One of the best ways to show love to the third culture kids (TCKs) in your church and missionary body is to ask them questions, but it can be hard to know where to begin and all too easy to remain silent in fear that a question may be too ignorant, redundant, silly, or intrusive. In the hope of helping churches engage with and love on their TCKs in a more meaningful way, I’ve worked with eight different TCKs that I’ve known over the last decade to create the list below. The list contains thirty questions that encompass many of the elements TCKs love to be asked about.
Asking good questions is an art that most of us are learning to practice and refine over the span of our whole lives.
But before sharing the list, let us look again at why it is important to ask questions. In reading the Scriptures, one will quickly begin to see that God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, his Son, engage both the saints of the Word and his disciples today with questions. These are not just any questions; they are personal, thoughtful, and curious questions that invite us to confess our sins, share our hearts with God, and spur us on to greater knowledge of our Father. They are an invitation to a deeper relationship with God and a richer experience of being fully known by him. The beautiful reality is that God has created human relationships to flourish in this way as well. I think we can all agree that one of the most powerful experiences of feeling known and drawn into deeper friendship with someone is when one human asks another a thoughtful, curious, and personal question that draws them out to share a part of who they are that normally is not touched or seen. This is intentional, selfless, and invitational love.
Asking good questions is an art that most of us are learning to practice and refine over the span of our whole lives, especially since good questions are quite worthless if they are not followed by genuine listening, which is especially difficult to master. Listening and asking must go hand in hand as we seek to get to know one another. God asks. God listens. We are to ask and we are to listen, both in our relationship with God and with one another.
So as you consider the TCKs you know, here are thirty meaningful questions to ask them:
What part of your life story do you wish you were asked about more?
How do you reconcile your difficult experiences with God’s character and goodness?
Do you feel that your parents prioritize their ministry over you?
Did you feel a sense of ownership in your parents’ ministry?
What makes you miss home the most?
What miraculous answers to prayer have you experienced in your time overseas?
Why do you think God placed you in the family and situation you grew up in?
Did you feel spiritually safe in the family you grew up in?
How do you define home?
What aspects of ministry did you enjoy doing alongside your parents?
What were some of the challenges you experienced?
How can I pray for you?
What were some of the fun things you enjoyed doing on the mission field that you can’t do in your passport country?
What was your school experience like?
Do you have people in your life you feel comfortable sharing your stories with?
What losses are you grieving?
What dreams do you have for the future?
What do you like to do for fun?
Does growing up as a TCK make you more or less interested in choosing a similar life for yourself in the future?
Where do you feel like you belong?
What do you find hardest about life in your passport country?
What is culture shock like for you?
Who are some of the people you’ve known over the years, and what was their impact on you?
What questions do you not like to be asked?
What was daily life like for you overseas?
What do you love to study?
What would make your life easier?
What do you love most about where you live?
How do you feel different from other kids your age?
What do you wish other people knew about being a TCK?
Listening and asking must go hand in hand as we seek to get to know one another.
This list is by no means exhaustive; it is simply a starting place off of which you can build. Each TCK’s experience and story will be different. Some will love deeper, more inquisitive questions, while others will desire to be asked questions that make them feel normal. Here are a few guiding principles to help you navigate conversation with TCKs:
Remain engaged in your listening and eye contact after you ask a question, no matter its size or depth.
Start small and build from there.
If interacting with young TCKs, remember to ask them questions all kids enjoy being asked.
Be curious about their lives overseas, as almost every part of their life will be different than your own.
Remember that most TCKs do not have the same pool of cultural references and information as you.
Be curious and intentional to understand the culture they are coming from and how it differs from their passport country. Remember that they have been formed by and relate to multiple cultures.
Approach TCKs with a desire to learn.
Seek to understand how TCKs think and see the world.
I cannot overstate the love TCKs feel when they are drawn out and engaged in this way. Each of the TCKs who contributed to this list have been personally impacted by individuals who sought to understand and know their stories and lives. We are eternally grateful for the intentionality and love we’ve experienced from churches like you.
Abigail Newport is the Donor Relations and Development Coordinator for Hellenic Ministries, a non-profit missions organization based in Athens, Greece. She earned her bachelor's degree from Moody Bible Institute in Communications and has written a book called HOME: The Musings of a Missionary Kid, which was influenced by her childhood in France and Greece. Abigail is passionate about bridging the gap between cultures, generations, and those that serve on the field with churches in the States. She now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she works remotely, invests in her local community, and spends her free time hosting, exploring, and enjoying coffee or tea with friends. You can find out more at abigailnewport.com or by following her on Instagram.