What to Do When Parents Say No

Reflect on the way you’ve represented your great ideas before.

You’ve sounded certain about so many other things that you are no longer very interested in. They’ve seen you dating three or four different people and every one of them, you thought, was God’s one for you. How are your parents to know this plan to go overseas is not just another of your many enthusiasms?

Ask them to pray with you for several months about your plans.

If your parents are Christians, say to them, “Can we both seek the guidance of God during the next six months? If it’s right for me, I trust that God will show that to you. If that’s not so, then one of us is wrong. And it may be me.” This kind of humility is important.

Ask them why they feel as they do. And listen carefully!

They may be right! As your parents, they know you better than you know yourself. Let them know you really want to know why they are so strongly opposed. Then question yourself quite carefully. A high proportion of missionaries should never have gone overseas. I know people who really didn’t have what it took to be out there. If I had only spoken to their parents first, I would have known that.

Introduce them to someone senior in the mission agency.

When my parents met some people who are overseeing me, they found out they were good and competent people, and they were not odd. I got out of the way for part of that time so my parents could talk to the mission representatives alone. Then they could say things they knew about me that the mission needed to know.

Let them know you haven’t just dismissed their objections.

I said to my dad, “You’re right, Dad. I realize that if I follow what I believe to be the Lord’s call to the mission field, that means I won’t have the kind of career I would if I stayed here. Neither will I earn the kind of money that I could. I’ve really struggled with that. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there are bigger values and issues.”

Bear in mind the ridicule your parents may face from friends.

Sometimes the criticisms they express most stridently are not what they feel, but are reflections of the unkind things other people have said to them that they couldn’t answer. Confronting you may be their way of looking for answers.

Express your gratitude for their past provisions for you.

I said, “Dad, I couldn’t be doing this were it not for the excellent education you’ve given me. If I need all this education to make progress in this society, I need even more to be effective in another culture.”

Help them to realize many missionaries are dealing with more urgent and fundamental questions than what we meet here.

For instance, the missionaries in my mission are saving whole populations from starvation, helping develop agriculture, teaching farm management and developing literacy programs. A number of parents visited our work and were very impressed with what we were doing. One father, a cattle breeder, looked over our stock and gave the most unusual gift any mission may have ever gotten- -bull semen!

Seek counsel from an older Christian who knows your family.

The point may come when you must go in the face of parental opposition. But first, find an older Christian who will tell you whether you’re an impetuous young person. If so, perhaps you should wait for a little while. A year may seem like the end of the world to you, but it may be better for you to go later.

If you do leave in the face of parental opposition, it’s good to know you have left behind somebody who cares for you and your parents. A lot can happen while you’re away. I’ve seen antagonistic parents won over, and I’ve seen the chasm become so wide that it can never be bridged. Having this mutual friend helps prevent the chasm from getting any wider.

Let them know you’ll take care of them as they grow older.

It’s good to have a family chat with siblings about who will take care of your parents as they grow older. It’s our Christian responsibility to see that our parents have adequate provision and care.

Realize the costs they pay when you go overseas.

Parents face more of the costs of missionary service than their children. You’ve got the adventure; you get to go to new places. But your parents are left behind, with your photograph over the fireplace. The Lord may assess their contribution as greater than yours.

It’s also important to show your appreciation for their sacrifice; once you leave, go out of your way to keep up the communication. My wife, Renee, and I still call her parents in England once a month. (Utilize Skype! And be sure to have great communication with your parents before you go to the field, too.)

We tried to give our parents such a clear description of our daily activities that they could sit in their armchair on a winter’s evening and picture exactly what we were doing. We often slipped copies of our slides (without the cardboard frame) into our letters. We sent my parents one of a Mapuche woman holding our 4-year-old, just like a granny. Wouldn’t you know, that’s the photo they put over the mantelpiece.

This article originally appeared at campuscrusadeforchrist.org.