Family can be a touchy subject for anyone. There is just no one size fits all approach.
Silk Road Mission exists to recruit, train, send, and support missionaries to the peoples, nations, and communities along the Silk Road. It’s my ambition to see a new generation of missionaries raised up to take the name of Jesus Christ to places He has not been named. His name will one day be praised by every tribe and tongue. I want to be a part of what the Lord is doing and I hope you do too.
This post is the fourth of ten that will lay out the life cycle of missionary service. Whether you are simply exploring the idea or have already chosen an agency, these posts are meant to encourage and inform you. Let me know below if they helped in anyway!
Once you have prayed about becoming a missionary, done some research, and written down a preliminary plan then it will be time to have some hard conversations. Below are some guidelines to speaking with your family about being a missionary.
First things first, whether you are single or married plays a huge role in this portion of the journey. As does if you are male or female and your age. You may not like that but it’s simply common sense. A single man in his late 20’s has significantly more freedom to take risks in mission than a late 40’s mother of three teenagers with her husband. This is undeniable and while it certainly makes it harder for some to go on mission it does not eliminate anyone from service.
For singles: My advice aligns with that of the Apostle Paul found in 1 Corinthians 7:6-9.
“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
I know that this is a hard truth to swallow in today’s hyper sexualized world. To willingly put aside sexuality and marriage for the Kingdom is huge. However, that is not the topic of this post. If you are single and not seeing anyone then skip to the section below labeled “Talking with Parents”.
If you’re single and currently dating someone (that I assume is a believer) then my advice is simple: have a conversation about missions with that person. There are only three possible paths forward:
1) They wish to be a missionary as well. In which case, get married and pursue that path side by side.
2) They have no desire to be a missionary right now but are willing to consider it in the future. If that is the case, carefully consider if you are willing to not be a missionary. If you are happy pursuing any other path, do it. Missions cannot be done half-heartedly.
3) They have no desire to be a missionary now or in the future. If you have committed to missions in the long term then it’s time to end the relationship. Tough, I know. However, the calling of God is more important. If you are to be married, then God will bring someone to you. Move on and pursue the Lord.
For married couples: I admit, I have never been married. So this next piece of advice is a summation of advice gleaned from older and wiser men than I. Quite simply, talk with you spouse openly and honestly about being a missionary. If you have never had this conversation before then give your spouse time to process and understand what your saying. You must BOTH be on board 150% or else your marriage will be at risk. This requires absolute honesty on both spouses part. Remember this, serving the Lord is important but you made a covenant before God to care for this other person. Forcing them to go on mission isn’t right and doesn’t honor God. If there is hesitancy in one spouse, suggest a short term trip and go from there. I highly encourage getting your pastor and a counselor involved.
If you both agree whole heartedly then praise God! You are on the right track. Now time to talk to the in-laws.
Talking with Parents: Assuming both spouses are on board or you’re single and have committed to being a missionary, it’s time for your first real hurdle in this journey: talking to your family about these aspirations.
Family can be a touchy subject for anyone. There is just no one size fits all approach. However, I think there are three principles that can be applied to any situation:
1) Be ready for some serious questions. This post assumes a ton of things. Chiefly, that your relationship with parents and in-laws is healthy and that they are believers. (If you or your spouse’s parents are not believers then ask your pastor how to go forward.) This is where our written down preliminary plan from last step comes into play. Be respectful and show them that you’ve thought this through. That will go a long way in showing them that you’re serious.
2) Guilt is never an appropriate tool. No matter how unsupportive, uncaring, or cruel our parents have been in the past using guilt as a way to gain their support now is not Christlike behavior. Be honest about your aspirations and ask for their support. Most importantly, be willing and ready to share the Gospel with them. This may be a good time to do so if your parents are not believers. Even if you can’t win them over to support you, exemplify Christ in all that you do for their sakes.
3) Show appreciation and concern. If you gain their support, you need to be extremely appreciative and always keep them informed from that day forward. They will be your biggest supporters so show them the honor that is due to them. Don’t blow off their concerns for safety and security. Show them that you are taking steps to take care of yourself (or their grandkids if you have children!). Take their advice and use what you can from it. You are here because of them. Show them honor.
The conversation with family about missions will be tough. Even if you come from a family that historically supports missions you will encounter difficulties. It’s normal and not a sign that you’re not called. Win over your family and gain their support. However, one final note: be willing to do what you must to serve the Lord. Jesus made it clear to follow him above all else. Take heart that you will be in good company if you have to do this. The Lord will be with you always.
That’s a really long post! I hope it helps you in some way. I’ll be continuing this series during the fall and will be finishing it by Christmas. Look for more to come!
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make face shine upon you and give you peace.
That’s all for now travelers. See you next time!