When we think of children preparing for a mission, we often think of learning to study the scriptures, save money, keep the commandments, and invite friends to church. These are important and valuable skills.
But”The Hardest Part of Missionary Work” isn’t missionary work, reads a June 2016 New Era article by Wendy Ulrich. One missionary said, “for me the hardest part is what goes on in my head—like feeling discouraged or getting frustrated with companions or not liking talking to strangers—just dealing with all the ups and downs, the rejection, the change.” The article continues, “You should also get experience with the emotional, social, and other skills you’ll need as a missionary. You can start practicing now.”
Many young adults have stress-relief mechanisms that they developed as children. These coping mechanisms may or may not be healthy or mission-appropriate. As children try new and hard things, they can practice conflict-resolution skills with family and friends and in Primary. At home, they can build healthy habits, including mission-appropriate bedtime and wake-up routines.
If a child’s preferred stress-coping mechanism involves video games or YouTube, they could use some other mission-appropriate methods. We don’t often think of it as mission preparation, but teaching children to be resilient, positive and resourceful IS preparing them with valuable skills for serving the Lord as missionaries. One family I know took a “no technology vacation” – for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!
One skill that children can start practicing is this: “how to motivate ourselves when we’re bored and calm ourselves down when we’re overstressed. If a situation is boring or not progressing, become curious about what’s wrong and how to fix it, make a game out of it, or figure out what you can learn. Notice when you’re overstressed and learn things you could still do on a mission to calm down (talk to someone, relax, write, sing, walk). Take a step back, break the problem down, involve others, take small steps, pray, and talk back to negative thoughts.”
For a Sharing Time lesson on this idea, you might want to invite the full-time missionaries as guest speakers, and ask them questions like these:
- How did you prepare for a mission when you were Primary age?
- How did you solve problems with your siblings? How do you solve problems with your companion now?
- How did you deal with being discouraged when you were Primary age? How do you deal with discouragement now?
- How did you calm yourself down when you were upset when you were Primary age? How do you calm yourself down now?
- Now that you’re a missionary, what advice would you give to your Primary-aged self?
As you teach children to prepare for a mission by learning to study the scriptures, save money, keep the commandments, and invite friends to church, also teach them to try new and hard things, practice conflict-resolution skills, and healthy physical and emotional self-care.
Also see Laura’s terrific Sharing Time lesson: “When I Serve A Mission, I Serve God”