The week after a visit from a short-term missions team from North America, a young African boy blurted out to his Sunday school teacher, “Why can’t you be funny like the Americans?”

This is the alarming story that we have heard from missionaries and church leaders in more than one country. It is this sort of unintended consequence that we have sought to avoid, and why KidZ at Heart’s short-term teams do not work directly with children in other cultures.

It seems that most mission teams from the United States work with children in some capacity. If the team is going to build a house, the loving team members figure out a way to teach the children about Jesus. If the team is focused on health and medicine, an evangelistic program for children may also get planned. Whatever the team’s main purpose, our well-intentioned hearts always want to give to the children as well.

So many people are curious about why KidZ at Heart’s short-term teams do not work directly with the local children. Curious isn’t it, for a mission to children?

This decision is based on our strongly-held value that our teams must leave the local leaders in better shape than before we came, and that the only way to achieve this result is by avoiding certain common unintended and harmful results from otherwise well-intentioned actions.

On most trips, while the Americans are present and working with the children, everyone has a great time. The kids are happy, the parents and teachers are happy, and the team members feel great about their ministry. But after the trained, experienced, entertaining, and often materials-laden Westerners go home, too often the children’s chief shepherds, parents and church leaders, are left receiving less respect from the children than before. And less respect means less impact in the lives of the children spiritually.

This is why KidZ at Heart avoids the unintended consequence of undermining local church leaders and families. Instead, we encourage those entrusted by God to spiritually care for the children of their homes, churches, and communities as we equip these church and family leaders to effectively minister to their own children.

You can learn more about having helpful and powerful cross-cultural ministries to children by attending a KidZtitute in a city near you this fall. KidZ at Heart’s leaders are also available to coach your missions leadership team in formulating helpful practices. And, of course, you are always invited to join a KidZ at Heart team and let us walk you through a dynamic short-term trip from start to end!