I’m a Mom and a Minister, But I Feel Like a Complete Mess!

“Get up! Where are your shoes? Stop! Get down! What are you wearing? Is it clean? Stop! Get off of that! Don’t eat off the floor! Put it down!”

That’s my regular discourse every morning with my two children, ages 10 and 2. Particularly on this Sunday morning, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that children are a blessing from God. “You’re a minister, don’t you realize that”, I said to myself. As we enter the church doors I am towing a diaper bag, a bible case, and a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. I make my transition from mommy to minister. “Good morning, Sis. So-and-So.” “God bless you Bro. So-and-So.”

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With kids in tow, I proceed to put on my clergy robe only to be sidetracked once again. My potty-training toddler has graced me with a surprise in his diaper! Excuse me, while I change back into mommy-mode again. I race to the bathroom to change my son all the while encouraging a sister I met in the hallway. (I’m back in minister mode again.)

This particular Sunday was communion Sunday. I had to leave my son with a friend who was sitting in the congregation. I was assigned to serve as a co-celebrant in the communion ritual and had to sit in the pulpit area with the other ordained clergy and pastor. As I left my son with my friend, he began to cry for me. I began to feel a twinge of guilt. I thought, “Why can’t I sit with my children and family?” I just wanted to be a mommy. From the pulpit, I looked at all the other mothers in the congregation, bouncing their babies on their laps. I couldn’t be a mommy; I had to be a minister.

Needless to say, my son was not particularly happy with viewing me several feet away from him the entire service. It broke my heart that I could not go and console him. As I proceeded to assist with the communion ritual, I caught a glimpse of him and his eyes simply said, “I want my mommy!” After completing my tasks, I quickly went to relieve his in-church-baby-sitter. He was more than thankful. There I was, sitting in my white robe, clergy collar, with the diaper bag and my children. I was a mom and a minister, but I felt like a complete mess!

As I sat on the pew, I pondered how does a mother and minister balance the two greatest roles ever? As a mother, I’ve been called to nurture. As a minister, I have been called to seek the lost and encourage the brokenhearted.

We are told to honor God first and family second. But, what does that look like for a mother in ministry? Matthew 6:33 tells us we are to seek God first and pursue His righteousness and then all things will be added to our lives. As women serve in ministry, I believe it is challenging, although not impossible with Christ, to serve both home and church. But if we seek God first, He will show us how to serve in this God ordained ministry correctly.

God does not operate in confusion and does not delight in moms who are burned out. I have learned that balance is the key. It may mean that I cannot attend three meetings during the week at church, so I attend only one. It may mean I have to schedule a tele-conference with my prayer group to be at home in the evenings to help with homework. At this time, I don’t attend long church conferences out of town unless it is during the summer months.

Male ministers will never understand the challenges that a mother in ministry faces. I once felt frustrated and sometimes embarrassed that I could not juggle all that was on my plate. I even thought about “taking a leave of absence” from my clergy duties while my children are still young. But, I thought about it. I did not quit working my job as a college professor because I had children. Why leave ministry? There was no need to leave. God gives strength to the weary. We really are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.

I’ve realized that there are seasons in my ministry. There will be seasons where I can do more or less and that is alright with the Lord. After all, He knew this when He called me to ministry and He certainly was aware of it when He gave me and my husband two wonderful children to raise.

Being a successful clergy mom of young children is not impossible. Communicate with your pastor (if you are an associate minister) and your spouse. Don’t overlook other resources such as family and friends to help you keep your balance between home, work, and ministry. Get direction from God. You cannot save the world. You can only do your part.

Now I can say, I am a mother and a minister, but I am not a mess. I am simply a work in progress!

Comments

I too am a mom and a pastor. My kids came later in the process--almost 37 when my first son came alone, 43 when the second was born. Though my husband was also a pastor, the boys went to church with me. The worst moments were when childcare fell through. I did take a brief family leave when my older son was diagnosed with ADHD and was acting out egregiously.

Now he is 21 and a banker--still acting out in his ways; his brother is 15, a freshman in high school--an adolescent but not acting out. I am a widow and pastor in the most loving, compassionate gathering of God's people. Sometimes I may be a mess, but I am where I am supposed to be.

Your witness in the church as a loving mother who really nurtures and ministers to her children goes far. The patience with members and profound leadership over Intercessory Prayer at our church blesses the entire congregation. I know you are not a mess but an amazing mother/minister that God uses in mighty ways. We all get weary when we have a lot of major responsibilities, but your priority to your relationship to God first and your family second supersedes all that many think the ministry requires. I am so proud of you.

I think being a mother and a minister....and I come at this from being a senior pastor for 10 years....is a nice opportunity to challenge a congregation on their responsibility in their pastoral role to pastor. In our denomination, we experience a baby blessing, where the congregation is called upon to raise the child in the faith, partnering with the family. It takes a village to raise a child and the village we choose as pastors is our congregation. While at times messy and riddled with guilt, perhaps letting go of our children to allow our congregations to help in raising them is something that is personally challenging, but necessary to teach what shared ministry is. Our congregations trust us to be there in moments of life and death and all that's in between, personally, I think pastors do a poor job in allowing our congregations the same opportunity. Blessings in motherhood and good luck with potty training!

I find it helpful to remember that "God first and family second" is not the same thing as, "church first and family second." I meet God as much in my family as I do within the church. I am fortunate to be called to be a mother and a minister. And you're right; it's a tough balance!

Thanks ladies! I pray that this article is a blessing to you and others!

thank you so much for this excellent article and the comments. As a new young clergy mom I struggle to find balance and maintain my own boundaries with family and church. It is especially hard to be surrounded and judged by pastors who set up unreasonable expectations for hours. I believe strongly that Christ is first and then family, then church, thanks for the encouragement you offer to other young clergy moms!

This blessed my soul and spoke to my situation.. Thanks Sis

Thanks for writing this exceptional article. As a Pastor, I have learned to be sensitive to the needs of female clergy who are moms. This article helps to validate the point.

Thanks Min. Jackson and Min. Deborah! Keep up the good work for the kingdom!

Yes, Pastor Porter, I am glad this could shed a different light on female clergy for male pastors.

Thank God for you all!

God "does not delight in moms who are burned out." Thank you for a simple reminder of a truth that I should tape to my mirror and read every morning.

"There will be seasons where I can do more or less and that is alright with the Lord. After all, He knew this when He called me to ministry and He certainly was aware of it when He gave me children to raise."

As a mother of an almost 2-year-old, I hear this! Thank you for speaking grace to me today.

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