Take a scouting trip with your teens.”
Moving teenagers can be the most difficult family dynamic for any family of potential missionaries. Regardless of your family authority structure, if the teenagers aren’t on board with your call and vision, you will have a tough time accomplishing it.
However impractical this sounds, any family with teenagers needs to make a survey trip to the field of ministry before making serious decisions to go permanently.
It can be difficult to understand the teenagers’ resistance to the move. They may not want to leave friends and family back home. That is understandable and normal and can be overcome. They may not understand your call or the ministry vision. That can be overcome with the survey trip.
They may also be resistant to a life of faith and focused on their own comfortable life. That is difficult to overcome without the Lord’s intervention. Most teenagers from Christian families struggle to make their faith their own. That process can be encouraged by faithful, loving, and praying parents, but can’t be forced or predicted. The results of forcing this process can be disastrous to your family, your children, and your mission.
In short, any family with teenagers wanting to move to the mission field will need to have the Lord call the whole family, not just the parents.
Answer from Scott, who has served ten years with Adventures in Missions.
“Put your teens first.”
Principle 1: Being a successful missionary but a failure as a parent is not an option.
Principle 2: If it’s God’s will for you to be overseas, then it’s God’s will for your kids to be there, too.
Others can give you advice, but be certain your call to launch into missions now is not motivated by anything other than God’s will. If your kids are resisting, it could be that God is using them to check your motives and timing.
If they don’t want to go with you, don’t risk making them bitter for the rest of their lives just to do something you want to do. If they are opposed to going with you, I advise waiting until they are on their own and have a good support system in place before you leave for your mission assignment.
Answer from Char, who has served nineteen years in Guatemala, South Korea, China, and Africa.
“A house divided will not stand.”
Be sure God’s leading is evident and working full circle in your family’s life before you ever consider the call to mission work. The Word of God instructs children to obey their parents. It also speaks to fathers not to provoke their children. The best scripture to remember is that “every house divided against itself shall not stand.”
When I was first led to the mission field, I shared the vision with my wife and children, asking their input. We discussed the change in lifestyles, the sacrifices that would need to be made in everyday life. As the time drew near to leave, opposition began to rise in my family and even church. Rooted and grounded in God’s directives, with much prayer and fasting, we held fast to the course, sure it was from God.
Looking back today, I can say that the experience changed my daughter’s life and led her to serve the Lord in missions. The journey was not without hardships and challenges, but it has keep our family close to God and one another.
I counted the cost and shared it with my family before we ever left to serve in missions. If it’s God’s voice calling, count the cost and he will open every door necessary. God will never divide a family.
Answer from Marty, who has served with Shekinah International Missions in Honduras, Guatemala, Central America, Peru, Israel, Pakistan, and Canada for more than eleven years.