What if my parents oppose me becoming a missionary?

“Help them see the positive side of missions.”

Ask God to guide you, to change your parents’ hearts, and to bring into their lives people who would positively influence them toward missions.

Maybe they think you’re destined to a life of poverty. They need to be exposed to the positive side of missionary work. Invite missionaries home to a meal, or invite your parents to hear missionaries speak at church.

Be willing to wait before you actually go long-term. From time to time, talk casually about your desire to be a missionary, which will help the idea sink in a bit. And approach your future in small steps: go first on a local mission trip and then on an overseas mission trip.

Answer from Jennifer in West Africa with United World Mission.

Editor’s note: Good books include Following Jesus without Dishonoring Your Parents.

“Be patient and watch God change their hearts.”

When I found out that I would have to make a two-year commitment to the mission field, my immediate reaction was “Forget it! I won’t quit my job for that. My job is too good to give up. Besides, what would my dad, who paid for my studies for seven years, say?” 

I had only been working for three years. [Dad] is not a Christian and would probably think that he invested his money in vain. I especially thought he wouldn’t like the fact that I needed to raise support, because he values independence. 

I decided to go on the mission field eighteen months later. This time of waiting gave my family a chance to get used to the fact that I would be leaving for two years. I was surprised that my father did not react as I expected. He had no problem with me quitting my job. He thought it would be good for me to see the world and that I would learn a lot.

It was harder for my mother to accept because she has such different beliefs and does not understand how I can travel around to promote the Bible. But she changed her mind once she visited the ministry and saw that we offer the gospel only to those who are looking for the truth. She actually has become quite positive about it as she tells other about what I am doing.

Answer from Barbel, who serves with Operation Mobilization.

Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks.

“Wait for permission and blessing from your parents.”

Others may ask me to do things that are against God, but I need to stand firm and be ready to face opposition, even from my parents. But sometimes division occurs when you love others, including your family, more than God. Jesus tells us the most important thing is that he is first in our lives. 

My greatest wish is to serve God in full-time ministry, and I was hoping that my parents would give in at any moment. God would not tell me to obey my parents and then ask me to disobey. I told God I could not go without both of my parents’ permission and blessing.

I was firm in my convictions, and knew I had made a choice that pleased God. I went to my parents with humility and told them my decision. They were grateful, and I could see my decision gained me their respect. 

As I began to submit to my parents in other ways, I began to see my dad’s heart becoming softer. As I trusted God to work in me and through me, my dad and I became closer and he could see visible changes in me. During my last year at university I began to look for a job.

God led me to a full-time position in the United Kingdom as a missionary. I immediately realized that the job and location were perfect for me. I knew God was calling me to serve him in this position. I just needed the approval of my parents. 

When I found the opportunity in the U.K., I sent them a copy of the job description. I nervously waited and prayed for God’s providence in the situation. My mother said she was excited because I had found a job that is perfectly suited for me. She and my dad were both thrilled and knew that this is where I should be. I thanked God for his ability to work things out for my good and his glory. 

When I think about where I might be right now if I had said yes two years ago, I’m grieved. My parents would have cut me off, and I would be without my parents’ support. The opportunities to tell my dad about the Lord would have never existed.

Answer from Christy, an American now working in the United Kingdom.

Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks.

“Be discerning and listen to input from others.”

Having worked in missions in several different countries, I’ve met many missionaries on the field, and I’ve seen many who are doing great work. But I’ve also seen situations where it was apparent that they rushed in too quickly. I’ve seen situations where families or even the communities where they are serving have been hurt because of this. 

I’d encourage anyone considering the mission field to take the advice of parents, mentors, and friends seriously when making the decision to go. God can use these voices to offer a prudent perspective. It may very well that God is using these voices to lead you in a different direction or to lead you to more preparation before you go.

Of course, it’s possible that God is calling you to the mission field, and they don’t see it. 

Ultimately, this is between you and God, but I’d be very intentional about considering the advice of Christians you respect. If none of them are encouraging you to go, this is a strong indication that you are either not called or not to go yet. That being said, if God is truly calling you, and this call is affirmed by other believers, you cannot let your parents alone hold you back.

Ultimately, your allegiance is to God over your parents. If you are a minor, and currently living under your parents’ authority, then this is a classic example of where you may be called, but this is not the right time. I trust that God will give you discernment in his time.

Answer from Josh, who has served for eight years with Experience Mission in Haiti, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Belize, and Honduras.

“With Christian parents, help them see this as being consistent with their teaching.”

Usually, Christian parents want to see God glorified and his kingdom grow, but even if they donate and pray for missions, they often do not see God asking them to give a child (or themselves) to the task directly. Help them (in an honest, humble manner) to see that you are part of their answer to prayer, consistent in following everything they taught you.

1. Talk about how fear can keep us from faithfully doing what God asks us. We all need to grow in trusting God more.

2. Often, the fear is of having no money, begging, and other issues around support raising. Not all missions require this. It might be better to first address the issue of serving overseas at all.

3. Often the issue is a fear of not seeing you again, at least not often, because you’ll be so far from home. Address this fear honestly. Talk about furlough, “safety” in America, what countries might be more acceptable to them, and how even if you stayed in America you might have to relocate for marriage or work.

4. Often, with singles (esp. women) there is a fear of being single and/or never meeting a guy. Address this issue honestly. You are looking for a guy who puts God first rather than a paycheck or security. Many godly guys are praying about missions and ministry too and wondering how they could make it overseas as a single but are going to candidate school and working at home bases hoping God will bring just the right person along.

5. Sometimes parents are concerned about having a fall-back plan or profession “in case mission work doesn’t work out.” This is a legitimate concern. Having a skill that can be used overseas is valuable even if you are not going into a “closed” country. Try to locate a job or training that is transferable and useful both at home and on the field, to bless others regardless of where you use your gifts and skills.

Don’t leave your parents in the dark and in fear of the unknown, but help them understand the process as you go through it. Ultimately, even if it comes down to “obeying God rather than men,” your parents will be a great help if they understand and accept what God has asked you to do.

Non-Christian parents or those who do not have your same passion and point of reference should be honored and spoken to with kindness. You can hope they will understand someday. How you handle the situation now could really help, or could make them bitter toward God for “taking things” from them without them understanding why.

Answer from Mark from Good Neighbor Insurance, who has served eight years with Frontiers and OM and continues to serve in a support role in the US.

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