Archive of ‘Mama and Minister’ category
One common reason that I hear parents share for why they don’t want to take their kids to big church is what if the pastor starts talking about something that isn’ t kid-friendly? We’ve experienced it alot, most notably last year on September 11. Kaylie was just in kindergarten, so we had never talked about what had happened. But we had a video about it during the church service, complete with images of burning buildings and crashed planes. For an inquisitive and soft-hearted little girl, that raised approximately 5,000 questions. Here’s what we’ve come to grips with concerning kids hearing about grown up stuff in church.
- It is going to happen. Just like, inevitably, when you finally bring your unchurched friend to a service, the pastor is going to preach about money, when your kid is sitting beside you, some uncomfortable topic will come up. It will happen.
- Our kids are going to hear about these topics anyway. Like it or not, kids are going to hear about sex, homosexuality, and other “grown up” topics somewhere. Likely from a friend or on the playground or on the bus long before we get around to talking about it.
- We would prefer our kids’ first exposure to these tough topics to be in the context of church. I think too often we are way slow in addressing worldly or uncomfortable issues with our kids. Our lack of conversation often results in an understanding on some level that God is not involved with those types of topics, which is far from the truth. Too often we begin informing our kids about these uncomfortable topics when they are “older” and likely when they have already had many views and opinions formed by the rest of the world. Do I want to explain what the word “prostitute” for the first time following a sermon or following a trashy conversation at the ballfield? Truthfully, I don’t want to talk about it at all! But I will have to. And I’d rather it come from a safe environment.
- We have the opportunity to have awesome conversations with our kids. Yes, they are tough and uncomfortable situations. Yes, the conversation with my 5 year old will be different than that with my 7 year old. But sometimes these conversations triggered by something they heard in big church result in laying the foundation for a Biblical worldview concerning topics I certainly wouldn’t have brought up on my own. That is not a bad thing.
So, what do you think? Have you had to have awkward conversations from something your kid heard at church?
Yesterday I shared the reasons why Nate and I have always tried to take our girls to big church with us. I could tell you it is all roses and easy and our girls usually have a halo floating over their heads. Not so much. Last time, Brenna decided she was a puppy in the middle of the sermon, including crawling around on the floor in front of the pew and pretending to lick her arm.
Here are some of the biggest reasons we could come up with not to take your little people to church.
1. They distract me from worship. They wiggle. They whisper. They have 100 questions or observations. How can I have my personal time with God when my little people are right there and I have to be the Mama. We all need a break, and yes, we all need some personal time with Jesus. However, when I became a parent it stopped being about me. More pressing than my need for “me and Jesus time” is my need to invest in my children and show them what corporate worship is all about. In some ways it is a sacrifice on my part, but I believe it is an investment in the long term.
2. They can’t sit through the whole service. This may not be true of your kids, but I know with mine, they don’t have alot of environments where they have to sit still and be mostly quiet for a lengthy amount of time. How are they going to learn how if they never have to? Sitting quietly is a life skill. Have we had to leave the service? Absolutely. Did I miss part of the sermon. Yep. And I thank God for the online downloads.
3. They don’t get anything out of it. I referred to this yesterday, but more often than not my kids reveal that they are absorbing more than I thought. I do not expect that they can repeat all 5 points of the sermon. But they can tell me something. And that is a win.
4. They will hear things they are not ready for. That is a whole other blog post… in fact, let’s cover that tomorrow.
5. It is hard. Yes. And some weeks it is honestly better for everyone to not even try. And that is ok. But Jesus talks alot about how the good things are hard. I don’t want to default to what is easy over what I feel is best for my kiddos.
6. They might distract others. We don’t sit too close to alot of people who don’t love us and our kids. :) My kids can be distracting even at their quietest. But I would rather them learn now to respect others while they are cute enough to be quickly forgiven, than when they are an obnoxious teenager or an adult. And lots of times I just have to be the mean mama that says “shh”, “stop”, “quit touching her”.
Let me reiterate again that I do not feel that this is something every family and every kid should do. God made you the parents in your house. You know your family and your context. But let me challenge you to think long term. Let me challenge you to think beyond inconvenience.
So, here we are… after 15 years + of living in Alabama our little family is in in Bradenton, Florida. Today marks two weeks in our new home. I have been amazed at the smoothness of the transition. God has been so faithful to help my girls make friends and to feel at home already. We miss our Alabama “family”, but are so grateful for God making himself evident.
One of my friends commented that I had been quiet. And I guess I have been in the world of blogs and twitter. I’ve really been just trying to figure out which end is up.
But, now that we are at least a tiny bit settled, I hope to share some of our new reality… what God has taught me already and what He is changing in me through this transition.
Here are a few beginning tidbits.
- Our first week began with interesting weather. Tropical Storm Debby parked itself somewhere off the coast and left us with several days of tropical downpours. My girls did not understand why we had not gone to the beach yet. We were very thankful when the rains and wind finally died down!
- We are trying to remember we are not on vacation. This is the town we have vacationed to for 15 years. And we live ten minutes from the beach, which is my favorite place in the world. I declared Saturday night that we had to stop eating out, going to get ice cream everyday, etc… We are not on vacation. However, a very wise friend told me I must be a good steward of the sunsets God has blessed me with. We will still be at the beach a lot. It’s free. It’s my favorite thinking place. And as my friend said, God whispers loudly there.
- I live in the backyard of the church. Seriously. We have been blessed to live in house that the church owns and it is literally 30 seconds from my backdoor to the door of the children’s hall. It’s a pretty tough commute.
Deeper thoughts tomorrow. But for today, hello from Sunny Florida. Pray for God to do big things here!
This morning our church was doing an awesome morning of community service called “Serve Shelby County”. I was very fired up about Westwood making an impact in our community and our people getting their hands dirty in service. I love that stuff. One of my favorite staff members, Corey Stewart, had worked really hard organizing it.
As I got up to go this morning, my three year old had an absolute meltdown. Like hanging onto me screaming, “Please don’t go this time, please don’t go, please stay with me.” Nothing like a little three year old guilt.
So I thought about what a big deal this event was.
I thought about how important it was for all staff to be there.
I thought about how my friends had worked so hard to organize it.
And I looked at the goofy three year old hanging onto my arm.
And then God spoke to my heart and said, “This time pick her.”
So I sat down and watched Aladdin.
One of my favorite books ever is Andy Stanley’s Choosing to Cheat. He talks about how you are going to end up cheating someone – work or family and you are going to feel guilty about it. So, figure out who you want to feel guilty about cheating. Too often I default on cheating my family for time in ministry.
I can’t always choose to cheat work and stay home and watch Aladdin, but today I could. I wanted my little one to have memories of me choosing her over ministry. I don’t want her to grow up resenting the church and ministry because Mama always picked ministry. Wish I got that right more often and I’m thankful for a pastor and fellow staff members that understand.
My five year old was devastated that I was going to Belize without her. I thought about, since it was a family trip after all, but decided it would be best for me to check it out first since she is still so young. I’m glad I did. There are quite a few things that I learned that she will have to work on to be able to go. (As a side note, it has given new motivation to some of the things we’ve been wanting her to do anyway.)
Here are a few things that I observed that we need to work on before my kids are ready for a mission trip:
- A lot of prayer and spiritual preparation – The kids that went with us showed zero fear and jumped right in to serve and build relationships. I believe the primary reason is that they prayed A LOT with their families before the trip. Our parents did a great job of preparing them for what they were going to do and what was expected of them.
- Keeping their hands out of their mouth - Of course as mamas and daddys we know this is nasty anyway, but it is just part of being a kid to lick your fingers or pick at your teeth or whatever kids do! In an unfamiliar environment this is obviously not a good idea.
- Eating the food that is put in front of them – This has got to be one of the toughest ones. Most kids are picky eaters in one way or another. In another country your options are limited and often it is considered rude to not eat what your hosts provide. I’ve been talking to my daughter about this a lot. To show me she’s ready to go, she has to start by eating what I make for supper without complaining!
- Knowing when to be quiet – Part of the reason you want kids to go on a trip like this is so that they can experience life like they have never seen. And they will! Kids will be kids, but it is great to prepare them that they can’t say out loud everything that comes to their minds. “Yuck, they’re dirty” or “What’s wrong with that house?” or similar comments would be very offensive. Help kids learn to filter the words that come out of their mouths.
- Stay with the group – Wanderers are bad on a mission trip. From the airport to wandering through the village, we had many occasions where it was essential that kids stayed with the group for their safety.
- Take instructions well – There are a lot of instructions that go with trips. They have to be able to pay attention and follow through with what they’ve been asked.
- Be bold – For a trip like our Belize trip, kids have to be willing to step out. It just wouldn’t have worked if our kids had been shy and had to stay under mama’s wing. They wouldn’t have experienced as much and they would have driven their parents nuts!
My sweet (and mostly crazy) firstborn will be 5 in nineteen days. We are filling out her app for kindergarten and just registered her for softball. How did she get so big? She is brilliant like her daddy. Her brain – and mouth – never stop. She is currently obsessed with playing wii or computer games. She reads like a champ and either torments or adores her sister (depends on the moment). She has approximately 5,637 stuffed animals that seem to appear in every corner of our house. She always has a plan or story going on in her head. I am beginning to see how much we are alike and so we often drive each other crazy. I love her more than the planet.
And today, God used her before I had barely even opened my eyes to convict me.
I was sleeping a little later because she had visited in the middle of the night to share a dream that involved a skunk spraying her between her toes. She has now mastered the froofy all-in-one remote her daddy has configured, so on typical mornings she usually heads to the Disney Channel before I even see her.
But this morning she climbed in my bed and started talking before I really even knew she was there. “Mama,” she said. “Before I got out of bed this morning I prayed for all of the kids who don’t know Jesus. I prayed that God would send them Bibles so that they could know Him.” Then she hugged me and skipped out to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
How incredible that lost people were the first thing on her mind this morning? And I was super convicted that they weren’t on mine. When was the last time I had prayed for kids who don’t know Jesus and asked God to send His Word to them? I won’t answer that out loud, because I don’t like the answer.
I’m fully convinced that God will use my girls to change the world. They’re certainly already changing me!
Both my undergrad and master’s degrees were in education. I know textbook child development and I have learned what the books say about how impressionable little minds are. Brain research intrigues me, especially what discoveries have been made about how much even babies can learn.
But none of that really registered until I had two little people of my own in my house. I also learned that despite all of that head knowledge the busy-ness of each day – making breakfast, brushing teeth, settling arguments, cleaning messes, driving to gymnastics, and on and on and on – can drown out the things that we want to put into the hearts of our little ones.
- I want to teach them to value God’s Word – but I barely squeeze in a Bible story before bed.
- I want to teach them to give to others – but the constant question at Christmas is “What are you getting?”
- I want to teach them to value prayer – but then we rush to get to bedtime.
- I want them to have a heart for missions and serving others – but our time is spent either being “busy” or resting from being so busy.
I know that there is a great gap between what I envision planting in my kids and what the volume of our days actually says. I also become increasingly aware that the days are slipping away. How are mine 3 and turning 5?
Today we had a neat opportunity to put the right things in their hearts. We got to deliver food to some needy members of our community. My prayer is that in our family, these occasions will be more of the norm and not the unusual.
As the mama, I must fight EVERY day to invest in my own kids. If I’m intentional about my church ministry, I must be even more intentional with the babies God has entrusted to me.
As a fulltime Mama and fulltime children’s minister, probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned over the past 4+ years is that balance is unobtainable. At least for me. I think a lot of the mama guilt and a lot of the employee guilt that we struggle with is based on the false idea that to be perfectly fair equals all time has to be evenly divided. If I spend four hours with my family, I need to spend at least four hours on work. There is a continual guilt because life just doesn’t divide into halves very well. And then VBS week comes along and any hope of balance goes quickly out the window.
Instead, I’ve learned that the two key words are: rhythm and seasons.
Rhythm: Instead of struggling with wondering if everything is even, I should focus on a rhythm of life that meets the needs of my family and accomplishes the tasks of ministry. Rhythm focuses on making healthy choices and making an intentional plan for each day so that you make sure you are a good steward of your time. 20 hour days are not part of a healthy rhythm. Lack of sleep or lack of downtime or lack of time to eat are not healthy rhythms and lead to bad things. Finding a rhythm that you are comfortable and that works for your family is what is important.
Seasons: Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season…” Ministry is no exception. Jim Wideman often says that ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. When I think in that perspective I realize that I don’t have to be all things to all people in all seasons. I can do an awful lot more now in ministry than I could when my girls were babies. I would have killed myself trying to do it all then. I had to realize that for a season, I was limited in certain ways. I would be in ministry for a long time. They would only be babies for a season. Right now they are preschoolers. A new season will come in few years when they are in school for most of the day. Hard seasons get better.
There are also different seasons throughout the ministry year. VBS week or camp week are totally unfair to my family. I can be wracked with guilt, or I can recognize that this is a very brief season. There are other times throughout the year when ministry is slow and that is the season to invest a little more time with my family. I will try to take vacation or plan special fun times right before or right after busy ministry seasons. When I remember that it is temporary, I can do what God’s called me to do without fighting quite so much guilt.
God’s job for me is to discern what He wants me to do in the season of ministry that I’m in. He loves my family and my ministry more than I do. Only by following His leading can I serve both well, and keep my sanity!
- Face time with my kids – even if I’m working, I get to see my kids’ faces and they get to see mine. Though I have to say quite a few times “I can’t find your Barbie right now, Mama is working” or “I can’t help you with that stage on Wii, Mommy’s working”, I am at least here to say that.
- Getting more done – I know everyone’s work style is different, but I truly can accomplish more in the comfortable setting of my comfy chair and pjs.
- Fewer interruptions from tall people – I love people and I love the people I work with. And I know I am terrible about walking into others’ offices and interrupting their work flow. I need to do better. But that is also part of office community. It’s good, but at the same time it can really hinder productivity. And, yes, at home if my little people are awake I am interrupted constantly, but I can send them to timeout if needed.
- Great connection with volunteers – One of my biggest worries was that my volunteers would feel slighted that I wasn’t in the office during office hours. But the reality is, most of them work real jobs too and they aren’t available to think church business during office hours either. Part of my crazy working schedule includes lunches with volunteers and their kids or late night ice cream runs to chat ministry or Facebook chat recruiting.
- Work never really stops – I fit productive times around and throughout my girls’ schedule. This often results in working whenever I can. I often use the phrase “I’m always working and always not working.” I don’t clock out at 4:30. I just get it done when I can.
- Impossible to do anything in a straight line – This is probably more the dysfunction of my brain more than it is a result of working from home, but I am usually working on chunks of different projects all at the same time – usually something at the office, something before dinner, something before bed. There’s usually lots of zig zags, lots of requests for juice, a few games of The Ladybug Game, finding a lost stuffed animal, and a few timeouts before a task is completed.
- Having two work spaces – I wish I had a dollar for everytime I said, “Aw man, I left that at the office.” Seems like too often what I’ve needed here I’ve left there and vice versa.
Constant struggle between:
- Mama Guilt – When I’m working I feel bad I’m a bad mama. I feel bad when I have to say “wait” or “stop that” or “Mama can’t right now”.
- Employee Guilt – When I’m being mama, I feel like I’m a bad employee. I feel I need to overwork at other times to compensate for the minutes I am being mama during the day.
- Choose your guilt – Andy Stanley’s book Choosing to Cheat was a life changer for me. Basically he says you can’t be everything to everybody. You are going to cheat someone. If you are giving 110% to work you are cheating your family. If you’re giving 110% to your family, you’re cheating work. You will cheat, so choose your guilt. Choose what you are going to feel bad about. Ministry is a marathon not a sprint. Ministry will still exist when my girls are bigger. I can NEVER have these days back when they are little. I do not want to cheat them.
Time management and planning- One of the greatest skills I learned from Jim Wideman is to track my time and to very specifically plan my time. This did two things: 1) made sure I was utilizing my time most efficiently and 2) relieved some guilt because I could see on paper how much time I was spending with my girls and how much time I was working.
- Iphone – Though it could probably now be classified as an addiction, I started with a Blackberry and then my husband graduated me to an iphone. Having email in my hand has made ministry from home possible. I can respond to volunteers’ emails quickly even if I’m standing on the playground or at the office or sitting at a red light.
- Google docs - I put important documents that I need to access from anywhere I’m working on Google Docs. I can pull it up and edit it from home, from the office, and even from my phone. That’s eliminated alot of the stress of forgetting.
So, I know there are more of you out there who work from home. What are your good/bad/uglies?
This post is part of a series called “Being the Mama and the Minister”. You can read the other posts here and here.
In the last post I shared a little of my story of dealing with decisions of how to stay home with my kids and continue in ministry as well. If you’re facing this kind of decision whether it is because of a new baby or any other family issue, here is my advice (for whatever it is worth):
- Pray a lot. You are about to make decisions that impact you, your family, your future family, your church, your staff, your volunteers… you get the point. You want to be very clear that you are walking in God’s path.
- Talk to your spouse. Don’t make any decisions alone. You are one team. Make sure you both are as close to being on the same page as you can be before you take another step. You don’t want to set your relationship up for hidden resentment (he made me keep working or she quit and is costing us money…)
- Define your priorities. Decide for yourself what is most important. Being home with my babies was most important to me. If the choice had been put the babies in fulltime daycare or quit, I probably would have quit. Now, let me clarify that this was the decision and priority that was right for our family. If you’re a mama reading this who has made a different choice, I rebuke the mama-guilt creeping in. Your family decisions are between you, your spouse and God. But it is essential that you define those and make your choices based on them.
- Define your non-negotiables and define what has give-and-take. How much childcare are you willing to do and feel comfortable with? How much time can you be in the office?
- Are you being realistic? You’ve dreamed and determined your ideal plan. Before you talk to anyone, take some time for some honest evaluation. Is your plan realistic for your church? Can you work the way you have planned and truly be productive? Can you do what you are planning without hindering the work of your ministry? Can your family still function in the arrangement you have in mind? Answer the hard questions before someone asks them.
- Talk to your supervisor and/or pastor first. If he/she is not comfortable with your proposed arrangement, you need to tread lightly. Remember your job is to serve those God has put over you. And just because they don’t immediately agree to what you want to do doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, that they hate families, or that they aren’t listening to God. I could mean that either they just aren’t ready for it yet and God has to work them through it OR that your plan just might not be a fit for the organization. This is why you have pre-determined your non-negotiables and what you can and can’t live with.
- Be patient and don’t have a sense of entitlement. No one owes you anything, no matter how long you’ve worked somewhere or what you’ve done. Be humble. Be grateful for any amount that your church is willing to work with you.
- Honor your commitments. Work harder than anyone expects. Do what you said you were going to do. Go above and beyond the call of duty when you can. At the same time, be intentional about carving out time for your family and honoring your commitment to them as well.