“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.”
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!