Children's Mission Education Part 1
Mission-Centered Christian Education?
Templeton fumed over a recent "Missions in the Sunday School" seminar she attended. The leader suggested an appropriate strategy for infusing mission vision into children's lives was to have a mission emphasis four times a year÷every time there is a fifth Sunday. "That way you won't overdo it," she explained.
To Templeton, the statement bordered on the sacrilegious. She doesn't hit missions four times a year, nor once a month, nor even once each week. She integrates it into every facet of the Christian education program.
And why not? she asks. "We would not teach anything else with the same hit-or-miss approach we have toward missions and think it would be part of a child's life when he grows up! In children's mission education there are lots of pieces of pie. Why put missions in just one part?
"What about the children's church, the Sunday evening program, the choir, the clubs÷Pioneer clubs, AWANAs? What about the pr session times before Sunday school, while the waiting? What about the major programs dur: the year÷the mission conferences, Christmas Easter. . . ? We try to do too much in one half hour (of Sunday school)."
To Templeton and others, if missions isn't thoroughly integrated in a church's Christian education program, that pro gram is lacking. It would be, as Templeton put it like relegating our teaching about Christ's death burial, and resurrection to Easter and no other time in the year. "We wouldn't do that with Jesus' death and resurrection," Templeton said, "why should we teach about missions only once a year÷at the missions conference?
Jan Bell, a missions education consultant from York, Pennsylvania, said, "There arc so many little booklets out today÷the 'Dovetail' series for instance: cute, but it stops short of giving a perspective that God wants to do something for the whole world, all the nations. (It seems that all the Christian books written for children always stop short of giving that perspective."
Ele Parrott of Highlands Community Church Renton, Washington, began a mission program for kindergarteners at her church three years ago. "People need to know of the significance of the World Christian perspective in Scripture," she said. "God's heart for the nations is throughout the Scripture: in the Epistles, Psalms, . . . throughout.
"We need to reeducate ourselves about why God has chosen to document David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions' den, Jonah . . . . He wants His name to be known among the nations! For some reason our ethnocentric culture has ignored that.
Morri Watkins, a former Wycliffe Bible translator and founder/director of All-Nations Literacy Movement, said, "About 85 percent of the missionaries on the field first started thinking about it when they were in fifth or sixth grade, yet most kids today don't seem to hear about missions or ever see missionaries . . . ."
Finicy concurred: "\ was talking to some of the older, retired missionaries at the (U.S.) Center (for World Mission). All of them committed themselves to missions when they were young. But we've missed a generation of kids! We have to rechallenge the church to build mission vision among the children."
"Even in the general schools, with AIDS, drugs, sex education, they're saying they haven't started teaching kids early enough when they start in high school," said Dorothy Schultz, a 27-year veteran teacher with Wycliffe Bible Translators. "It's the same with missions.
"You don't give them a big, heavy suitcase to begin with, but you plant the seeds. You can tell little kids things that take hold in their minds. When they get to first Grade, you tell them a little more . . . . By the time they reach junior high and high school, they can begin to make decisions ...."
Schultz bemoans the fact that it wasn't until she'd been on the field for a year that she realized her heart for children's education could have a legitimate outlet on the mission field. "If I had known that missionary children would have needs, I would have been involved in children's education from the start, instead of, as it was, after I'd had all the training and begun my career as a Bible translator." She blames her false start on a lack of mission education when she was a child.
"Too often kids have the idea that you must be just a preacher or Bible translator if you're going to be a missionary," Templeton agrees. That's why she makes sure she emphasizes the full range of occupations needed on the field: "Mechanic, doctor, nurse, writer, photographer, . . . they're all needed. Just about any occupation you can imagine."
Tempicton claims that because missions isn't an "added-on something" but an integral part of Calvary Church's entire Christian education program, the children have an attitude of "not IF I'm going to go,' but 'WHERE will I go?"' It bodes well for the congregation's future missions impact.
She describes the response of one 5th grader following a presentation by a missionary from Japan. He was deeply perplexed. "Boy," he said. "I always thought I was going to go to Africa, but now, I don't know .... Maybe I should go to Japan!"
This same young man, Templeton said, was relieved when he first saw one of the new, portable electronic (music) synthesizers. A lover of music, he'd obviously been agonizing over the practical difficulties of dragging a piano to the mission field. "This is great'." he bubbled. "Maybe I can have a piano with me on the field after all!"