A few years ago, when my daughter had just reached her first birthday, we took her on our church’s family mission trip. Those words don’t always go together: family and mission trip. But our church is committed to ministry that is done with the entire family, which I love, and which also makes me feel like we are slightly crazy; crazy because we had children from ages 6 months to 14 years on a trip that included nearly 100 of us from three churches that came together to serve our sister church in Tijuana, Mexico. With lots and lots of small kids running around in a foreign city, in a place where most of us didn’t speak the language, there was bound to be some chaos. Some kids got sick, some kids got really tired, and some kids got really cranky. And let’s be honest: a lot of us adults got really cranky, too. And that, I found, was okay.
Church is for the whole family, not just those who are old enough to sit quietly or travel well or eat whatever is put in front of them. Being on mission: serving others, sharing the gospel, and intentionally seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a place where you don’t know your way around town is not just for people who are old enough to tie their own shoes and talk about faith competently and theologically.
Church is for the whole family. Therefore, being on mission is for the whole family, which means it’s worth taking my 1-year old on a trip she will not remember to a nation where we know no one to share the gospel in a language we barely speak. We are a family, and I refuse to keep my child out of participating in ministry until she is “old enough.”
Was it challenging and difficult at times? Yes. Was it fun and exciting and rewarding at times, too? Yes.
I want church, ministry, and mission to be woven into the fabric of our family life so it’s Ella’s baseline for normal. So she does church with us now, just as she has been doing since she was born. We show up every Sunday, even when it interrupts her nap. She comes to small group and plays with the college kids on Monday nights. She dances while Mom and Dad play worship music in the house. She listens while Daddy, a seminary student, practices his sermons. And she comes with us on mission trips.
As a result, she is learning a lot of things, even now, that she doesn’t have words for. And it’s worth it, because Jesus is worth it. And because church is for the whole family.