Children are indeed a blessing from the Lord, but sometimes it can feel like very young children make ministry much more complicated!
Naptime must be worked around or skipped (to everyone’s peril!), you have to multitask to care for them while still engaging in the work you’re trying to do, etc., etc. If you’re a parent, I don’t have to explain this to you! It’s just the reality you live every day.
But there are at least three ways in which small children are helpful or helped in ministry among internationals. Take heart as you buckle those carseats or make some space for tea in the toy-strewn living room!
- Children are a universal connection point.
When you have children, you can connect with any other parent regardless of culture. You always have a conversation starter! Sharing birth stories is bonding for young moms. Sharing concerns and frustrations is cathartic and helpful for all parents. And there’s plenty of funny stories to tell from living day to day with small children which will be humorous regardless of cultural background.
- Children liven the mood of any gathering.
I’ve written many times about the fact that building crosscultural friendships can be awkward at times, especially at first. There are sometimes long pauses, and sometimes you don’t know quite what to talk about.
Having children around is an ice breaker. People can always comment on the children, ask a question about them or to them, or just watch what they are doing and laugh. Everyone is more relaxed when there are children around!
- Children learn lifelong lessons by being in a crosscultural environment.
If your young children are with you when you are connecting crossculturally, they have the amazing opportunity to build crosscultural friendships at a time when doing so is not so awkward! If they are exposed to people who are different from them from an early age, they will have a huge leg up in connecting crossculturally for the rest of their lives.
Even though including them can be logistically challenging, think of it as giving them the gift of enjoying diversity. They will thank you later!
Be encouraged, young mom or dad. Your children can be helpful as you seek to connect with those who are different from you, and your children will be helped by the experience of diversity as well.