Far and away the hardest part of being a mom with small children has been the lack of ministry opportunities. It seems to be a perpetual struggle as I watch others enjoy the gift of ministering in the church while I tend to my little brood and struggle to keep everyone’s diaper clean for the duration of Sunday morning.
Before marriage and children, I loved being a part of any ministry available. Children’s ministries, teen ministries, fellowships, hospitality, piano, singing, leading, teaching, counseling, puppets, decorating. You name it. I wanted to be involved and playing a key role. I told myself that it was because I wanted to be a servant, but honestly, I really liked being a leader. I loved being the one on the front lines – teaching, planning, and delegating. I felt like I would make the most difference for eternity if I was ministering in key positions in the church.
For the last few years, the doors seemed perpetually closed. Either because I knew I couldn’t keep up with my wife and mother responsibilities and have to say ‘no’ to the very few ministries I could do or because we started attending a church that simply doesn’t have many teaching roles for women.
After much struggle, deep discouragement, and dark days, I finally came to some conclusions.
- I realized that it is normal for a wife and mother to have to attend to her house first. (1 Corinthians 7) The decision to marry and have children simply makes you have to focus on the things of the world more – simply to survive. Unless you really are ordained by God to be celibate, it is part of His plan for you to have a family and children and while you can still minister, they are YOUR FIRST CALLING. How many pastor’s children walk away from God? Our children cannot be sacrificed on any altar – not even the altar of ministry!
- I realized that God does not NEED anyone in ministry. It doesn’t matter that I had a lot of experience or education geared to help me be an ‘asset’ in ministry. God needs NOONE. He ALLOWS us to minister because He is kind to us and ALLOWS us to be a part of His work. Years of pride and feeling ‘needed’ fell by the wayside as I saw other less-capable, less educated people be used by God as I sat on the benches.
- I realized that motherhood IS a ministry and a high calling. I used to feel sorry for people who were not going into full time Christian service. When my husband needed to stop seminary because we could no longer continue and support our growing family, I struggled more then he did. Was my life going to be wasted now!?? I struggled with depression for months. I was missing the ministry in front of my eyes. My little souls watching my every move.
- I realized that ministry comes in many forms. Ministry is not always in the spotlight or leading up an organized program. I had to look around. God had to convict me about my selfishness. Slowly, I began to see forms of ministry that I had been too proud to acknowledge before. A kind note, a frozen dinner, an empathetic question to a hurting church member, being willing to JOYFULLY (that’s the hard part) keep the kids busy for an hour (or two or three) after church so my husband could help a church family or be there for a weary friend.
This week the subject of ministry has resurfaced because two families need help with moves, and I can’t help in the way I’d like. (Third term pregnancy makes me a useless box lifter and lack of baby-sitters means I wouldn’t help much at the moves but rather chase my kids around.) This time, rather then plummet into discouragement, I’ve been able to acknowledge my limitations and consider what I can do – freezer meals and a joyful attitude and encouraging attitude toward my husband (who is a GREAT packer after being a missionary kid and a GREAT box mover after 5 years of working for FedEx.)
So in the coming weeks, I probably won’t be able to help these two families move in the normal way. I can’t lift things; I can’t come pack things up. However, I can recognize that the ministries I do have are still a blessing and a high calling, and I can seek God’s grace to do them in a way that glorifies Him.
In some ways it can take even more grace and dependence to wash the church dishes in a joyful and God-focused way then it can to teach a church Sunday School. I’m learning to show my children what real ministry is.