Eleven months ago I stepped out of full-time ministry to give birth to my first child. After working for nine years as a pastor and one year as a hospital chaplain, I knew the transition from ministry to motherhood would be stretching; but I had no idea how stretching.
In place of writing sermons, I now change diapers. In exchange for developing and implementing new programs, I now help my son build towers out of wooden blocks. Instead of poring over commentary by Barth and Calvin, I now read Dr. Seuss. My presence is no longer needed at 8 a.m. staff meetings, but I am now required to show up for all 3 a.m. feedings. Needless to say, life is no longer about me! But, my son's presence has encouraged me to reconsider the fact that perhaps God never intended my life to be about me to begin with.
Whether we like to admit it or not, using our gifts in ministry leadership feels good. We love to receive good feedback about our sermons, congratulations for a program that flourishes, or thanks from those around us who are blessed by our leadership. And, there is nothing wrong with enjoying what we do, or even accepting gracious compliments about our work; but, leaders must never forget that WE are not the object of our leadership. In other words, we must never lead with our glory in mind.
But, keeping the focus on God as we lead is easier said than done. To do this, we must make a concerted effort to consider whose kingdom (God's or our own) we are actually working to build as we put together strategic plans and goals for the future. Choose to spend less energy mulling over people's opinions about us (or our leadership), and more time focusing our efforts on helping those same people better understand Christ's all-consuming love for them. Be quick to praise and encourage others for the way we see Christ at work in them, as opposed to quietly complaining that we don't get enough recognition ourselves. Refuse to neglect time with the Lord, even when our schedules are packed. And in my current stage of life, it means choosing to love and serve my son, no matter how foul his mood or how little he tangibly gives back to me.
Matthew 20:28 reminds me that Christ did not come to be served, but to serve and to give up his life! If Jesus (God in flesh) was willing to say "It's not about me," how can I refuse to at least work towards saying the same? I certainly don't have this figured out, but the presence of my precious son has urged me to once again ask some important questions; and to consider, all over again, whose glory I am really chasing after.
Rev. Sara Bentley is currently a stay-at-home Mom. Before the birth of her first child Sara worked as a chaplain at Alvin C. York Hospital, Murfreesboro, TN. Prior to chaplaincy, Sara served for nine years as a pastor in the local church. Sara has a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of California Davis and a M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary. Sara currently lives in Boone, NC with her husband, Jeremy, and 14-month-old son, Dylan.