Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The TCK Subspecies: missionarykiddeous

In the IMB culture there has been a push to change the lexicon in the past couple of decades: FMB became IMB for example. Most of the changes have had good reasons, and have done a lot to help change perceptions and approaches in a positive way. One that lost us something though was changing the term “Missionary Kid” to “Third Culture Kid.” There are good reasons to do it, but perhaps we should just keep both and use them almost interchangeably. You see, all MKs are TCKs, but not all TCKs are MKs.

TCKs are people who spend a portion of their childhood living in a culture other than the culture of their parents. As a result they develop positive and negative traits that they share with all other TCKs in the world regardless of host/parent cultures. A lot of people whose parents were not missionaries are still TCKs. President Obama, for example. Calling MKs “TCKs” helps them realize they are not the only kids in their situation and helps missionaries tap into resources that help them better meet their needs.

However, MKs are a unique sub-group within the TCK world. They are more likely to spend a significant portion of their childhood immersed in only one other culture and not move around to several cultures. They develop stronger ties to their host culture than most TCKs and have the least amount of interaction with their passport culture. They are also more likely to have learned a second (or third) language fluently.

And then there is the important “why” an MK is in another culture to begin with. Many missionaries are not at liberty to openly discuss that, and so “TCK” is helpful. But within the IMB culture MK is maybe a better term a lot of the time.

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