Find out how one mom created a powerful outreach organization for kids called Mission Possible Kids.
“Mommy, can you find something for me to do to help people?”
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How do you look into the soulful eyes of a 4-year-old and tell him that he’s too young to serve, that he’s not old enough to go on a mission trip, and that charities say he has to be at least 16 or 18 years old to help? After dozens of calls, I sat at my kitchen table in disbelief. Here we were, volunteering to do whatever anyone needed, and the answer was…no? As parents, we long to instill our faith, values, and compassion into our children, but often there seems to be no other way to do so beyond an hour or two on Sunday mornings.
So years ago, I resolved that my son Devin and I would find our own path together, traveling an unmarked road. We began creating our own service projects, and whenever we dropped in to deliver the fruits of his labor to the very same charities that had said there was nothing a young child could do to help, they were delighted and would say, “Can you do more of that?” And so we did, lots and lots more — for food banks, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and hospitals. My son’s spirit flourished, as did mine.
After several years of continual projects, one day Devin asked me again, “Mom, can you find something for me to do to help people?”
And there it was, like a movie playing out in my head, a real-life action movie called Mission Possible Kids. I could hear background music and see kids excitedly working together to help people in need. All I could do was grab my laptop and take dictation from On High, because though I am a writer, I’ve never had an idea enter my brain so fully formed, before or since.
“Devin, what do you think about starting a group so other kids can do projects with you?” I asked, “and calling it ‘Mission Possible Kids: Where kids are on top-secret missions to change the world?’ ”
Devin threw his arms open wide, “Yeah! And it’s gonna be huge!”
Kids Changing the World
Today, the organization Mission Possible Kids (MPK) is in fact huge. It’s not only a nonprofit organization, it’s a movement — a movement made of children who understand their potential to make a difference and who are ready to make it happen. In 30 U.S. states plus Canada and Mexico, 15,000 young humanitarians know how to make a social impact, and they aren’t afraid to show adults how it’s done.
Whether cooking for homeless shelters, helping kids in hospitals, or making gifts for child refugees in Africa or the Middle East, these young MPK “agents” are primed for action. Together, they’ve touched more than 1.5 million lives in 67 countries, proving that kids really can change the world.
“The program has given our children the opportunity to learn how important it is to give from the heart as they serve others, to be able to bring a smile to a stranger, and most of all, to share God’s unconditional love,” says Cheryl Kendall, a children’s minister in San Antonio, Texas. “It’s made such an impact. Parents are amazed at how excited their children get about Mission Possible Kids. Our kids are changing the world!”
MPK is the only organization in the U.S. devoted to creating local, national, and global hands-on service projects for young kids as a way to open their minds to the needs of the world and the impact they each can make. Because kids learn best by doing, this approach instills in them a love of service that continues well past their elementary years.
“I used to be an MPK chapter director in Louisiana,” says Stena Haacker, who today works on staff at the MPK Mission Control corporate offi ce in Dallas. “Several years later I went back home to help out at my mom’s nonprofit, and in walked three of my past MPK agent kids, who were by then high-schoolers. They wanted to know how they could help, who they were helping, and how many lives would be touched — all things they retained from MPK. That’s when I realized how life-changing MPK is.”
Proof of that can be seen in MPK graduates. Seven years after Madea Neyor and brothers Ryan and Blake Brown were active participants in an MPK program, the trio of high-school seniors is today starting a nonprofit organization to collect school supplies for children in war-ravaged Liberia, a country rebuilding its schools. Giving back to the world is a big part of what these kids value.
While over half of MPK mission plans focus on local community needs, chapters are also required to do at least one international mission each year. The reason? Through international projects, children expand their worldview and learn there’s no limit to what they can accomplish — an incredible life lesson at any age.
When children’s ministries sign up to start an MPK chapter, they receive a spy-themed kit of training materials, visual aids, music, and supplies from Mission Control, including eight mission plans. Future curriculum is free, and two additional projects arrive each quarter. Participating kids, or “agents,” have a one-time registration fee that includes their official MPK T-shirt, where they display “mission stars” for involvement as they promote up through spy-like ranks such as Master Agent and Commander.
Kids eagerly step into the role of “special agents” because it allows them to combine their worlds of imagination and reality into one. As “Agent Evan” or “Agent Sarah,” kids find themselves accomplishing things they never imagined they could do: touching lives worldwide. They walk out of each meeting, as one parent said, “feeling 10 feet taller.” Yet the benefits of service involvement to our kids and society go much deeper than merely boosting kids’ self esteem.
Planting the Seeds of Service
Adding character, leadership, and service components to a child’s life experience builds confi dence and resilience that spills over into academics and other aspects of their lives. Their newfound abilities and sense of social responsibility stay with kids for life. However, the norm today is to only encourage service among older teenagers, whether through mission trips or service hours at school. Waiting until high school to begin hands-on service is 10 years of missed opportunities. It’s critical to instill a faith-in-action mentality while children are young and eager to prove themselves.
When we acknowledge and nurture kids’ talents and desire to help, the world opens up for them and they thrive on making a positive impact. These early-formed good habits are game changers for the children involved and the world we live in.
The problems of the world aren’t going away. We need to have a steady supply of people ready to tackle society’s problems, a need that’ll only grow over time. The best way to build the volunteer base for the future is to develop a service commitment in our children today.
Because a child’s desire to do great things can be so magnetic, service-oriented children tend to engage their entire family along with them, yielding an immediate and powerful volunteer workforce as well as helping create a new and positive family dynamic. The result is an immense return on time invested, both short-term and long-term.
Nico Clark of Plano, Texas, had been actively involved in MPK since first grade. By age 10, when he heard in the news that a local food pantry had been flooded on Christmas Eve by broken water pipes, he sprang into action, calling on friends and family to help. Nico and company helped clean out Minnie’s Food Pantry and started a collection drive to replace the ruined food. Why did he do it?
“Everyone can make a difference, no matter how old you are,” says Nico. Now in eighth grade, Nico still volunteers at the MPK corporate office whenever he can.
Society tends to underestimate what our children are capable of. Yet, the immediate impact children can make through an organized, service-learning program can be profound. For instance, one MPK child helps an average of 100 people in need each year. Collectively in 2012, MPK chapters raised more than $1 million in in-kind donations and contributed $771,000 in adult volunteer time.
Joey Golden, a 10-year MPK agent from Denton, Texas, collected more than 8,000 pairs of used eyeglasses for a traveling eye clinic headed to serve people in need in Costa Rica and a homeless shelter in Oklahoma, setting a new MPK record. When Mission Control called him with a surprise “thank you” during Joey’s next MPK meeting, Joey was speechless.
Looking for More
What’s next for Mission Possible Kids? In the near future, we have plans to become a central support center for kids of all ages who want to make an impact, rather than only the elementary ages our flagship program currently serves. GLOW Kids, which stands for “Go Love Others in the World,” is MPK’s new preschool-through kindergarten program, teaching biblically based values and introducing service to kids as young as age 3. A middle school and high school service program is in the works, with MPK’s team of high school and college-aged interns contributing to the program’s development.
Soon, even more kids of all ages will help millions of people every year with the basic needs of food, comfort, personal items, disasterrelief items, and more, doing what kids are uniquely suited to do: change the world. Nothing could be more important for our kids, our faith, and our world.
Have you considered becoming the springboard to help your ministry kids change the world, while forever changing themselves? If so, join our mission! You may discover that the one most changed is you.