What Missionaries Ought to Know about Children of “Helicopter Parents”

  • Approximate Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Partner: MissionaryCare.com

What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but that missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

To read more from the What Missionaries Ought to Know series

Partner: MissionaryCare.com

Resource Description


The field had eagerly anticipated Paul’s coming to serve with them. He had become a Christian during his teens, was active in his church, had a clear call to missions, did well in his Bible major, and had great references from his professors at the university.

However, they were disappointed to find out that Paul was unable to get to work on time, did not know how to budget money, and did not relate well to his mentor. He had been unable to set up his own apartment, keep it clean, and did not know how to prepare his own food.

Although Paul had hundreds of “friends” on Facebook and Skyped daily with his parents back home, he did not relate well face-to-face. He looked good “on paper,” but Paul did not function well in real life as a missionary. Much of his problem was due to living in the 21st century and having helicopter parents.

What are “helicopter parents”?

Helicopter parents are called that because they are always hovering around their children, rarely out of reach. There have always been overprotective parents, but not as many, not as blatant, and not extending “childhood” for such a long time as some parents do now. The term was invented in the 20th century, and became widely used around the beginning of the 21st century as college administrators began using it to refer to parents of some students. New technology, especially the cell phone, has made it possible for parents and “children” to remain constantly connected for many years. Today, if university students do not want to take a course suggested by their advisors, they can (and do) pull out their cell phones and have mom or dad talk to the advisor.

These overparented students are now graduating and moving into the workplace—and into missions. In 2007, Michigan State University did a survey called “Parent Involvement in the College Recruiting Process: To What extent?” This survey of 725 employers found that about a third of the large employers and about a quarter of smaller employers (60-3700 employees) reported experiencing “parent involvement.” Here are the types of such involvement reported:

  • Getting information about the company (40%)
  •  Submitting resume (31%)
  •  Promoting son or daughter (26%)
  •  Attending career fair (17 %)

Some employers who contacted students with good resumes found that the students knew nothing about it and had no desire to work for the company! Four percent reported that a parent attended the interview!


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