I’m excited to share with you today one mom’s journey of ministry and motherhood. Angela Sackett is guest posting and sharing her heart with us. As a mother of 5 children who’s been active in ministry life her entire parenting career, I know her thoughts will be encouraging to you!
“I don’t WANT to!” he screamed! As I quietly whispered into my child’s ear, he responded in a shout loud enough for all to hear about something I can’t even remember… but his will would be made known to the entire restaurant where we ate.
Cheeks burning, I carried him with a firm grip to the car, and stayed there with him till my husband could gracefully exit from our time with friends.
It was awful.
I may have pouted to myself that I was being deprived of well-earned time out of the house and a hot meal that someone else would clean up. But I was also honoring the guests around me by de-fusing an ugly situation. And I was beginning a firm stance with our firstborn. We weren’t willing to allow our social time to be eaten up by nonsense fits.
I promise, it wasn’t the only time we’ve had a child “pitch a fit,” as I call it, in a public place. But thankfully, our occurrences have been fairly low considering we have five kiddos, and we’ve parented them for a lot of years.
Now, we’ve got littles up through young adults, and there are new layers of parenting and life-lessons to navigate!
MINISTRY AND MOTHERHOOD
As newlyweds, my husband and I dove right away into a ministry life, working with both para-church organizations and serving on church staff over the years. Our lives centered on interacting with others.
I had a choice, as babies (5 total) started coming:
Over time, I did a combination of the last two options.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
A wise older woman once told me that we have to learn to put “first things first.”
Have you tried to pack more into a suitcase than would easily fit? You notice quickly, if you try to start with the little stuff, then try to cram in the big stuff, it’s not going to all fit. But if we begin with the big pieces, then fill in the smaller ones in the nooks and crannies, magically everything seems to find its place in our overstuffed bag.
In parenting and ministry, I soon found this illustration to be true. If I try to take on a bunch of “little things” outside the home and drag my kids along (or send them somewhere else all the time to free me up), the “big things”, like teaching them how to behave, can go to the wayside.
It also becomes increasingly difficult to participate in those outside activities, because children, being people, don’t like to be crammed into nooks and crannies. If we don’t take the time to teach them how to behave, they don’t exactly make it easy!Children, being people, don't like to be crammed into nooks and crannies. - @angelasack Click To Tweet
In the short term, it seems convenient to overlook undesirable behavior or to just leave the kids and go “do.” But in the long run, doing this can result in less flexibility for ministry due to the kids’ difficult behavior.
MINISTRY WITH LITTLES
When my kids were little, I made it a priority to create time for teaching and training them. I worked on getting consistent naptimes so I could read or work on my house, or eventually invite someone in while it was quiet.
As the kids got a little older, we worked on table manners and respectful conversation. We wanted them to be able to interact with guests and be welcomed guests, themselves. We taught them how to wipe the mirror after washing our hands, and to close the toilet lid.
I had to carve out time at home for these lessons. They might have seemed silly at the time, but they transformed our interaction with others and became part of how we naturally live.
More than seeming silly, honestly speaking, that season seemed to last forever, and often it was very lonely!
During a long, seemingly-invisible season at home with small children, there’s often a little voice that whispers “you’re trapped,” and “this isn’t VALUABLE” work.”
That voice has to be decisively beaten down, as we speak truths to ourselves as mamas: that we are making an investment in our future, our children’s future, and in the future of God’s kingdom on earth!
It’s hard to draw boundaries for time away for training, especially for extroverts. But it’s worth it eternally!
As seasons shifted, we interacted more with others. I sometimes balanced well, between having a trusted sitter so I could be a “grown up” with my full attention, and bringing them along to practice real-life ministry life.
But there were also days, weeks, and even months when we had to step back to focus on parenting through a heart issue, or on school needs.
I believed early on that our children were part of our ministry, not a hindrance to it.
I wanted them to learn that shaking hands, making eye contact, and introducing themselves with a smile, were an important gift they could give others when they met.
When we served in a church working with young adults, I invited those “kids” into our home for meals and Bible study. Our kids were a valued part of their lives, and they were a gift to our children. They became like big brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.
We also became more flexible with bedtimes and mealtimes as the kids grew older. But we still tried to seek balance, so they had consistency and quality time at home, with their parents, as well as learning and resting.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BOUNDARIES
To be honest, balance can be difficult when working on a church staff. There are lots of needs in a church, and often church members expect paid staff to be always working.Balance can be difficult when working on a church staff. - @angelasack Click To Tweet
It was hard, but I believe vital, that we carved out time for our family first, so that we could stay healthy and also prioritize raising kids who would be ministry-minded themselves.
I believe that respectfully drawing firm boundaries is vital to having a thriving and effective ministry.
The old “preacher’s kid” stereotype is a real thing. As parents, we are the best guardians to help our children develop tender hearts, not just feed a shallow desire to please on the outside.
I also have to say that I believe that home-educating our children was a huge part in our having good boundaries and sweet family time, especially during our years on staff at a mega-church.
We were definitely an oddity. Our church supported a large Christian school, and most staff wives worked at the school while their children attended. For us personally, we had felt God’s clear call to homeschool early on, and we didn’t sense His release from that even with the offer of “free” private school.
From observations we made, we determined that our best choice was to continue to teach at home, and we found it actually gave us more flexibility in ministry, and more intentional time to build the foundations we wanted to with our children.
God will make very clear the path He desires for you to take in education, and I encourage you to be diligent about asking! Sometimes what appears the easiest, or hardest, choice isn’t at all what it seems.
THE TEEN YEARS
As our kids grew older, we were intentional about teaching them that they have a vital place in ministry themselves.
Rather than “being good” to make mom and dad look better, we try to inspire them to seek to be more like Jesus (and be yielded to His teaching). We know they are able to show others, maybe even more because of their young age, something about who He is and how He transforms lives.
I love giving practical encouragement to mamas “in the trenches.” Here are a few things I have learned throughout my journey of ministry and motherhood. These are what I feel to be important foundational elements in parenting as a mama in ministry (which, really, is all of us!). I hope this can encourage you.
Kiddos need routine, and so do grownups! Setting some consistent hours helps everyone feel settled, and helps get stuff done!
Of course, flexibility is important in ministry and relationship, but having some set times for bed, rest, and meals that can be tweaked is so helpful!
These go hand-in-hand with schedule. When you set times you’ll rest as a family (or especially when your kids will!), when you’ll serve outside the home, etc…, it’s important to gently hold to those times.
You can respectfully train friends and family and ministry connections that you will be available when you are, and unavailable when you’re not.
It’s for your family’s good and the good of the ministry; when those boundaries disappear, it often leads quickly to ineffective ministry and burnout.
It takes courage to hold to the above mentioned boundaries! When work is ministry, it is hard not to let others’ expectations rise in importance above what God has spoken in the quieter moments. It also takes courage to parent your children diligently when you live in the fishbowl of ministry.It takes courage to parent your children diligently when you live in the fishbowl of ministry. Click To Tweet
Someone will always think you’re being too lenient or too firm, so quietly hold to your faithful parenting, mama. At the same time, continue being open to wisdom the Lord may have for you through others. Ask Him to show you the difference between conviction and man’s guilt!
God tells us throughout His word that we need each other to grow in relationship with Him. That is especially true in parenting, and even more for parents who are serving in ministry!
Seek out mamas in the same parenting season for mutual support. But even more importantly, seek out women ahead of you on the journey.
It takes work at first to connect. But the wisdom you gain from a wise woman of God who’s “been there” is invaluable.
Women who are no longer raising “littles” the same ages as yours have different demands on their time. They often have older children who can bless yours, and they stand to gain a huge blessing from you in the season you’re in, also.
I place these low because the schedule, boundaries, and courage form a framework from which you can teach manners. But they do matter!
Recently we moved from a southern state to a northern state. A “yes ma’am” from my child is enough to start an entire conversation about honor for human life, and about respect for authority leading to respect for God.
Pray as parents about what manners are important to you (don’t be afraid to set standards high, as long as you are able to temper them with grace!), and then hold to them.
Train your children to use manners when no one is around. Practice, with reminders along the way when you’re in real-life settings. Inviting others into your home can give them a “safe” place to practice what they’re learning.
Underscore manners with a focus on the biblical standard of considering others better than ourselves. We treat others as valuable because God made them!
You’re gonna fail. Your kiddos will, too. It hurts when others see our human frailty, and it’s hard not to let pride make us parent harshly in order to get an immediate result.
I’ve shared with gut-level-honesty about my own parenting struggles, not to glorify the hardship, but to offer others a glimpse into the redemption that God brings to our failures.
It’s hard, too, when others don’t give us grace.
It’s especially hard when we are seen as ministry leaders, and we’re expected to have it all together. But our brokenness, and our children’s, can give open opportunities to model God’s mercy, and also allows others to open up about their struggles.Our brokenness, and our children's, can give opportunities to model God's mercy. - @angelasack Click To Tweet
It’s when I’ve been real with others about my struggles as a wife, a daughter of Jesus, and a mama, that I’ve had the most poignant moments of grace in ministry.
- An encouraging heart
An encouraging heart is important with yourself, your children, and those around you.
Share what you’re learning, and dare other mamas to do the same.
Gently model what you’re walking through (the struggles and the victories) with others in the body, whether single or married and parenting, and with those who don’t know the Lord.
They need to see God’s power displayed as we sharpen arrows in this world, preparing them to reach the target of hearts, with His love!
Angela Sackett is a wife of one, mama of five, and daughter of the King. She and her husband Brian have served together both in full-time vocational ministry, and in ministry through a family-run photography business. Their kiddos range from 8 to 19, and every day they teach their parents more about who God is, as He transforms His people. She writes at Dancing With My Father and Sal et Lux, encouraging women to live with grace, using hospitality as a vehicle for God’s love.
Thanks to Angela for sharing her experiences of walking the journey of ministry and motherhood!
Want 10 principles for balancing marriage, motherhood, and ministry?
Grab it here, plus get the answers to another question from 5 moms in ministry (including Angela): “How do you prioritize your marriage in the midst of motherhood & ministry?”