Missionary Kids/TCK's,  Missions

“MK’s are just different”: 2 Pitfalls of a Common Mindset

If you are connected to the missions world in any way you may be thinking “what in the world is this girl talking about?!”  I hope you’ll hear me out.  If you want to accuse me of MK heresy after you’ve read this I welcome your thoughts.  But only after you’ve read the entire post.

For better or worse, MK’s generally grow up in a world that emphasizes their distinctions. This may show up as a result of churches spotlighting or praising their family’s service at every opportunity. It will inevitably show up in the process of moving, meeting new people, attempting to explain where they are from and what their parents do.  In some places it’s just impossible to blend in because their particular skin color, facial features, etc. stick out like a sore thumb.  In some cases it comes from fearful parents doing their best to prepare their children for a move or for the never ending cycle of visiting churches on home assignment. Regardless of the source, whether supportive or not, MK’s often grow up with a silent mantra that may grow into an internal belief system:  “I’m alone.  They can’t understand me”.  A belief system that leads to two potential outcomes:

Pride– We know what this looks.  It may come in the form of arrogant behavior and remarks from MK’s to remind those around them that they are “less cultured”.  Or perhaps in refusal to participate in certain activities, “why would I do ______? That’s so dumb”.

Insecurity– This may manifest in persistent difficulties with social relationships: seeking approval at all cost or difficulty making friends at all; lack of security and confidence in friendships.  We may also see this in young adults struggling to determine a path for their future.

Pride and insecurity in many ways are just two sides of the same coin.  They also happen to be two of the fundamental spiritual struggles we ALL face. We understand that pride is an unhealthy focus on ourselves, thinking too highly of ourselves.  Insecurity is simply the other side of that coin, a different type of unhealthy focus on ourselves, dismissing the beauty of God’s creation and work in us.  “God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves” (D.L. Moody), whether in pride or insecurity, we come up “empty”.

So what am I saying with all this?  I am not suggesting that we ignore the basic geographical and life changes which are unique to MK’s.  Not at all.  What I am saying is that placing too much focus on these aspects of MK life may be a disservice and result in unintended consequences.  I think we can all agree that our hope for MK’s would be the opposite of pride and insecurity.  Here’s what I, for one, want for them:

Healthy identity– Accepting and understanding at a heart level who they are in Christ, including the personality, talents, struggles, and dreams He has given them.  Being an MK is not what made them funny, or stubborn, or intelligent, or creative, or sometimes mean.  Being an MK does not make them more or less sinful than anyone else.  Being an MK may or may not influence their dreams for the future.

Security– Overall confidence in their identity which allows them to live, grow and behave in line with their purpose, freedom and fulfillment in Christ.  Confidence that they are loved by you, by family, by God.  Confidence that they don’t have to be perfect and it’s ok to struggle.  Confidence that no matter where they are, they are valuable and can find their place.

As I just typed those last two paragraphs my heart sored with excitement about the endless possibilities within each and every MK, and within each and every one of us!  What could happen if we think outside the box of “MK rules” and spend more time allowing MK’s to grow up as children, addressing their needs like we would any child?   Being an MK is one part of their beautiful story.  So parents, friends, family, church family…Let’s all live abundantly out of our own healthy identity and security so we can more effectively encourage MK’s to develop their own.


  • Neil Gilliland

    I used to say MKs were simply culturally abnormal but some took exception to that terminology. :). I typically like the way Pollack and Van Reken put it. They talk about it in terms of assets and liabilities. There are certainly both but I do think the assets of being an MK outweigh the liabilities.

    • bethany.brummitt

      Hi Mary Ann! Thank you for stopping by! I’m still working out the details of the website so as of now there’s no way to subscribe. But I’m working on it!

    • bethany.brummitt

      Actually…we just saw that at the very bottom of the page right underneath the “comment” section it gives you the option to get notifications by email of new posts. That should work!

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