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Parenthood and ministry - can the two go hand in hand? - Maria Brand Starkey Arrow 9
Motherhood and ministry - can the two go hand in hand?
Of course they can!
But hang on, what if you are not a playgroup-leading, kids'-story-telling, women's-Bible-study-running, delicious-morning-tea-making kinda chick? Uh oh! What then...? And what if you are pregnant, working six days a week as an ordained pastor and about to commence a training course for young Australian ministry leaders?
Two years ago, this was my conundrum.
My Arrow experience was rather unique. I attended the first Arrow day heavily pregnant, the first conference with a newborn in arms, and by the end - the final conference with a toddler. I wouldn't have known this was unusual, however, due to the incredibly helpful, understanding, flexible and gracious way that the Arrow team and participants enabled my involvement. And yet, while my situation was different, God reminded me that my calling remained the same; to live for Him and serve Him with all my heart! And God, in His grace, prepared the ministry that was, of course, a perfect fit for who he had made me to be (Eph 2:10)!
However, perhaps the greatest blessing of my Arrow years and transition to very part-time ministry work while spending the majority of my time looking after my little one, was the way in which God used them to uniquely impact the way in which He has been shaping me as a young leader in His church.
Most significantly, transitioning from full-time leadership ministry to motherhood and part-time ministry has given me the opportunity to implement a healthier - and I think more Godly - balance between family, local community and church family. We are all familiar with the portrait of the pastor and father who sees his wife and children only occasionally as he is out every night and most of the weekend, serving others constantly and yet neglecting those God placed closest to him. God's word shows us that our family is God's gift to us (Psalm 127:3-5), and that raising our children is an important ministry (Eph 6:4, Deut 11:18-19) that shouldn't be pushed aside in the face of outside ministry demands.
Seeking to raise a daughter to know and love Jesus has become my central ministry, one that has challenged me to grow in Godliness unlike anything else! Along with this new exciting ministry, meeting people in the community through the many opportunities afforded to new parents has instilled in me a much healthier modeling of the balance between family, local community and church family. Likewise, it has been a great encouragement to see an increasingly healthier balance taking place in the lives of many of my male and female peers in ministry. And I have seen how attaining a healthy balance will actually impact those you lead in a more positive way than making yourself available 24/7 will!
God's word shows us that leadership involves living as an example (1 Cor 11:1) and the reality is, whether you like it or not (!), when you lead, others look to you and often imitate you. Modeling a Godly approach to loving your immediate family, your community and your church family is part of the responsibility of all God's leaders. During this time, God has revealed to me some incredibly important ministries that were so close to home that I was too busy to see them earlier. And this change in my ministry has actually opened up enormous opportunities that I might never have had 'time for ' before such as the nurturing of genuine relationships with those in my community. What sort of community involvement and evangelism opportunities does your current lifestyle avail to you? When people look to you do they learn that time spent at home instead of at a meeting or ministry program is time wasted - or do they learn that their whole life is a sacrifice for God and everything they do with their family is an important part of their ministry? These are questions that God has challenged me with in the last few years.
When I was serving full time I was part of a ministry team that sought to encourage the body of Christ to use the gifts they had been given. As leaders we sought to equip, encourage and enable the body to use their gifts and live Godly lives. But how well did I manage to live out this ideal principle and fight the temptation to be a crazy workaholic leader who tries to do everything themselves? During this stage of mothering a baby/toddler - and now with another on the way - I do significantly less in terms of hours spent in ministry outside my home. And this has helped me to see the reality of Ephesians 4 in much greater clarity. We might regularly teach this model of ministry but do our actions match our words?
Parenthood and Ministry - what does it mean for me? I pray that the greater balance of involvement in my home, community and church community will provide a healthier example and encourage me to practice what I preach as I seek to encourage, equip and enable the body of Christ to use their gifts and serve with their whole lives. What will it mean for you or those you know? It will look different for different people, however, the calling is the same, the principles from God's word the same and the importance and value in God's eyes the same. If this conundrum is something you are facing, I pray that the blessings and challenges of parenthood will provide you with an incredible opportunity to grow in your understanding and practice of ministry as it has for me!
About Maria Brand-Starkey
Rev Maria Brand-Starkey is married to Byron and they are blessed with a delightful 23 month old daughter, Azariah and are expecting their second child in April. They belong, worship and serve at GWAC, Glen Waverley Anglican Church. Maria does some part-time theological teaching as an eRidley Unit Coordinator and Tutor for Ridley Melbourne.