Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with a mom of more experience, a godly mentor who loves the Lord and has grown or nearly-grown children, I have a question I love to ask: “What does ministry look like when you have small children?”
The answers are usually pretty similar, so it’s not that I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s that I need the reassurance, maybe it’s my means of fighting my own insecurities, maybe it’s that I’m a slow learner. But ministry with little ones isn’t easy. Anyone know what I mean? I’m lucky to make it out of Walmart with my testimony much less having witnessed to the cashier. Should I be doing more than getting my kids to stand calmly at the cart and not pick up every candy bar on display?
So, struggling through my own mommy-guilt, I ask those who have been where I am. What does “ministry” look like right now? Most often, the answer is that ministry, at this stage in my life, looks like loving my kids and loving my husband. One mother added this thought that had encouraged her years before:
“Would I feel any different if there were X number of adults living with me and I was ministering to their needs, teaching them about Christ? Would I feel that was more important?”
What surprised me was that I instantly knew that I would feel differently. I love my children, and I do understand that my tasks are significant. Yet I am still easily deceived into thinking that there might be something more important. Of course, witnessing and disciplining begins at home!
On the other hand, there is the very practical side of wanting to include my children in ministry, shepherding their hearts toward Christ’s heart of compassion for others. But even here, the Lord has helped me to remember simple ways that I am ministering in the midst of my Littles.
Finding the teaching moments. Quite honestly, my teaching moments rarely occur in the check-out line. But there have been many car rides home where the kids have mentioned something we saw or encountered at the store. These discussions have been great teaching moments, and most of those moments have ended with prayer for a person or family that we saw.
We’ve also had the opportunity to include the kids in prayers for those my husband has been able to witness to. The teaching moment doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m evangelizing in the presence of my kids. Then as well, there are the moments of teaching the gospel to my children, witnessing to them at every available opportunity, parenting with grace, and sharing the sweetness of forgiveness.
Ministering from home-base. Another avenue for ministering that I am learning is opening my home to others. We often do this by having other families to dinner. And while I often feel like I haven’t done my part (keeping my children occupied while grasping for snippets of conversation here and there), I’m probably doing more than I know. I’m allowing my children to experience ministry and hospitality, and I’m allowing others to see how we interact as a family.
Beyond these meals, however, the Lord is helping me to find other moments in my day where I can minister from my home with fewer distractions. Nap/quiet times have been perfect opportunities to make myself available to others. Play dates have been another opportunity to fit in a little extra ministry. My home, then, becomes headquarters for ministry, and my children get a front-seat to the action.
Sharing Daddy. One last area where I have tried to help my children understand ministry is by “sharing Daddy.” Whether this is an unexpected evening away from home or a planned international missions trip, my husband is sometimes called away from us; and my kids miss their Daddy. I miss him, too. But I know that my greatest ministry and their greatest ministry to him and to our church is allowing him to do what God has called him to do. By sharing him, we have a part in his ministry, too.
Of course, my children get many other opportunities: visiting the sick or bereaved, coloring pictures and sending cards to those who are hurting, etc. And I’m sure the Lord is at work in other areas I’m not even aware of. The fact is, ministry is not a prescribed set of activities. Ministry is life, living my faith out in front of my children and others. It’s not about the perfect opportunity, but about my response when the opportunity wasn’t perfect.
And those days when my three children are the only people I see are the God-sent opportunities to pour into their lives with all of the passion I would spend on three adults living under my roof. “Go and make disciples” doesn’t necessarily mean that I head out across town; it means I get out of bed. And as I’m “going” about my day, I intentionally disciple those souls God’s placed in my life, no matter their age or size.
If these posts have been a blessing to you, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Sally Clarksons’ books Ministry of Motherhood and Mission of Motherhood. They’ve been a huge source of encouragement and inspiration to me.