“No, you’re not.”
These were my Dad’s words when I first told him I was considering a year of overseas missions after graduation. I had been on missions trips for too many summers, so it was time for me to use my college education, get a job, and make some money.
Talk about shooting down a dream.
If you are anything like me, you know that navigating this kind of conversation with your parents can be tough. Whether they are believers or not, parents aren’t always the biggest fans of seeing their kids move far, far away.
Fast-forward four months, and I had officially committed to spending a year in East Asia. Though my parents never loved my decision, they were able to give their approval. I had told myself I wasn’t going overseas without their support, and I actually received it before deciding.
Here are 5 things I learned when talking to my parents about missions:
1.) Understand their perspective. My parents’ biggest hurdle was money. They had invested tens of thousands of dollars for me to attend a prestigious, private university. In their view, I was wasting that degree because I wouldn’t make a large return on their investment.
Though I had a very different perspective, I actually understood their point. It made a lot of sense when I took a second to stand in their shoes.
While this didn’t cause me to change my opinion, it allowed me to have healthy and beneficial conversations with them. I told them about business as missions. I told them about all of the ways I could use my major on a team. I reassured them that one year overseas wasn’t throwing away a career in the business world.
Not only did this help correct their misperceptions, it helped them see missions as a viable option.
2.) Honor Them. This might be the hardest command in the Bible to keep when talking about missions (Ephesians 6:1-2).
In listening to your parents and understanding their perspective, pray about whether you need to honor your parents for a season through obedience.
Maybe you need to become financially independent before going overseas. Maybe you need to spend some time healing broken family relationships. Maybe you aren’t called overseas at this time.
This obviously requires lots of wisdom and discernment, but it’s in the Bible. It can’t be glanced over just because it doesn’t say, “Obey everything they say.”
3.) Be patient. I have heard too many horror stories of people waiting to tell their parents about their decision to move overseas until after it was already made.
That is not respectful. That is blindsiding them.
Involve them in your decision from the very beginning. Make sure they are heard. And don’t expect them to get on board right away.
Your parents love you a lot. It is natural for them to resist you moving to the other side of the world. Plus, you have probably been on this journey for months, if not years. Don’t expect them to be excited in a split second when it took you a lot longer than that.
4.) Pray. Don’t put pressure on yourself to change your parents’ hearts. Trust in the only one with the power to truly change hearts.
If you believe God is changing hearts on the mission field, trust Him just the same with your parents’ hearts.
It was always tempting for me to try and convince my parents with my own logic and well-worded arguments. But it was humbling and freeing to step back and surrender their opinions to the sovereign Lord.
5.) Show, don’t only tell. I remember my high school English teacher giving our class advice about writing. “Show, don’t tell.” It’s more effective to tell a story about a person’s humility than to simply say they are a humble person.
Live out this principle with your life. While it might be necessary at times to tell your parents statistics about the unreached world, or the Bible verses from which you draw inspiration, make sure you are also living out those principles.
Don’t talk about how much you want to share the gospel overseas and then remain silent about it at home. Don’t talk about how you want to love others unconditionally, but fail to do the same at home. Don’t just tell them about why you fell in love with missions; involve them in the process of growing deeper in love.
Talking to parents about missions can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. While these steps aren’t a fail-proof solution, they will bring understanding and dialogue to a topic that often brings conflict and dissension.
You are called to love your parents with the same love you desire to share overseas. Don’t let family relationships blind you from the truth of the gospel.
What are some tips you have found helpful for talking to parents about missions? Start the conversation below!