This is a guest article written by Chris Lautsbaugh, a missionary to South Africa. If you’d like to be a guest writer on MissionsManual.com click here.
Parenting is challenging in everyday life. When you add the obstacles of the missions field to an already difficult endeavor, it can feel like a game of survival.
Here are 8 tips for survival on the missions field with children:
1. Pursue obedience. The Christian life requires us to count the cost. Ultimately life on the missions field is the same as any other occupation. We need to be obedient to the Lord.
The mission field brings with it certain occupational hazards. Within the first year of arriving in South Africa, my son was diagnosed with an assortment of random sicknesses such as Roseola, German Measles, and Hepatitus A. Even diseases he was immunized for in the US, but were not the same strain when we arrived in Africa. It brings pain to see your kids suffer for the choices of the parents, but we need to trust God and be obedient
2. Maintain your priorities. It’s easy to say “Family first, ministry second” (of course God is ultimately first). Walking this out and adjusting to the changing seasons of a family can be imposing.
My sons still struggle at times when I walk out the door for ministry. It is essential in missions to create boundaries. These must change in various seasons of life and ministry.
This is an area I personally struggle in since “work” is readily accessible on my laptop any time of the day. I aim to set firmer boundaries on my work time to support the value I have on family.
3. Maintain your marriage. You must go on date nights and set times to connect with your spouse. You owe it to your kids to love your spouse and invest in this relationship A poor marital relationship will spill over into the life of the family. As well, the stresses of ministry cannot be compartmentalized. They affect your marriage.
4. Accept reality. Kids slows down the pace of ministry. Many try to fight this reality only to collapse in exhaustion. In order to maintain your priorities, you need to say “No” to many opportunities. Late nights of ministry can no longer occur for both parents.
As the children get older, you must factor in time for schooling, whether traditional or home schooling. No one speaks of this glamorous phase of the missionary family life.
In my opinion, having kids on the field makes juggling ministry harder, naturally creating more space and balance in both your personal and family life.
5. Involve your kids. My kids love being involved in the ministry. They enjoy having people over. We share stories at the dinner table of what is happening in people’s lives. We have plans for them to begin traveling with me on ministry trips.
6. Find friends. This is most important for the children, but nearly as key for the parents. Our lives as a family in missions improved greatly when we found other families with children of a similar age as our own, and they were not co-workers. This gives us an outlet to relax and the kids time to connect and play.
7. Happy kids create long term workers. Keeping your children happy and connected can actually lengthen your time on the field. If my kids were struggling, the temptation to return home would be greater. Now, with our kids loving South Africa, the thought of returning home is harder to envision than remaining and upsetting their lives! Engaging in missions as a family creates stability, lengthening your stay.
8. Give yourself grace!! The season of parenting coupled with missions is a stretching and difficult one. It seems you engage in many activities, but none of them are done particularly well. Your marriage is not as close as it once was. Your ministry is curtailed by the new responsibilities parenting brings.
The good news is there is grace. God does not base our acceptance upon ministry numbers or being the perfect spouse or parent. He understands the seasons of life. He created them after all!
Can you accept His grace and show it to yourself and spouse?
I previously wrote a post on my blog with a few similarities to this article entitled : “Keeping Ministry Attractive to your Children” The article contains some different points from a child’s perspective. Go have a look!
What other survival tips can you add to the list? What has been your experience as a family on the field?
Chris Lautsbaugh lives in Muizenberg, South Africa. He serves with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), teaching and training internationals to be missionaries and church leaders. Together with his wife Lindsey, they lead and steward training programs and ministries in and around Cape Town, reaching out to under privileged communities, planting churches, and meeting needs associated with the issues South Africa is facing. They have been in missions for 35 combined years. They serve together with their two boys, Garett and Thabo.
Chris blogs at www.nosuperheroes.com and has published a book on grace, Death of the Modern Superhero:How Grace Breaks our Rules.