As parents, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of our goals is to send our sons on church missions when they’re nineteen. The question so many of us have is this … what can we do to prepare them while in their early teens?
LDS missionary at Salt Lake Airport, preparing to leave for Europe
Not long ago, our stake held a meeting for the adults that focused on preparing young men for missions. Thinking the info discussed might prove helpful to others, I took notes. Paraphrased below are several of the questions asked, along with answers … and a few thoughts of my own.
Q: My family has children ranging in age from a baby to a son in his early teens. When we try to hold a family home evening on missionary work for my son’s benefit, my younger children get bored. We feel like we’re neglecting preparing our son. What can we do that will work for family home evening?
A: Prepare a family home evening that can be broken into two parts; the first part for the younger children and the second part focusing on missionary work for your teenager. Hold it close to the younger children’s bedtime. After their portion is completed, put the younger ones to bed and then continue the family home evening with the teenager.
A(Cindy): Hold a family home evening several times a year during which you play the role of an investigator, and your teenagers play the missionaries. Hold it after the younger children are in bed. Let the teens know about it in advance, so they have the opportunity to brush up on their scriptures. Be sure you don’t overplay your role as investigator so much that it becomes a frustrating experience. Give your teenagers time to find the scriptures that might answer your “investigator” questions without feeling pressured about it.
Q: What other things can we do besides family home evening?
A: A good way to let young men become acquainted with missionary work is to have the missionaries over for meals and to arrange for young men to go on splits with them. They’ll see how the missionaries handle the discussions, as well as the fact that it’s not all glamor, but often is hard work. This helps when serving their own missions, because they then have a realistic view and aren’t expecting ministering angels and burning bushes.
A(Cindy): Taking teenagers to see the MTC (for those who live in Utah) or to visit the temple grounds (for those who live near a temple) provides a good opportunity to discuss missionary work with them. This could be done as a mother-son date, or a father-son outing, where the younger children are at home with the other parent, thus giving time for quality discussions with the teenagers.
Q: One of the biggest regrets expressed by missionaries is that they wished they’d studied the scriptures more before their mission. My son attends seminary and already reads his scriptures, but not as much as I’d like. What can I do?
A: One effective method to help the scriptures become more meaningful is to keep a scripture journal. Give teens a nice, new journal to write in and ask them to record the chapter and verse for scriptures that touch them, and to write their feelings about them. Spiritual experiences hold so much more meaning and stay with us when we record them. And the journal can be used as a springboard for memorizing favorite verses, as well, since memorizing something that has meaning is so much easier than memorizing something that does not touch an emotional chord.
A(Cindy): Consider memorizing the scriptures with your son, and offer a reward after a certain number are memorized. The rewards could include tickets to the movies or ball games, as well as treats, a pass on certain chores, or even a little spending money.
Q: What else can we do that will help?
A: It’s important to teach goal setting to young men who plan to go on missions. Goal setting is a habit that can be started long before teen years, and can even come into play when trying to memorize the scriptures.
A(Cindy): One missionary’s mom received a letter thanking her for teaching him how to do laundry and especially how to use OxiClean so his shirts stayed white. Her entire Relief Society got a good laugh out of it, but there’s also a message in that. It’s a good idea to include temporal preparation such as how to cook, clean, and do laundry. We can start on that when our sons are quite young.
In conclusion, the sooner we start preparing our sons to serve missions, the better they will be able to serve. When the day comes that they hold the mission call in their hands, we might feel a touch of sadness because we’ll miss them, but we’ll also feel joy in knowing we’ve helped them to prepare to serve the Lord in one of the most meaningful ways possible. And we can look forward to the day when they’ll return and say, “My mission was the best two years of my life!”
(Note: Although this article focused on young men, the information is just as applicable for young women who’d like to serve the Lord.)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
------ © C.L. (Cindy) Beck------
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