I have long been a proponent of raising children to see themselves as agents of the gospel ministry in the world. However, at home, I often parent as if our younger children are simply objects of ministry. For some reason I see them changing into agents of ministry as teenagers. My self-assessment is that we are really proficient at helping our teenagers flourish as agents of ministry while I often view our youngest child as a receiver. This is a wrong perspective. The Lord recently gave us an example of why our nine-year-old is as much a minister of the gospel as the older members of our family.
A few weeks ago I was looking for my youngest daughter when my wife pointed out the front window to the house across the street. There she was, with her dog, talking to a senior adult neighbor. We smiled, thinking what a neat thing it was that our elementary-aged daughter would care to carry on a conversation with an elderly gentleman. When she came home, she asked if “Mr. so and so” is a believer. We told her we didn’t think so and began praying for him.
Several days later we were out for a walk in the neighborhood when this same gentleman came riding by on his new bike. He stopped us and invited our entire family to breakfast at his favorite local restaurant. He began by saying, “Your youngest daughter is quite confident and such a joy. We became friends the other day and I would like to be friends with your entire family.” We accepted the gracious invitation as an opportunity to know our neighbor and share the gospel. As he rode off we talked about how God used our child as an agent of ministry with our neighbor.
So, as parents, how can we cultivate such a sense of mission in our younger children? It may be simpler than we think. Praying with and for our children in foundational ways sets them up to be agents of ministry. From infancy we pray that our children would love God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength and that they would love people as God loves people. As they grow we involve them in praying for neighbors, classmates, and family members that need Christ. This kind of consistent prayer cultivates a heart for ministry at a young age.
Secondly, we model being an agent of ministry before our children. This demonstration involves talking to neighbors and engaging in ministry regionally and globally. Our nine-year-old was practicing ministry on the neighbor’s front lawn in the same relational way that she has seen her parents practice ministry. Our children are agents of ministry, not just objects.