The tug of war started for me when we began our new church plant. I felt like there wasn’t enough of me to go around. I couldn’t be a good mother and a good missionary/pastor’s wife at the same time. There was no one to teach the children, ladies or teenage girls of the church so I tried to do all three. Lesson preparation in my second language alone was quite a task! I needed to be available as hostess on many occasions and soon began personal Bible studies in my own home as well. At the same time, I had stair-step children in the home. Every Bible study or ladies meeting was interrupted more than once. A full diaper, a hurt child, a hungry baby, a slamming door, a tiny dispute, you name it. I asked a friend who knew more about personal discipleship than me, “How am I supposed to sit down and teach these young ladies the Word of God with so many interruptions from my children?” She told me, “The way you handle your children is as much a part of the discipleship process as the Bible lessons. They need to see how you ACT as well as what you teach.” OHHH!!! My way of thinking started to change. I couldn’t shove my children aside to do the “ministry.” My role as mother and my role as mentor to others had to somehow work together.
My children are older, and my role in the church has changed some as we have more workers available. Looking back, however, I realize that my children have never been a hindrance in the ministry. Despite the little interruptions or activities I had to miss, they have always been ONLY an ASSET. To the mother of younger children trying to serve in the ministry today, please don’t live in defeat feeling as if you are never enough.
- Do not neglect your personal time of prayer and Bible reading. This is difficult when the baby wakes up and needs to be fed WELL before dawn. Spiritual nourishment is vital if Mama is going to make it through the day serving her family and others.
- Do the best you can as wife and mom first, but don’t use your family as an excuse to do nothing for the Lord. As a child of God, HE comes first. Then, Biblically, as keeper of the home, my husband and children ARE my primary ministry. Just because I am a mother doesn’t mean I quit serving Him. I can still win souls and serve in the church. I have to be really careful when I say I don’t have time to serve in a certain capacity in the ministry because of my children, when I might sneak in the time for facebook, a movie, or a book.
- Prayerfully consider the roles you will fill in the church. Don’t start a new ministry in the church based on a passing whim, but seek God’s will. Consider your talents and abilities and other responsibilities you have to your family. God will show you where He wants you to serve, and He will raise up others to fill the roles you can’t.
- Consult your husband! He knows your talents and abilities and how you can help in the ministry, but he also knows when the responsibilities outside take their toll on the home. If he, at any time, feels the children (or himself) are ignored, it is time to take a step back.
- Re-evaluate your roles as needed. At one point in our ministry, I was running several meetings with the ladies and the teenage girls at church. I began to get frustrated with my children. I was tired and saw them as being “in my way.” I didn’t give up these ministries, but I cut back on the number of times I was meeting. It is not worth it if I put on a happy front at church and am a grouch at home. During transitional times in the family and with each new addition, I have to rethink how I am balancing church work and housework. I try to make an extra effort to make visits and hold special meetings during the summer break when I am not teaching my children. During the school year, I have to step back again and sometimes even say “No” to those who want me to make visits with them. I squeeze in what I can, but my stepping back actually can push others to go forward.
- Don’t compare yourself. A million pastors and their wives are going to have a million different ways to serve their congregations. Don’t feel guilty that as a mother you don’t have the same talents as another mom or that other pastor’s wives fill roles you can’t fill. Some pastor’s wives are behind the scenes. Others love teaching. Constant comparison will make you miserable and affect the way you serve your children and others. If you have children, for a period of time, you may have some limitations as to how and where you serve, but don’t compare yourself to those who don’t have little ones at home. (They would LOVE to be in your place.) I have to do what is right for OUR family and ministry. That does not depend on what another wife does. As my children get older, it is easier to take off with my husband and teach pastors wives hours away from me, but there was a time when those kinds of trips were rare. Treasure the moments with the little ones instead thinking you have to compete with other wives.
- Do “ministry” with your children. What a privilege to raise children in the ministry! Instead of feeling like it’s the children OR the ministry, why can’t it be both? Maybe they can’t hand out tracts for hours in the hot African sun, but we can go for a few minutes in our neighborhood. (Near our restroom. I had to learn that one the hard way.) Instead of shooing them out of the room, why can’t they be a part of our meetings if they want? My daughters have sat in on so many discipleship courses that they know many of the answers to the questions in the booklets. They serve guests in our home. Some of the young people kind of just “hang out” doing puzzles or playing the wii or soccer with our children when they come for discipleship. My daughter who used to crawl off into the neighbor’s yard while I taught in the village is now taking care of disruptive children during services and running her own Bible club. The benefits of our children in the ministry far outweigh any disruption they have caused. (I should have been more patient with them.)
- Model a good attitude about the ministry, the people and their DADDY! Dwell on the positives. Miserable parents produce miserable children. If they love serving the Lord, it’s because we teach them to. Instead of, “I don’t understand why your Daddy left us again,” it has to be, “I know you miss Daddy, but he is out teaching pastors in the village how to bring people to Jesus. Those pastors wouldn’t be there if Daddy didn’t come. We are going to stay home and take care of things. That we way are helping Daddy bring people to Jesus.” Pump up the job their Daddy is doing. Pump up the work of the Lord. If people make bad decisions and hurt us or leave the church, teach the children to pray for those people. My children often pray for a young lady who did discipleship lessons with me. She spent countless hours in our home, and we love her. She has made horrible decisions, but my children love and pray for her. I don’t regret the hours I spent with this young lady, and I am not mad at her. My heart is broken when I consider the consequences of her actions. If Mom gets bitter in the ministry, the children will be bitter too.
- Model and teach a love for the Lord above all. In teaching so many others, I must not forget to teach my own children. My prayers is to lead them all to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. After that, I want them to have a heart to serve Him. We miss our family and some conveniences from the USA, but we love the Lord above all. We have given up so little for the One who gave so much for us. This doesn’t mean that I don’t empathize with them and listen to how they feel. I do, but I try my best to help them see we are doing something of eternal worth.
- Remember we are part of a bigger family. Treat your church people like family. You might feel like you are neglecting your “own” in doing so. However, you will find that in accepting them with a good attitude, your family grows. We miss our family at home, but the “family” we have here helps fill the void.
- Spend quality family time together as well as one on one time with each child. I used to try to spend an afternoon a week with each child. It was really difficult especially on top of homeschooling. Now, I squeeze in the time where I can to connect with each one. It may be a chat with one of my girls as she helps me cook or a quick game with my son. Especially as they grow older, they seem to thrive one-on-one attention.
- Give loving correction as needed. It is easy to fall into the mindset of making our children behave just because all the church is looking at them. While that is true, and we talk about their testimony, my motivation in discipline should NOT be what others think but what is right in God’s eyes. Feeling the need to make my children “perform” puts pressure on us all. It makes me irritable and afraid of what others think of them. My children must know they are loved and accepted no matter what. A friend recently told me you should have no “correction without connection.” If my children know they are loved and accepted and truly connected to me, they will accept my loving correction.
- Know that your children may one day be some of your best disciples and most well-trained leaders. At the moment, it may seem like light years away for some of you, but our job is to win and train others to serve the Lord. I can think of no greater opportunity to do that than in teaching our own children. We have the time. We are with them EVERY day. So many great men of God have publically acknowledged that they are serving the Lord because of the role their mothers played in their lives.
- Remember the time is fleeting. My oldest just turned 12. She probably has less time left at home than she has been in it already. I can’t afford to waste one moment. At the same time, no matter how or where I serve in the church, my people there must know I care. Souls around me need Jesus. Ladies we are needed at home. We are needed in the ministry. How you balance the two is up to you, but do the best you can. Don’t feel guilty because you can’t be everything to everyone all the time. Between you, your husband, and the Lord, find what works for you and go for it! Be flexible and rearrange things as needed. When it feels chaotic, know that God will somehow work it all out for his glory. God sees you. He knows your heart and your desire to serve. He will give you wisdom in your ministry on the home front as well as in your service to others.