Parents: a barrier or a bridge to missions

Question 9 in The Future of Missions is, “Why are parents sometimes a barrier to missions engagement?”

The chapter has the following information to back up the premise of that question.

“When researchers began to analyze data from the first wave of surveys among teens and young adults, they noticed that a small but significant minority states, ‘what my family would think’ as a factor that could increase (and, presumably, decrease) their interest in going overseas for mission work. One-quarter of engaged Christian teens (23%) and one in six young adults (18%) say their family is a consideration.”

Sometimes a parent’s comments are overt statements that they do not want their children to be a missionary, and other times that information is conveyed in a more subtle way. In some surveys as many as 25% of engaged Christian parents stated they were not ready to express their support of their child becoming a missionary.

Notice the subtle ways a negative response comes across in the following survey from The Future of Missions.

Parent Perceptions of & Attitudes towards missions

Do you agree strongly or somewhat to the following statements?

  1. I would be able to trust God to watch over my child if he/she chose to serve as a missionary in another country. Strongly agree 61% Somewhat agree 34%
  2. When it comes to being a missionary, the positives outweigh the negatives. Strongly agree 47% Somewhat agree 51%
  3. Being a career missionary would be a very hard life in most countries. Strongly agree 33% Somewhat agree 34%
  4. It is particularly dangerous for a single woman to be a career missionary in a foreign country. Strongly agree 31% Somewhat agree 49%
  5. If my son or daughter became an international missionary, I would be constantly worried. Strongly agree 22% Somewhat agree 41%
  6. In most foreign countries it’s just too dangerous to be a missionary these days. Strongly agree 18% Somewhat agree 48%
  7. I’d rather my child get a well-paying job than be a career missionary. Strongly agree 15%  Somewhat agree 32%

While 95% of the parents strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that they would be able to trust God to protect their child on the mission field, less than half strongly agreed that the positives about being a missionary outweighed the negatives. 63% said they would worry constantly if their child was a missionary, and almost half respond they would rather their child get a well-paying job. These concerns are overtly or subtly communicated to their children, and have an impact on their child’s decision to surrender or not.

The Barna Report found several factors that can help a parent release their child to missions.

  1. 72% said it would help if they truly felt God was calling their child to the mission field.
  2. 47% said it would help if they worked for or under a strong, well-established mission agency.
  3. 45% said it would help if their child were spiritually mature.
  4. 28% said it would help if their child would have a lot of coaching and encouragement.

Pastors and missionaries have answers to these factors.

  1. By confirming the call with those who surrender, you help alleviate factor 1.
  2. By communicating facts about the mission agency your church works with, you help alleviate factor 2.
  3. By challenging parents to be responsible for their child’s spiritual development, they can alleviate factor 3.
  4. By informing parents about the help your church and the missions agency gives missionaries, you can alleviate factor 4.

Perhaps part of our communication about missions to our churches should be to parents to help them release their child to the call of missions.


You can get The Future of Missions at