Before we get into this episode, I just want to remind you that this is a hard topic because it will look totally different depending on what your particular situation is – what your husbands role is, what your own role is, what life is like inside your particular church, what city you live in, how many kids you have… all play in a role in the answer to this question. What I’m giving you today is what I’ve learned from our years in ministry and from my point of view.
So the question is this – how do you balance time between serving your family inside your home and serving or ministering to others outside of the home? It’s an age old question for many families. But also one that’s ever changing and evolving as church culture, ministry expectations, family expectations and other things change as well. And ultimately only you and your family can answer what this will look like in your home, because it’s truly such a person to person topic depending on what your life is like. However – I will give you my best advice and personal opinions on the topic from where I stand.
Here’s the thing – from my point of view there’s a LOT of pressure on moms in the church. Whether you work in ministry or you husband does or your family is just really involved and giving of your time when it comes to your church family (which is awesome) – there’s a lot of pressure on moms, mostly because in many cases moms are the ones wearing the most hats. It’s very likely that in addition to your role or your involvement in the church, you’re taking care of one or multiple young children, you’re taking care of your home by grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, you’re likely handling the family’s schedule and things like dr appointments and soccer games and preschool events, and you may even work from home or out of the home as well. I’m gonna just go ahead and guess that your plate is a FULL one. And if you’re children are babies or toddlers, you’re likely barely finding time to shower – nevermind perfectly execute all of the other things you need to do. And I assume that your ministry involvement, whatever that looks like, feels very important to you. Which is wonderful, and says so much about your heart to serve others. HOW.EVER. With that comes years of expectations you have placed on yourself (or maybe others, or the culture around you) about exactly what ministry must look like, when it happens, where it happens and how often it happens. But when you’re adding your family, or even if you just have things going on at home that make it hard for you to continue in the habits that you were originally in, it often requires your time spent pouring into those outside of your family to be cut back. The problem is.. I think for many of us.. we subconsciously hold ourselves to these CRAZY expectations of where we should be spending our time and it’s not realistic or helpful. Listen, I can’t speak directly to your situation. But what I can do is be your loud and obnoxious reminder that YOU CANT DO EVERYTHING! And if you try, you won’t do ANYTHING well. If you are a mom of young children.. that is where (I assume) your priorities lie (behind your husband) and your time should reflect that. This may need to be a season where you step back and away from many commitments that happen outside of your home. I think many of us believe that we’re not good Christians if we’re not taking care of our home and our families, and we’re leading a bible study, and we’re at the church serving 3 nights a week, and we’re volunteering every Sunday morning AND we’re hosting dinners AND we’re etc etc etc, oh my gosh. Just stop. So let me say it again. You can’t do everything. And if you try, you won’t do ANYTHING well. Not to mention the fact that ministry is so much more than events and group gatherings. We live in a world where church programming is taking over everything. Our churches have turned into businesses and we’re just so caught up in event planning that I think we lose sight of why we started doing those things in the first place. So as a mom, might I encourage you to just take a step back and consider decluttering your ministry expectations? Let’s simplify and get back to the basics – especially in this season of raising young children. So I’m gonna walk you through just some basic things to think about if you’re a mom of little people who’s struggling to find time to serve both inside and outside of your home.
1) Know your limits – don’t just “serve” for the sake of serving. Because when you just start doing things without intention and without the stamina to really be 100% there, you’re just going to burn out really quickly. Do what you feel led to do, serve where you feel called to serve within your energy and sanity limits. Remember that you are in a season right now. Your children will only be this small once and THEY (along with your husband) NEED your best energy and your first fruits. You are building a foundation with them when they’re young and that takes time and it takes energy. So just know what you can handle. And if that means you need to bow out of some things for a few years then that IS TOTALLY OKAY! You don’t have to be the bible study leader or the room mom or the retreat planner or the whatever it is for 10 years straight. You can take a few years off while you sacrifice all of your available time and energy to your children while the require it.. and that’s okay! Especially if you just had a baby. Mama, please. Give yourself time (and time may even mean a couple of YEARS) but give yourself time to catch your breath and get back on your feet and figure out your new normal. There are so many able bodies who can stand in your place. Those opportunities will still be there when you come back but your kids (and not to mention your own physical and emotional health) need you now.
2) Along those same lines — Consider your season and your situation. I know many of you have husbands who work full time for the church like mine does, and so it makes sense that most of your time would be spent in his area of ministry and with those people – and what a blessing that you get to do that as a family! But as you have children and you go through various transitions and changes it’s okay if your “service” outside of your home changes too. Remember that it’s a season and your situation will change yet again and you will have more or less opportunities to serve in the ways that you feel called to depending on where you are. The important thing is to remember that ITS OKAY if you have a season where you’re ONLY at home with your kids. Don’t let the enemy (or anyone else for that matter) make you feel guilty or that serving just your family is anything less than a HIGH calling and enormously selfless role. With that being said, if you’re children are in a season where you’re breathing a little and you feel like you CAN get everyone up and out of the house and you feel ready and able to serve in those ways, then PLEASE DO. But if it feels overwhelming and stressful because you’re trying to breastfeed and juggle naps and you’re getting 4 hours of sleep… you don’t have to also be the first one to volunteer just because you feel that there’s an expectation on you to do so. Maybe you need to give others the opportunity to serve you. I get it – I know as the mom you feel like you need to be the one to constantly give give give give. But allowing others to serve you, serves them as well. So just be open to that.
3) Learn to say NO. I’m just gonna cut the chase here. Ministry moms are notorious people pleasers and are so often the ones that end up bending over backwards in 50 directions to their own detriment because they have a hard time turning down other people or even just open opportunities. You need to learn to say no. It doesn’t mean you need to say no to EVERYTHING. It doesn’t mean you have to say no FOREVER. But if you have small children, you will inevitably need to say no to many things that you may have been used to saying yes to. You may need to just stay home. You may need to not sign up for that thing. You may need to not host that dinner or that group gathering. Again, you can totally say yes to some of those things. But when you start feeling that overwhelm creep in, or the stress of the busy schedule or that feeling like you were around your k.. let that be your reminder that maybe you’ve been saying yes to too much. Your life in ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to do ALL OF THE THINGS right now in this season. There will be another season for some of those things. Right now, you need to keep your calendar in check and learn to say no sometimes, and learn to guard your time on behalf of your young family.
4) Get creative. Regardless of what your family roles look like within your particular church or area of ministry, there are so many other ways for you to practice ministering to others that actually involve the whole family, and that won’t take you away from your kids or necessarily require you to haul your small army across town. So consider things like – inviting a young woman into your home for example. Just simply building a relationship with a younger woman (or even young girl) and letting them into your life, your home, your family – I’m sure you know this, but the impact you can have on someone’s life is unprecedented. And I can say that because I’ve been that young woman who was welcomed in. But inviting anyone into your home is certainly a very impactful way to minister – and not only that, but it allows you to be home with your family, and often even get some extra hands on help by allowing someone into the normal flow of your day. Which I love because while seemingly simple, sometimes the simplest things have the biggest impact on others. It’s just basic life on life. Or maybe you could double a dinner recipe and take a meal to a new mom, or someone who’s sick, or a family who’s lost a loved one. Involve your kids the in the making of the meal and explain to them why you’d want to serve another family or individual in that way. Because keep in mind that for your children, the simplest moments are truly the ones they will remember that most. There are also great opportunities to offer someone you don’t know. Some of these things I’m gonna list are actually things that are on our bucket list this summer as ways to serve as a family. In fact, make sure you’re subscribed to MomUP in your podcasts, because soon I’ll be doing an episode on my own summer flow and what’s on our bucket list this summer. But here’s some of those ideas to get you started. So, maybe you can take some treats and some thank you cards to a local fire station and thank the firemen for their service. Or a police station. Or a military family. Talk to your kids about what they do and why we’re grateful and let them make cards to give out. Let them know you’ll be praying for them and their families. Or go spend some time at a retirement center — guys there’s nothing that elderly people love more than little children. Have the kids draw them some pictures, let them tell you some stories. Just offering your company would bless them immensely. Or send some cards to some hospitalized children. There’s a website called www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com. Basically you can make cards for kids who are in the hospital, and send them to this organization who will then distribute them to children across all 50 states who are in the hospital. Again, such a wonderful way to involve your kids in caring for others who may be suffering, praying for them and blessing them with a small act of kindness. If you’d like to do this with your family just make sure you go to the website and read their guidelines for the cards as well as the address to send them to!
Save your sanity this summer!
Get the free guide to keeping your summer (and your sanity) on track.
Sign up to grab "Nine Steps to Keeping Your Family Organized & Engaged This Summer" -- packed with practical tips, blank templates and free printables!