By Sarah Reinsel
A new edition of Missions Unpacked for Kids, produced by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Short-Term Mission unit, is now available. The new curriculum — “The Church Lives!” — is designed to help Lutheran children in the U.S. learn about the Synod’s international mission work.
“Teaching kids about international mission makes them aware … that [the Great Commission] is carried out in countries around the world by missionaries just like their own pastors, who share the same saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people on the other side of the world,” said Heidi Paul, LCMS missionary to the Cayman Islands.
Each lesson focuses on a different region of international mission — Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America and the Caribbean — and was written by a few missionaries who live in the region. Building on the theme, each lesson shows how the church lives and grows in different parts of the world.
“It is important for students to know that all believers make up the church, whether you are from America, Asia, Africa or any other place around the world. They need to understand that they are part of something bigger, and that God has called all of us to be His children,” said Britt Odemba, LCMS missionary to Kenya, who helped write the section on Africa.
“Our primary focus [for the Africa region] was to convey … that the church is made of its members rather than a physical structure. … Places of worship are important, but the members are what make the church. Here in Africa, it is common for people to gather and worship under a tree, without the need for a formal building,” said Odemba.
Each lesson emphasizes that despite differences in culture, language and geography — and in what the church building looks like or what songs are sung — the church’s one foundation is in Jesus Christ.
“[Our kids] learn that kids in those countries study Luther’s Small Catechism, just like they do, and hear the same Bible stories they do — just in a different language. What a wonderful way to broaden and enrich a child’s faith,” said Paul.
The curriculum was written to be adaptable to a variety of age levels and learning environments. It could be used for a religion class or a chapel presentation at a Lutheran school, or for homeschool instruction, Sunday school, family devotions and more.
“Everything is provided to pick and choose for use in different contexts,” said deaconess intern Stephenie Hovland, who headed up the project. “An elementary school teacher could use it, or a volunteer with no teacher training could pick it up.”
Each lesson contains:
- A Bible story, along with questions, activities and background notes for the teacher;
- Suggested prayers and memory work based on the lesson’s theme;
- Videos that focus on the life and work of the missionaries in each region;
- Crafts and games that highlight each region’s culture; and
- A geography lesson, with the optional supplement of a Google Earth presentation.
Google Earth presentations are a new addition to Missions Unpacked. These interactive visuals will help give students a sense of the geography of the mission field.
“You ‘fly’ from your home up into ‘space’ while the earth rotates under you. Then you zoom in to the place on the other side of the world, either hovering over it or landing in front of a building and landmark that comes to 3D life in front of your eyes,” said Paul, who helped create the presentations.
The presentations also provide pictures and information about the missionaries and churches in the mission field, allowing students to put names to faces and places.
Missions Unpacked began as an interactive online resource, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, to help individuals, families and groups learn about international mission work without leaving home.
Now the program has expanded to include online events and presentations; free, downloadable resources like devotions and study guides; and two sets of the Missions Unpacked for Kids curriculum (the first was published in 2021).
“My hope is that [Missions Unpacked] inspires and raises up the next generation of missionaries and mission supporters. How can they know or ever think to go if they have never heard about international mission work?” said DCE Anne Gonzalez, manager of the LCMS Short-Term Mission Program.
Posted Sept. 8, 2023