Many elementary classrooms utilize a character by the name of Flat Stanley to support literacy. Flat Stanley is a paper figure that is folded up and mailed to a child in another part of the country and world. Once Flat Stanley is received, he is welcomed as a guest. Pages of a journal are completed and Flat Stanley returns to the original sender, sometimes with photographs, pins, or postcards of his travels.
This particular concept transfers especially well in a Children’s Ministry setting. You could do this as a kids church, or have each Sunday School class do their own. As a group, children create their own character, name it (Around the Map Jack, Encouraging Emily, Mavner the World Traveler, etc!), give it a personality, and send it to missionaries around the world. Upon receiving the character, the missionary photographs the character in their ministry setting and describes what they do. They would then send the character back with a letter that highlights unique foods, sights, a simple language lesson (hello, goodbye, thank you, Jesus, etc.), cultural specifics, and/or prayer requests. This activity serves a threefold purpose:
- It provides a way for children to participate in world missions.
- It encourages and supports missionaries (in particular, missionary kids).
- It teaches children about different peoples, cultures, and places around the world.
Upon the character’s return, the children welcome him/her back with a celebration. The letter is read, photographs shared, and the missionaries prayed for. In addition, a “welcome back party” could include eating a simple food, playing a game, or making an art project native to the area.
In the church, a display can be created that includes a map highlighting the character’s journey. As photos, letters, and memorabilia are received, they can be posted on the map and tracked. This will provide a great visual that gives children an understanding of people and places around the world.
If you do happen to use this idea in your specific ministry setting, please leave a comment below. Also make sure to add any suggestions that you may have. Thank you and happy traveling!