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Ministry as a Young Mom

3 ways to minister well as you adjust to a new normal

Last week I averaged five hours of sleep a night, attended a meeting wearing a shirt that was covered in what I hoped was drool, and received a text message from my babysitter that my daughter had rolled over for the first time—and I wasn’t there to see it because I was at work. I know that healthy and productive ministry comes from overflow, from the abundance we experience from our personal seeking and time with the Lord. As the mother of a 6-month-old, however, I frequently feel like I’m running on empty. I’m in a life stage where my thoughts are constantly divided, and taking time for myself—no matter how important—is a laughable concept. I know I’m not alone. As I adjust to my new normal (which I can only assume will always be fueled by copious amounts of coffee), I’ve come up with the following game plan.

1. Allow others to serve and support.

In ministry, we sometimes fall into the trap of believing that it's our job to support and serve and never allow others the blessing of supporting and serving us. As mothers, we feel the additional pressure of supporting our family, which in my case includes not only my daughter, who relies on me for pretty much everything, but also my husband, who works full-time, recently started graduate school, and leads his own ministry efforts. It’s easy to slip into the faulty thinking that it's now my sole responsibility to bear the burden of our growing family, adding it onto the pile of responsibilities that I’m hoarding as though I’m the only one capable of taking care of them.

I need to remember the community I've worked hard to build, and allow them to step in and help. Many of them are begging for the opportunity to do so. I’ve had to admit that my reflexive refusal of help doesn’t make me Super Woman—it makes me prideful. And tired. We’ve brought little ones into a community we love, so why not let them see the beauty of a community that supports?

2. Instead of striving for balance, work to be present.

Attempting to be everything to everyone at all times means nobody is getting you at your best. When I’m at work, I sometimes find myself fighting to focus on the task at hand. When I’m at home, I often get distracted by ministry needs—like trying to figure out how to get books to a small-group leader who couldn’t pick them up at the church, or mentally planning out our new recruitment strategy.

The work we do is important—both at home and in ministry—and it deserves our full, undivided attention. As hard as it is to admit, I have a much easier time focusing and being present during my workday. I have many more years of experience in diving into ministry tasks than motherhood. There is comfort in what I know. Because of this, for the last several weeks I have made it a practice to leave my phone in the other room on my day off. While this may frustrate my best friend who frequently texts me and eagerly wants me to respond, it has forced me to create boundaries that reinforce my priorities when I am at home.

3. Project authenticity.

Last week I was preparing for the first meting of a playgroup and brunch my husband and I host for new and expecting parents. I was frantically cleaning, working hard to put my best foot forward, and, if I’m honest, to create the impression that I have it all together—even if it only at the eleventh hour. My sister, however, reminded me that the goal of this group was to create a space where we could come together and share our real lives, not to provide a platform for my perfectly cleaned home. That gentle correction was what I needed to recall that true community doesn’t judge, it commiserates.

As I’m writing this at a local coffee shop, a large group of mothers with their babies have gathered to talk and offer each other support. I can overhear them talking about their struggles, their joy in their little one’s latest achievement, and admitting to being weary and needing help. Their transparency is met by an understanding round of “me too” at each turn. They’ve provided another well-timed reminder of the power of authentic community and the gift of knowing you’re not alone. Instead of projecting an unrealistic (and untrue) standard, my authenticity can be a gift. It can be the perfect opening for someone else to finally be able to sigh with relief while saying, “me too.” I want my community to be able to push me to better things, but this cannot happen if I’m unwilling to admit perfection has eluded me. As leaders, we have an opportunity to let authenticity to remind others they’re not alone.

My husband frequently reminds me that nobody is as critical of me as I am of myself. I’m striving to remember that, although I’ve never needed God’s grace more, he still has more than enough to get me through. In a weird way, maybe this life season filled with under eye concealer and the song “We are the Dinosaurs” competing for limited brain space is a gift. It’s not only forcing me to come face to face with the fact that I can’t do it on my own, but it’s providing (many, many) opportunities for me to share that with others. I’m a walking billboard for God’s strength and power, because goodness knows that’s the only thing getting me through. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

Laura Holland serves as the Small Groups Pastor for National Community Church in Washington, DC, where she lives with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Charli.

October31, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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