The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is a well-known and well-loved passage. And for good reason: it encapsulates the mission of every follower of Jesus Christ, including kids. This passage is often used in sermons and discussions about world missions – rightly so – but it is about so much more than that. It’s about daily living.
Part of our problem could be a result of not quite understanding the very first phrase in the commission: “go, therefore, and make disciples.” When many of us consider the verb “go” we think very practically.
I am “here.”
I want to be “there.”
So, I “go” from “here” to “there.”
When we think about the Great Commission using this definition of “go” it is easy to see why we might think exclusively about making disciples away from our home. In order to fulfill it, we have to “go” away from where we are. We have to leave “here” to “go” “there.” And that is what missions looks like.
World missions is certainly part of the Great Commission. When you view the Great Commission in light of the Five-fold Commission that is featured at the end of each Gospel and at the beginning of Acts, this is even more clear. However, for most of us who are not called to international or national missions, thinking about the Great Commission only on this level will most likely result in us missing the bulk of our opportunities to live it out.
Realizing that the verb that begins the Great Commission can be translated “as you are going” should give us a different perspective of how we are to live it out. This verb phrase positions the Great Commission as a task in our daily lives, not just on mission trips. As I go to work. As I go to the store. As I go to school. As I go to the ball field. As I go through my daily routine, whatever that looks like, I make disciples.
It is vital that we communicate this idea to our kids. Understanding that the Bible is one story about Jesus and the gospel only gets us half way there. We also need to make sure kids know that the gospel is designed to transform them. Their lives each day should be marked by the gospel. They should think, feel, and act differently in light of the gospel. A gospel-impacted and gospel-saturated life looks different as a natural response to God’s glory. And a big part of this change is a person’s active role in fulfilling the Great Commission wherever he or she goes. Even our kids.
So how can you help your kids live out the Great Commission? Here are four conversation starters to help guide them to recognize the opportunities God has given them to play a role in fulfilling it and how they can maximize those opportunities. You might want to guide each of your kids to make a chart with four columns labeled “Where,” “Who,” and “How,” and “What.” As you walk them through each question, encourage them to complete their charts.
Where Do They Go?
Help your kids think of all the different places that they spend their time. Don’t rule out any location at this point. Here are a few potential places to get you started:
- Activities and hobbies
Who Do They Know?
Now guide your kids to think of people they know in each place who might not know Jesus and to write the names next to the place in the first column. Encourage them to think of kids and adults. Here are some possible types of people to get them started:
- Family members
(These last two questions may be over your kids’ heads right now and you may need to fill these in for them, but your kids should at least be able to work on the previous two questions.)
How Do They Grow?
Now ask your kids to think about how they have grown in the relationship with God and how they continue to grow. Help them think of ways that they have seen God change them and what they have learned and experienced to bring about those changes. This will most likely be the most challenging column for the kids to complete, and unlike the others, this one doesn’t have to align with the rest. Here are a few ideas of potential growth to share with your kids:
- The gospel – this began their growth in whatever form it has occurred and empowers all of their growth as well. Consider reviewing The Gospel: God’s Plan for Us with them.
- Love for Jesus. Do they love Jesus now more than last month? Last year?
- Love for others. Are they loving other people more?
- The Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control). How has God produced these traits in them? Can they think of examples when they demonstrated this fruit?
You will want to help your kids pinpoint potential conversations to have with the people they brainstormed in the second column. Basically, you are guiding them to communicate how a person can know God (the gospel) and how the gospel is working in them to transform them as a result.
What Can They Show?
Now it is time to help your kids think of ways they can show the power of the gospel to others. This is what we have been called to do but it is also a way to prompt gospel-centered conversations. Here are some general ideas to get the ball rolling, but try to guide your kids to think of practical actions such as doing their siblings’ chores, giving up their turn on the swing, and so forth.
- Willing service
- Joyful obedience
- Hard work
- Encouraging others
- Caring for others
Hopefully, this exercise, or one like it, will prime the pump of your kids’ missional pursuits. However you get there, don’t miss the opportunity to tell your kids that God has a plan for them to share the gospel with others and that His plan starts now, not when they grow up. Our kids are indeed the church of tomorrow, but if they are followers of Jesus they are just as much a part of the church today!
What are some ways that you have seen God use your kids to share the gospel with others around them? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the May 17, 2015 session (Unit 33, Session 4) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay in 2014. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian and his wife, Tara, and their three children – Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb – live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 1-3 graders at City Church.