Apprehensive Parents

Editor’s note: See also Obeying Your Parents and the Great Commission at the Same Time.

Lauren is in high school and wants to go on a mission trip. Her mom is not so excited about the idea! Maybe she’s afraid to send her daughter to a third-world country, especially if it’s halfway around the world. Maybe she doesn’t understand why Lauren wants to go or doesn’t think she’s ready.

Bea is a college student. Her father is gone. Her mother has invested a lot of time and money into Bea’s life and education, and hates to see her “waste” a summer overseas when she could be working and advancing her professional skills.

What would you say to Lauren and Bea? Is it better to honor their parents by staying home? Can they go without their parents’ blessing? What should they keep in mind? Below are some of the more helpful responses that came up in an online forum we hosted to explore these questions.

By the way, such dilemmas are not just for the young. Similar questions come for people of all ages, especially when it comes to actually moving to another country. The website explores this. See What if my parents oppose me becoming a missionary? and another helpful article on this topic, 4 things to do when God says go and your parents say no.

1. Respect parental authority.

“I don’t know how old Bea is,” says a long-time missionary, Nan, “but if her mother is paying for her education and she is still under her authority, she should listen to her advice. It is wonderful that Bea feels the Lords call on her life, and it will not go away. There is lots of time and God will work in her mother’s heart as she is obedient to her. It is not the Lord’s desire that we should be at odds with our parents.”

2. Seek God to change their hearts – or yours.

“When I told my mom I wanted to go on my first mission trip, my mom forbade me to go,” says another writer, Elena. “I am her only daughter and she is very protective. I was really disappointed and at first I argued and tried to get my point across. Then I gave up and just started praying because I really wanted her blessing for this trip. I prayed that if it were God’s will for me to go that it would work out. I also prayed that he would touch my mom’s heart. I knew she worried and was concerned. A couple of weeks before the trip she said I can go! God did a much better job than I was obviously able to do myself.”

Gordy, a mission leader, asks, “Are your parents both believers? If so, have you prayed about this idea with them? Some parents are very reluctant to allow their children to travel far and wide on short-term missions. Part of that is being responsible as a parent for the safety of their children, and part is fear of letting their children out of their sight and control in a dangerous world (though they aren’t in control even when children are at home; God is). A balanced approach is best achieved by going to God in prayer to discover not what is safe, but what would honor God. Spend some time praying together, asking, ‘Is it obedient to God if I go, or obedient to God if I stay?’ Both you and your parents will need to be open to having your minds changed by God. If you go to the Lord honestly and openly, I believe the Holy Spirit will bring you to unity on the issue.”

He adds, “The bottom line is that you need to be obedient to your parents. It may or may not be appropriate for you to appeal the decision and/or do some negotiating (moping doesn’t count). That’ll be a judgment call on your part… judge prayerfully and wisely!”

3. Listen to their concerns and find answers to their questions.

Gordy also says, “Most parents are much happier if their kid participates in a mission that is well-conceived, well-organized, and well-executed. Find out together what the mission’s security protocol is. Is there provision for emergency evacuation? How are leaders screened or selected? Having all the facts can go a long way to setting parent’s minds at ease.”

Crystal, a young woman who can identify with Lauren and Bea, points out: “Sometimes the fears of our parents are out of concern for our well being. Talking to them about the area, risks, and the organization you want to go with can help.” She went with Cameroon with Teen Mania, a ministry that specializes in youth trips and knows how to address parental concerns.

4. Seek the blessing of your parents.

Amanda found herself in a similar situation. “When I was in college, I wanted to go on a mission trip. My parents did not want me to go because a missionary was killed in the same place a year before! Since my parents are not religious, I could not approach them with prayer. I had a very frank discussion with them. I pointed out that how long you lived was not important. I told them that how you lived your life every day was the important thing. I also pointed out that I could easily be hit by a bus tomorrow and not need to go to a foreign country to die (I would not recommend this approach; it hit a little too close to home for them!)”

“Acknowledge their concerns,” urges Amanda. “They are probably very valid ones. By showing that type of maturity and compassion towards your parents’ feelings, you may be able to get their blessing. They may not want you to go, but they might support your decision to go. Trust me – it is a huge weight off your shoulders. In the end, my parents were still nervous and scared about me going on the trip, but were able to see my point of view. They became my biggest supporters and even defended my decision. I would recommend only going with your parents’ blessing. It will be so much easier for you.”

5. Take small steps first.

Crystal adds, “You may also want to discuss with your parents the option of a shorter trip: not the entire summer for your first trip, but two weeks. Also discuss the option of in-country missions first. I know from experience that you don’t always get to go to the place God placed on your heart first. I ended up in Mexico twice on missions before I ever got to go to Africa.”

Ashley, whose parents opposed her going on a mission trip, says, “I suggest you talk to your parents and ask why they won’t let you go. Ask if you could start by doing mission trips that are closer to home.” As for Ashley, one summer she went to the nearby state of Missouri, and the next summer, to Mexico. A year later, she was heading to Macedonia over spring break and hoped for a trip to Bolivia that summer. “This worked for my parents. Show them you aren’t going just to get away or visit foreign places. Find places close to start.”

6. Even if you can’t go on that mission trip, remember all you can do.

Paul, a mission mobilizer, adds this helpful advice: “You might not be able or allowed to go overseas at this point in your life, but don’t think you’re too young to start thinking about missions service! If you begin learning a second language in earnest, begin giving part of your allowance or earnings to a missionary in a part of the world that interests you, write to missionaries your church supports and read biographies of missionaries, you’ll be much better prepared when you do get to go!”

7. Consider the following discussion points.

As you prepare to discuss your mission trip opportunity with parents who seem opposed to your going, think through these questions and topics and be ready to address them graciously and with respect.

  • What are the benefits of an overseas experience? Have you thought this through? Have you shared these insights with your parents, or do you just assume they are aware of these things?
  • Why do you feel led to go? How do you believe it will help you grow?
  • Why are you interested in this particular trip, or going at this particular time?
  • Share what you know about the group sponsoring the trip. This will help your parents have confidence in the group as well as in you, as they see you researching and thinking through the options and their implications.
  • Why do your parents object to your going? Listen carefully to their objections and respond to them.
  • Have you talked to your parents separately? Don’t pit them against each other, of course, but discover if one is more likely to be your advocate in this matter or has insights into the other person’s objections. Often dads are more willing than moms to see their kids venture out.
  • Finally, don’t burn your bridges. If you are under your parents’ authority and they say no, ask if they will consider or pray about your participation at a later date, or what would need to happen to secure their blessing.

Did you find this article helpful? Any suggestions you’d add? Send us an email.

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