Dream Big to Lay a Foundation

As parents, it is our responsibility and privilege to help shape our children’s view of what it means to live on mission every day. Through our words, and most importantly our actions, our kids will learn how to care for others.  

Pastors Joel Schmidgall and Dave Schmidgall lead A1:8 Missions at National Community Church. They share a marked conviction to Assist the Poor, Care for the Sick, and Transform through Reconciliation. We asked them to share about their childhood experiences that led to these convictions.  It is our prayer that these stories will challenge you to invite your children into service and pray that God will move in their hearts as they lead their generation!  Here is what they had to say:

What is it about your upbringing that set the foundation for your commitment to supporting missions?

Pastor Dave: As a boy, I remember my dad would take me into Chicago and repair the homes of elderly men and women or those with struggling financially.  It never seemed like a “project” though.  It always seemed like HE was honored and humbled just to be there.  He would always leave with tears in his eyes.  “We’re the most blessed people in the world, son.”  

I think the greatest gift my parents gave me was modeling how loving God translated into loving neighbor, particularly the neighbor that looked and acted least like them.  Everyone seemed to be given a place of honor. The bottom line is treating someone like you would treat Jesus.  

Pastor Joel: One tradition in our family was that our right of passage into adulthood was to go on a missions trip at the age of 13. It cemented a commitment at a key time in development for each of us. And it showed the priority that it was to our family and to us as individuals. I’ll never forget a life changing experience in Kenya with my father. It was an experience that strengthened my bond with him and it became a core memory for me, defining a conviction as I moved into adulthood.

Every six months, our family would talk about “faith promises”. We would talk about the importance of missionaries and the calling to be engaged. Even as kids, we were each challenged to make a financial commitment to give to missions. I remember filling a commitment card out for $3. I’m tempted to look back on that small amount and think that was ridiculous. But it wasn’t. That was my “two mites”. That was what I had. We learned sacrifice as kids for the right reasons. Missions teaches you that we don’t live only for our benefit.  God pours into us so that we can pour into others.

Are there any personal stories that you recall from your upbringing that contributed to your commitment to supporting missions?

Pastor Dave: Our family would go to a local nursing home and do a service. It was like the Brady Bunch. Someone would play the piano, my dad would share a message through a chorus of snoring and heavy breathing. I can’t believe we did that but I’m so grateful we did. The memory that stays with me is my father going to the nurse and asking which person had the least amount of visitors that month. He would make a beeline to that person and just sit and listen and laugh with them. The joy they would express was palpable. That’s near and dear to the heart of God right there.  

My parents also had a global commitment to seeing the Gospel spread around the world. We always financially supported missionaries overseas. They were treated like heroes. Every time I heard a story from a missionary it expanded my understanding of God. He became bigger and bigger and I learned of a God who heard the cry of the brokenhearted and oppressed. We were invited to actively participate in knowing and loving those around the world. Faith in God never felt like a list of rules. It was an opportunity that we were invited into. What a paradigm shift. What Good News.

Pastor Joel: My parents didn’t just tell us the right thing to do, but they showed us the right way to live. Being intentional to care for a neighbor. Taking time to share Christ with a waitress that served our table. Sacrificing our family finances to invest in international missions. One year, my parents made a pledge to international missions that was ridiculous. They basically pledged their year's salary. That can either be called irresponsible…or faith. Or more accurate: Obedience. That meant that our family would sacrifice comfort, convenience, vacation, everything that would save money to be able to give. It also meant God would have to show up and provide. And somehow He did. The miracle of provision mixed with the work of sacrifice taught us a serious lesson in surrender to God, His plan, and His mission. Be willing to serve and give in a way that your kids can see. Be transparent with your decisions to care for others.

One of the biggest challenges for families is finding the appropriate ways to expand the worldview of our children while also being sensitive to their ability to understand complex nuances. Any advice for parents that want to invite their children into hard topics?

Pastor Dave: I can’t imagine the complexities of postmodern parenting. Any short sentences I could offer will be underwhelming, but I watched and absorbed what mattered most to my parents. I saw my mom every morning, on her knees praying, when I came downstairs. While I didn’t develop or understand the importance of a deep prayer life initially, I can now understand how watching her had a significant impact on me. My father was a teacher and the custodians and “service workers” who often were the least recognized employees at school LOVED my dad because he made time for them. They mattered. Modeling a prayer life and a heart for the “least of these”

I don’t specifically remember talking about hard topics with Mom and Dad. But I do remember observing their life. And in this day and age, seeing their words line up with their actions is the greatest gift they could offer.

Pastor Joel: When you are personally engaged in tough topics, this answer becomes a little more clear. For example, if you go on one of the many missions trips engaged in orphan care or if you invest or mentor through the DC Dream Center, this conversation will find it’s way into interaction with your kids. It’s much different than reading a newspaper article together. When you talk about a place in which you are personally involved,you will find the proper balance of sensitivity and transparency. When your kids see that you are personally invested, they realize we have a responsibility in the matter. One catch phrase we’ve used with our families is to “Catch a Cause.” Find something in which you and your family can engage. Start with relationship. Or start with just doing something, taking action. The words will come more naturally when you experience mission together.

Parents want to engage their families in service but it can be challenging to know the first  step to take. If you could encourage families to take action to support international missions or engage in local service, what would you recommend as a first step?

Pastor Dave: I think showing consistency is the starting place. Teach “sustained missional hearts”, not just one-off charity. Whatever it is, even when they don’t want to, consistently doing something together is important. For us, it was the nursing home. It was giving 10% of our allowance to Jesus and those in need. Every neighborhood has needs. Identify the needs with Acts 1:8 in mind, and choose to be consistent.

If you are a family with young kids, going on an overseas mission may be difficult, but supporting an orphan or family in need can be a great way to engage. Write notes to children and then pray over them at night.  There are many different ways to develop  a missional mindset as a family.  

Pastor Joel: Second Saturday serve is a natural first step. Each month there is usually a unique way to involve kids. For instance, each month we pack lunches for our friends experiencing homelessness. One of our NCC parents had their kids color notes that we could put in many of the lunches. It made it much more personal and meaningful for  the kids and for the lunch recipient.

Consider sponsoring a missionary (or a child through Compassion International) as a family. They will often send out newsletters that are helpful in keeping your family connected internationally.

Another step would be to sit down with your family and talk through ways to serve. What are the needs near your home? Who are people that you can reach out to? How can you make it fun? We identified a list of people that we wanted to bless in a small way, so we baked some goods and then went out to  ding, dong, bless (instead of ding, dong, ditch). Ring the doorbell, drop the blessing on their stoop, and run!!! When you associate identifying need, giving a practical blessing, and an adrenaline rush all at the same time, you can’t lose!.

What would your challenge and charge be to the parents who are diligently working to raise the next generation with a conviction to live on mission every day?

Pastor Dave: I would say you must feel enough pressure each day just to do your best. My mom has prayed for me every day I’ve been alive. Prayer means to “set a trap”. I think her prayers have been the game changer for me. Deep prayer (inward) matched with consistent loving of neighbor (outward) lays a good foundation for teaching children to live on mission every day.  

Pastor Joel: There is no greater apologetic to the Gospel than a person who Assists the poor, Cares for the sick, Transforms through reconciliation. At some point, your kids will judge your theology. But they will never argue faith of their Dad or Mom serving a homeless person a sandwich for their belly and faith for their soul. Because it’s true mission. You giving something from which you get no benefit.

Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. You don’t have it all together. But find one thing. Find your way to serve. How are you living missionally? If you are personally making it a priority, you will find a way to invite your kids to walk with you?

Joel Schmidgall is the Executive Pastor at National Community Church. He was born and raised in Naperville, Illinois and is an unpaid marketer for all things Chicago, especially the Cubs, Malnotti’s pizza, and Portillo’s beef-and-cheddar! Joel and his wife Nina were married in 2004 and have three little Cubs fans: Ella, Zeke, and Renzi.



Dave Schmidgall is the Director of A1:8 International Missions at National Community Church. He spent several years in Europe, splitting his time between church planting, photojournalism, and completing post-graduate work at Edinburgh University in conflict resolution/peacebuilding. He and his wife Kate are honored to serve the Lincoln family.