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New Tribes Mission is now Ethnos360. Learn More. dismiss

It’s not just mom and dad that do ministry; their children are an integral part.

Together they can model the difference Christ can make in family life. Children raised outside of their parent’s home culture typically have a broad world view, an understanding of cross-cultural communication, and a concern for those around them.  In the 70-plus years of Ethnos360’s existence, we’ve seen the many benefits that come from families serving together in ministry.

Your child and missions: Becoming an MK

What is an MK?

Most children love their time overseas. They call themselves an “MK,” which means “missionary kid,” and develop friendships that last a lifetime. Most learn a foreign language (or two!), become experienced world travelers, learn to appreciate a wide variety of foods, and excel at geography!

MKs typically have Facebook friends from all over the world and understand time zones and airline schedules better than many adults. MKs aren’t always sure how to answer the question, “Where are you from?” but eventually find their own story line and enjoy telling it.

MKs are a part of a culture known as “Third-Cultural Kids” (TCKs) and sometimes need extra time to adjust to life back in the country that their parents call “home.” They tend to gravitate to peers who have a broader worldview and more life experiences than is typical for an average young person.

This can become a strength or even a lifelong ministry as they interpret the world around them with a heart for minorities and a global perspective. TCKs learn how to navigate cultures, even cultures they’ve never experienced before. Because of this, many TCKs are looked at by multi-national companies as the “prototypical citizen of the 21st century!”

Fun Overseas:

MKs are usually experts at creating their own entertainment and enjoy exploring exciting areas of the world without the restrictions of tour guides and time schedules.

MKs often love the outdoors, and have adventures camping, cooking, hunting, fishing, climbing, exploring, and fire building in primitive situations. They often have “comfort foods” that earn quizzical looks from their stateside counterparts, whether it is African tea, South American guaraná or Southeast Asian spices that intimidate the palates of average Americans.

Families serving together

While many parents have some fears about taking their children overseas, most families have a very positive experience. Children typically have an easier time learning a foreign language than their parents because they are not afraid to make mistakes. Children are often icebreakers in new cultural situations. Everyone loves to talk about children!

Children can take part in their parents’ ministry as they make friends and learn the language and culture. Many times parents have reported struggling to learn a word or concept only to discover that their children knew it long ago!

Even before they can speak the language, the missionary family is a testimony for Christ. The interaction between family members, their values, and how they treat their neighbors speak volumes to the people of the host culture, and these interpersonal interactions lay a foundation for the future indigenous church.

From praying, to witnessing, to playing with their friends, children have a vital role in church planting.

Opportunities at Home and Abroad for Older Children and Whole Families:

Ethnos360 has many opportunities available to young people, seventh grade through college age, or for families wanting to experience missions together without leaving the USA. Trips are also available to various overseas locations. Please check out the opportunities available to your family, your children, or your church group!

Training for parents and children

Some challenges are inherent in transplanting a family into a different culture. During the time of training for missionary candidates, parents have classes discussing the various aspects of families doing ministry together. Parents learn about schooling options overseas, family safety overseas, how citizens of various countries may view them as a “foreign” family, and how family dynamics in other cultures are often very different. Animated discussion often occurs as students work through how their family might interact with families very different from their own.

Special attention, including a dedicated training class, is required for all missionary candidates, whether single or married, with children or without children, discussing child abuse in American culture and worldwide cultures. Parents particularly are helped to consider parenting styles and safety considerations needed to protect their children overseas. Classes are provided for children of various ages to learn through role-play how to say “no” to unwanted attention and to have a part in their own safety. Families typically find this a beneficial and growing time for their family whether they go overseas or remain stateside.

Schooling options

While getting ready to go overseas, missionary candidate families typically use public or Christian schools for the busy few years of training, but some candidate families find ways to make homeschooling work during that time!

Families choosing ministry in the USA typically enroll their children in public or Christian schools, but many choose to homeschool.

On the mission field, the options available for the schooling of missionary children have expanded greatly in the past decade. Families consider the ages of their children and all schooling options available to them to make the best decision for their own family. Depending on their location, today’s families choose between home schooling, online schools, correspondence schools and a variety of day and boarding schools. There are multi-mission schools, international schools, national schools and our schools.

Most children live at home. A few stay in a boarding program or private home placement. Homeschooling is also a popular option. The mission provides homeschooling helps including advisors dedicated to facilitating homeschooling overseas.