Beach Mission and your family

beach mission photoHave you ever thought of the advantages of taking your family on Beach Mission?

Several years ago it crossed my mind but, I must admit, I did wonder if a family with young kids could actually do anything worthwhile for God on Beach Mission? Would we actually be accepted as team members or do they just want young adults on the team. We knew a family who had four kids and they spent every New Year period on Beach mission. The husband took the ten days out of his four weeks annual leave as they felt it was such a worthwhile investment into their own children’s lives and futures.

It is well documented that short term mission trips always tend to impact the team members more than the people they go to help/reach.

This year, God began doing a work in my life around the whole idea of being on mission here in Australia. Before kids, hubby and I had led various teams on mission, particularly with an organisation called ‘Youth Dimension’. Their ministry is aimed mainly at teenagers and involves late nights. Not really suitable to a family with primary aged kids. I thought of perhaps cooking for a team doing mission or even cooking for a ‘Student Life’ (University based) mission team helping out at ‘Schoolies’ Week but it still wasn’t that appropriate for our primary aged kids.

Then the opportunity came up to be team members on a Scripture Union Beach Mission. We turned up to the first team meeting with some trepidation. Would we be a help or a hindrance? I will never forget the delight of hearing our team leader say how excited they were to have families on the team. The kids help draw and attract other kids and create a quorum for group activities and the parents are great at getting alongside other parents who come to check out the program. It is usually easier for a parent to maintain a conversation with another parent than an 18 year old young adult. The leader addressed me and said, “Jane, we just want you to drink coffee and chat with other parents of the kids camping in the caravan park.”

I was ecstatic. Two things I love – drinking coffee and chatting with other parents. I was in.

Thus, Sunday 28th December we left home (after having returned 3 hours earlier from 10 days in Tasmania over Christmas), to travel to Beach Mission. We really didn’t know what to expect but we were open to whatever occurred.

After 10 days of camping and beach mission, our family is now committed to going on another Scripture Union Beach Mission next summer. Our kids just expect that we will automatically do it again next year. Four days into the mission, Princess (11) was the centre of attention during ‘2 minutes of fame’ (a game where you can be asked any question for the next 2 minutes that you must answer or say pass). Princess was asked “What do you expect to be doing when you are 19 years old?”. Princess replied, “Be on Beach Mission”.

Basically you are living in a large community and the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, was certainly evident. Our team had 12 children on it. Our 2 kids, a family with 4 kids aged 10 – 4 years old, another family with 2 kids 10 & 8 with both kids on the autism spectrum, a family with a 3 year old and an 18 month old, and a lady with her foster nephews aged 7 & 6. Plus another 17 young adults / university students and a couple with older children now in their 20’s.

The advantages have been huge. Princess spent one afternoon during free time going with a group of university students who were on the team to get fish and chips. This was invaluable for her as she loves looking to older girls to see how they do life and act and respond to situations. Both kids also had opportunities to speak publicly in front of people, talk to people they didn’t know, help lead games for younger kids, amuse toddlers, tent knocking, learn a new method of Bible study, having a personal quiet time with God every day and praying with adults.

Frustrations occurred. They always do when living in community (& life in general). As parents, we all had different parenting styles. Kids ‘muck up’ and have tantrums, especially when tired. Does that exclude your family? No. Other families in the caravan park appreciated seeing us live life, warts & all. They appreciated seeing how we dealt with tantrums, tired kids, set boundaries, imposed consequences, dealt with bullying.

Breakfast was at 7.30am followed by a half hour quiet time. Then a team member led us each day in an hour interactive bible study. It was based on Luke 10, where Jesus sent out the disciples 2 by 2 and to look for people of peace and to discuss how we go about relating with people and sharing Jesus with them. This was followed by prayer triplets where we prayed each day with 2 other team members.

Some of our team members then ran a children’s program for 1 and a 1/2 hours – full of games, singing, drama, Bible stories, craft. During this time, our role as parents was to offer coffee to any adults standing around and commence a conversation with them. Every day I had the pleasure of chatting with a different person for at least an hour, touching on faith, values, parenting styles, and usually praying for a need they would express.

Our kids loved this program. The 12 kids provided a great quorum for attracting other kids plus the program helped our kids also learn more about God.

Lunch was next with usually a team debrief. I must add that we had 2 cooks who provided all the delicious meals. We needed to help with washing and wiping up, but it was such a treat to not have to cook anything for ten days!!  After lunch was usually free time where the kids played together or we went somewhere as a family to regroup and spend time together or we went to the beach or to the local waterfall.  At 4pm each day we ran ball games for kids in the caravan park, followed by dinner. Three different evenings we ran a program – a New Years Eve colour night celebrating New Year at 9pm, a Talent Show, and a Thank you concert.

A team of young adults also ran beach games during the late afternoon for teenagers and young adults plus held a drop in coffee shop every evening. This was done so as to create a space to meet teens and young adults and commence conversations with them.

During the ten days, we were all given practical tools and opportunities to share our faith. The children learnt these tools as well. They were encouraged to find children their age and invite them to the program, the swimming pool, the jumping pillow and to make friends with them. Informal mentoring occurred as everyone conversed sitting around the campsite or doing activities together. I loved sharing my journey with some of the university students and hearing their stories. Princess appreciated the time that several of them spent with her discussing various issues. We enjoyed ‘doing life’ with this bunch of folk and will certainly continue the friendships that have begun.

Hubby and I also celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary whilst there. Friends looked after the kids whilst we went out for the evening meal. The team had created a very special lunch time meal for us and waited on us to make it special.

I was flabbergasted at how many of the team members had grown up in a family who had gone on beach missions and when asked, they would say that it was their 15th beach mission etc. What a great way to foster in our children a love for God and for reaching out to others. I can now understand why our pastor and his wife take ten days out of their four weeks annual leave every year to take their four kids on beach mission. The effect on their kids (& now our kids) lives is tremendous.

Will you and your family consider going on a Beach Mission?