For the entirety of our marriage, my husband, James, has been the college pastor at our church; and it has been such an honor to serve with him. It’s hard to fully explain the kind of ministry relationship we have, but if I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be FREEDOM. He has given me so much room to use my gifts, to try new things, to pour into the girls in the group without limitations. Serving with that man has been both liberating and empowering.
However, when our third baby was born, we both sensed a shift. I immediately had to pull back from events and programs that I was passionate about in order to care for our family well. It led us to reevaluate the ministry we have been a part of for the last 7 years (8 for James). With a lot of prayer and guidance, it was decided that in less than a month, my husband’s job at the church will change. He will be handing off college ministry to an amazing young couple & will be building a short term missions program at the church (in addition to continuing as worship pastor). The shift is less dramatic for my husband who will still head to the office every morning. But I will be moving away from the structure of a formal ministry to be focused more on my home & the little souls that find safety there.
This might not seem like a significant shift to most, but my heart has felt a little uncertain about the transition. My children have always been A PART of my ministry. The students have gotten to snuggle our babies, play with our toddlers & converse with our growing children. The kids have come along on coffee dates and stayed up way past bedtime at every event we have thrown in our home. They’ve always been there since their births, so instrumental in how we connect with students in the ministry.
However, they’ve never been my SOLE ministry. This transition feels daunting. I’m used to full sentences, higher developed thought processes, and immediate feedback to my advice. Now my ministry will be far more simplistic, far more interrupted & in some ways far less appreciated (at least initially). It feels less intentional & less deep. Sometimes it feels like it has less value.
This is a lie. I need to call it that. What I’m getting to do is lay the foundation for these precious gifts from the Lord, and this task has great significance. Here are just a few reasons why:
The Role of Motherhood & Discipleship.
My role in college ministry was primarily discipleship. Not many seekers find their way to a college group that meets at a church. Most people are there to grow in their walk, not start the journey. This discipleship had specific spheres in which it functioned: in meetings, over text messages, always scheduled & planned. My role with my children is different, but not less intentional. If I am purposeful in talking often with my kids about the gospel, it is likely that I will get the privilege of leading them to the Lord. If you measure their lives by sheer amount of time, I am by far my children’s primary care giver. I’m with them 100% of the day, almost every day. The task of talking to them about spiritual things during the day is primarily mine. Discipleship is no longer a ministry of meetings; it is a ministry of life. It’s not scheduled like a coffee date; it’s every wakeful & teachable moment. There is immense value in that.
The Longevity of Prayers Answered.
One of the reasons I’ve loved working with college students so much is that they are making some very formative decisions in a very short amount of time. They’re asking & answering big questions: will I make my faith my own; what passions will I pursue as a career; who will I date or marry? I get to encourage them & pray for them as they make these life altering decisions. My oldest child is 4 right now. He has a lot of life to live before he will be asking these directional questions & making these formative decisions. But the beauty of my ministry with my children is that my prayers for them started long before they were even born. Instead of 4-5 years of interaction, I get to see the long game of God’s redemptive work in their lives.
Ministry is Transformative in Every Season.
I have learned so much from working with college students: how to ask good questions, how to be hospitable, how to be faithful in the face of inconsistency. But I have also learned so much as a mother. I’ve learned how desperately I need Jesus & grace to interact with my children well. I’ve learned to put aside my expectations, my perceived right to my own time. I’ve learned to slow down to enjoy season in which God has intentionally placed me. This ministry of motherhood may be less formal & may move at a slower pace, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t radically change me. God is going to continue to teach me & transform me as I pour into my children. I should never underestimate His ability to sanctify in every season, and I pray that He will use motherhood to grow me in ways I never anticipated. It is a high calling, but He who calls is faithful.
Guest Writer: Lydia Engram
Lydia is a passionate Jesus follower who lives in Arizona with her husband and their three young children. She loves spending time with her little family, grilling, watching Diamondbacks baseball and movies, having lots of dance parties along the way. Lydia appreciates good company with close friends and never goes a night without reading. She writes about navigating life under God's grace over at agoodcrisis.wordpress.com