We’re halfway through the Women’s Ministry Leader Survival Guide series, and I’d love to hear how God is preparing your heart for fall ministry. Let’s chat here on the blog or meet over in the Women’s Leader Facebook Group. Cheering you on, friends! —Leslie Bennett, Women’s Ministry Initiatives
I need no convincing that my primary ministry calling is in my home. I know this, and it is this that haunts me. You see, I’m married to a man in full-time ministry; we have three kids under the age of seven, two of which I homeschool; and we currently have three young single women renting out our spare bedroom. Our life at home is busy and full of ministry opportunities.
And yet God continues to make it clear that obedience to Him also includes some ministry outside my home as well. Through the consistent encouragement of my husband and many friends, I find myself writing regularly, teaching classes at church, leading a small group, and discipling women at my church. I’m haunted because I know both the eternal value of the home and how tempting it is to give precedence to my responsibilities outside of it. I’m haunted because I’m afraid I’ll miss the mark in balancing these two competing arenas. In truth, I’ve often missed it.
So where’s the rule book for handling these moments of home-ministry conflict? What should you do when your kids are sick the week of the women’s retreat? When someone in your small group calls you in desperation while your in-laws are in town? When your pastor asks you to take on another task when you’re barely making it through the laundry?
How can we discern when to say “yes” and when to say “no”? By recognizing the temptation of ministry, considering what our specific home needs to flourish, and embracing our limits.
The Temptation of Ministry
Though I know ministry in my home should trump ministry outside of it, my tendency is to bend to the demands of the former. Why? Partly because I feel those things give me significance. It feels good to be paid attention to and appreciated. The tasks I have at home don’t bring much appreciation and, by their very nature, are repetitive and menial. Though investing in the home has weighty and eternal significance, it is a “marathon” investment. And there are many other avenues where my skills can be used with immediate payoff.
But there’s another reason I’m tempted to prefer ministry over my home. I often forget that God doesn’t need me. He is not looking down from His throne biting His nails because I can’t answer that call from the woman who’s struggling with depression. He’s not worried about how the women of my church will be able to know Him because I couldn’t teach that class on Bible study methods this semester. He is the author and perfecter of their faith, not me. God needs me to be obedient to Him. And if that means saying “no” to something that seems urgent, then I can trust that He will handle the aftermath of my “no.”
An Issue of Priority
If you read what the Bible has to say about women and the home, you’ll notice it says little about how many commitments you can have outside the home and much about the attitude of a woman toward her home (Prov. 7:11–12, 14:1, 31:27). The home-ministry balance isn’t an issue of payment or time, but rather one of priorities.
Prioritizing the home doesn’t mean glorifying it. This is not about having Pinterest-worthy rooms and meals. And it isn’t even about how much time you stay at home. You can tear your home down through a negative, critical attitude while also keeping it clean. And you can ignore the spiritual and emotional needs of your family while you’re at home just as easily as if you were working sixty hours a week.
The goal of prioritizing the home is to see it flourish. Flourishing is defined as “growing or developing in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment.”1 Our responsibility is to foster that favorable environment for healthy and vigorous growth in our families—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
The Picture of a Flourishing Home
No two households are the same. What your family needs to flourish will depend on many factors, including what activities happen in your home and what each person’s day-to-day looks like. This requires that you study your family to observe which needs are the most important and which ones can be overlooked at times without much negative impact.
There are three major areas where we want to see our households thriving: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Consider where your home is at as you read the sections below.
1. Spiritual Thriving
You should care deeply about the spiritual climate of your home and be active in creating a Christ-centered environment. This is our calling as believers: to make disciples! Where better to start than at home?
This always starts with taking care of your own soul and creating space to seek God yourself. You cannot give what you do not have. Secondly, be aware of the spiritual condition of every family member and thoughtfully consider how to impart truths about God through daily activities and traditions. Lastly, actively take precautions against the influences of the world, the flesh, and Satan.
Without spiritual thriving, your house may be organized and your family well cared for, but they may lack knowledge of God’s Word and understanding of the gospel of Jesus.
2. Emotional Thriving
Our homes should be safe places for those who live in them. So how can we ensure that our families feel secure and free to be themselves?
Be sensitive to each family member’s personality. Pay attention to how each person handles stress and consider ways to refresh and encourage them. Be a peacemaker in your home. This means being aware of any relational difficulties within your home, or any conflict and unrest, and pursuing peace. Be an intercessor. Pray for those in your homes and look to God for direction on how to minister to each person.
Without emotional thriving, your home may be organized and growing in a knowledge of God, but it may be fractured, with each person feeling isolated, uncared for, and that they must fend for themselves.
3. Physical Thriving
Helping your home flourish is much more than taking care of the physical house, but it is certainly not less. The physical space you live in impacts the activity of those who live in it. This encompasses all the tangible aspects of your home: food, cleanliness and order, decoration and room layouts, and schedule management. It’s easy to forget to be strategic in this area because most of these things happen no matter what. But when thoughtful planning is given to the basic physical and tangible aspects of the home, it can be an incredible blessing to the family.
Without physical thriving, your family may be growing in a knowledge of God and each person may feel cared for, but it may be chaotic, dirty, and overly busy with little sense of purpose and direction.
Live Within Your Limits
You cannot do everything. Not only that, you may not be able to do everything your neighbor or friend can do. Understanding and living within your limits requires humility. We are not limitless like our God; we are not omnipotent. We need to humbly accept that every “yes” we give also requires a “no.” If you say “yes” to leading a Bible study, what should you say “no” to in order to make space for that? If you say “yes” to adopting a child, what responsibility can you say “no” to in order to make space for that?
A “yes” to ministry may mean cutting out unnecessary things like hobbies, entertainment, or social engagements. It may mean delegating a few things in your home that don’t affect the flourishing of your home, by doing something like regularly hiring a cleaning service or choosing more easily prepared ready-made meals. Saying “no” and delegating tasks is a way to humbly embrace our limits as finite creatures.
As the lives of those within your home change, adjust with them. Ministry outside the home may fit well in one season but not another. Make efforts to regularly check your heart motives and the “climate” of your home so that ministry doesn’t become a mindless habit, but an intentional effort.
Lay all your “yeses” before the Lord often. Write down all the areas you are responsible for and ask God for wisdom. Ask others in your life what they think about all you do. Ask your husband and kids how they feel about your other commitments. Seek the Lord with all your heart and fear Him only, and He will be sure to lead you in every season and every decision.
With God’s help, we can find peace and victory in this dance between ministry at home and ministry outside the home. Whatever we do, let us do so with all our hearts as though working for the Lord and not for men. Glorify Him in your “yeses” and your “nos” knowing He will give you strength to walk in obedience in each season.