When I think about mothers in ministry, I’m impressed by their gumption. One young mom I know leads worship at her church while her newborn daughter sleeps on her chest in a baby wrap. Another mom I know has her elementary-aged son tag along to her community service events, teaching him how to love his neighbors through practical works. Even I’ve learned the art of carrying on an important conversation with a potential small-group leader while balancing my daughter on my hip. (Frankly, I never knew what multi-tasking meant until I had to carry a baby around with me at all times!)
I love watching moms live out their calling in church ministry while they mother. It’s inspiring! But all ministering moms know that it can also be downright hilarious. So this Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating all the moms in ministry and all the embarrassing (and funny!) moments they face. As you read through these stories, we hope you’ll be encouraged to thank a mom in ministry.
During the week of VBS, we arrived at a new church where I would be the associate pastor. At the finale program, our second Sunday at church, my 4-year-old daughter gave a show no one expected. She had wanted to dress herself that day, and overcome with moving boxes and her well-established independence, I let her. She chose her favorite—a button-up dress. That morning she sang, danced, and swung her arms to the music, but she had forgotten to button the dress below the waist. Which might have been okay, except she had also forgotten undergarments. Did I mention zealous dancing? Everyone saw her everything. My second week. I seriously considered resigning then and there. But then I realized things could only go up from there. They certainly couldn’t get any worse. —Still Always Checking Buttons
One morning I was officiating a memorial service. Our church has a small, peaceful, garden-style chapel where a rock waterfall empties into a calming, shallow pool where we would hold a vibrant celebration of life. I normally pray myself into the appropriate solemn and reverent mindset for memorials, but this morning it was near impossible. My sitter bailed last minute, so I arrived to officiate the service with my 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons at my side. I shooed my boys into the chapel with a few toys while trying to greet the immediate family. As I greeted the widow, she hugged me and pointed over my shoulder, “Are those your boys?” I turned to find them knee deep, stomping in the pool, giggling, and shouting. Having no extra clothes for them, I shoved my boys, soaking wet, into a colleague’s office with five minutes to spare. —Soggy in Chicago
We sat across the table from one another, donor and director. He believed in the ministry I raised money for, and I valued his partnership with our organization. Unfortunately, my body did not value our business meeting in the same way. Nearing the end of our meal, I felt something warm on my chest. Had my coffee missed my mouth? Did my billowy shirt accidentally land in the plate of bacon and scrambled eggs? Horrified, I looked down to discover two large, circular, wet spots on my shirt. Apparently, I was extra good at producing milk for my newborn. So good, in fact, that cozy fabric breast shields weren’t going to do the trick for me. Unable to ignore the situation, I continued to stare at my chest, my face red with embarrassment. “Well, I guess I’d better get going!” I finally said, reaching for my purse. He handed me a check, and we walked out the door. Needless to say, we didn’t embrace in our usual side-hug as we left. But I did purchase a box of disposable breast shields on the way home, and was never interrupted by wet warmth again. —Red with Embarrassment
I had my daughter the first week of my second year in seminary. That semester was a blur between the baby spit-up, papers, and breastfeeding between classes. One Monday night I was in a three-hour class, and someone sitting around me smelled atrocious. It wasn't so overpowering that I wanted to get up and leave, but it kept wafting over. I glanced around at the all-male (except for me) class, wondering who it could be. About halfway through class I dropped my pen and leaned down. The terrible smell was now in my face. That's when I discovered the quarter-sized smear of baby poop on my jeans. I got up and washed it out as best I could in the bathroom sink, then returned to class hoping no one else knew I was the culprit. —Smelly in Seminary
Sitting on the front row of our church’s youth auditorium, I couldn’t wait for my son, a youth pastor at the church where I’m also a pastor, to step on the platform to preach to a crowd of teenagers. There was my baby, my son, the one I cried out to God to save, about to preach his heart out. I was one grateful and proud mama! He started in on his message, and I thought to myself, Wow, he’s an amazing communicator. He’s the best youth pastor on the planet! And then it happened. While I was busy thinking about how wonderful he was, he told a story I’d never heard before. He shared about the time when he and his high school buddies, who all worked together at a pet shop, snuck rats from the shop into Wal-Mart and released them in the women’s clothing department. While all the teens were hysterically laughing, I was trying to figure out a way to slide under my seat. Oh the joys of being in ministry with your son! —Hiding under the Pew
Ever since I've been a pastor-mama, I've often navigated pastoring with a little on my hip. I've written many sermons with a little on my lap, and I've led with a little in tow. When I was installed as the senior pastor at my current church, I was excited to set the tone as a mama and a pastor. At the end of the installation service, we had a banquet where I was able to meet many of the congregants. It was many delightful hours of standing, greeting, and meeting folks. My boys were fed lots of juice and cookies. Toward the end of the day, as I was talking to a gentleman in the congregation, my 4-year-old came and tugged on my pencil skirt. Like I often do, I didn't miss a beat and quietly picked him up, placing him on my hip while I listened to the man share his heartfelt story. As the man became more vulnerable in his storytelling, I guess my son wanted to jump in on the vulnerability. He slowly lifted his shirt over his head, pointed to his nipples, and said, "Look at these!" The man, mortified, slowly backed away, not knowing how to respond. Thankfully, the congregation is getting used to my boy's antics. —Oversharing in California
I was leading a call with my small-group ministry team when my daughter woke up and needed to nurse. I got her situated and was able to continue the meeting without incident—until my daughter looked up at me, tooted loudly, and then let out a loud sigh of satisfaction. I was the only one whose phone wasn't muted, so it was clear the noises came from my end. Because I hadn’t announced that I was with my daughter, though, it just sounded like I was making myself very comfortable on the call. —Not as Comfortable as I Sound
I was attending an all-day ministry conference at a local church when my daughter was 4-months-old. Because I was still breastfeeding, I’d brought my pump with, planning to find a private room or office during the lunch break. Unfortunately all of the rooms were taken, so I headed to a nearby shopping mall, hoping to find a family or nursing room. After walking around the mall frantically looking for a suitable place that also had an electrical outlet, I finally found a couch in the Macy’s restroom, where I got to greet everyone walking into the ladies’ room. Arriving at the next session a bit late, I tried to avoid explaining where I’d been. —Tied to an Electrical Outlet
One Sunday after service, I was talking to a new family, getting to know them. My 2-year-old daughter ran up to me and asked to be held. While I held her on my hip and continued the conversation with the couple, my daughter started to squirm, so I set her back down. That’s when I learned why she’d run up to me. Her diaper was leaking, and I now had the leakage on my shirt. I cut the conversation short to get new clothes—for my daughter and me. —In Search of a Clean Shirt
Amy Jackson is managing editor of WomenLeaders.com and a former small-group minister.