, both mentally and physically. It would ‘easier’ to keep things as they are, but in the long run I’m pretty sure I would regret missing the opportunity to invest in my own children.