Life in the Glass House, Mother Well in Ministry, Pastors' Kids are Normal, Raise Godly Children

The Truth About Being a Ministry Mom

{Disclaimer: I believe that all mothers are in ministry to their children. This post is geared toward those mothers whose husbands are in vocational ministry.}
The Truth About Being A Ministry Mom

I sat in church with a row of babies stretched out beside me. The moment one baby began to cry, I rose quickly and took him out of the service. Once he was calmed, I returned to my brood, only to hear another babe begin to fidget and whimper. Again and again I rose to take babies out and bring them back in. Suddenly, the preacher paused his sermon to say, “Lady, can you please get those children under control?!

Everyone laughed. And it was ok, for I was only 10 years old and we were just playing church. My brother stood at his little wooden pulpit and my sister had a similar row of babies {and animals} beside her.

Just like most little girls, I dreamed of being a mother, romanticizing the things that in real life sometimes end up heartbreaking.  Little girls make mothering look so easy, so natural, so carefree. But what about the dynamics of motherhood that catch us off guard…like focusing solely on being a mother, only to awaken to the realization that you are a ministry mother? And with that reality comes a weight that none of us ever really figures out how to carry because it’s always changing. How do we escape the pressure to have perfectly appearing toddlers? How do we teach our teenagers to wriggle away from the mold they are expected to fill as ‘the pastor’s kids?’ How do we live down the imposed shame of a child who chooses not to follow God in adulthood? The gasps of surprise and the comments about behaviour and the gossip of expectations and the criticism of insignificant things- well, it can close in around you until you feel like you can’t breathe.

So how can we breathe hope while navigating the unique dynamic of being ministry moms?

It all boils down to what we value.

Do we value pastors’ kids who appear well put together and best dressed, always polite, multi-talented, sinless for two hours while at church, and perfectly conformed to what people expect?  Do we value pastors’ kids who look great for 16 years but then want nothing to do with ministry or church because of what they’ve seen their parents go through? Do we value pastors’ kids who grow up with an entitlement mentality and who view church as a place to be served instead of a place to serve? Do we value pastors’ kids who see only the struggles of ministry and end up cynical?

Or do we value pastors’ kids who are sinners and who are allowed to be imperfect, and who know how to give and receive grace for themselves and others? Do we value pastors’ kids who esteem genuine relationships above pretense and who know how to slip out from under the people pressure in order to live only before God?  Do we value pastors’ kids who know that the Bible is a priority at home and that it’s a lifestyle and not just what Pastor Dad and Pastor’s Wife Mom do on Sundays and Wednesdays? Do we value pastors’ kids who know well both the joys and struggles of ministry, and choose to focus on the joys and to live for eternity?

As ministry mothers, we must break away from the trap of approval, both for ourselves and for our children. We must avoid getting caught in the whirlwind of drama. We must stop focusing on appearance.  Rather, we must focus on spending time in secret nurturing our children’s hearts, teaching and living before them the ways of God, memorizing Scripture with them. Instead of shielding them from every painful influence, we must show them how to live gracefully under pressure, modeling to them eyes that look only to God and resist caring so much about what others think.

We must value Godliness over goodness.

It’s a high calling. And I would be remiss if I didn’t add that even these things are not flawless guarantees; but God does promise to bless His Word planted in the hearts of our children.  He knows the difficult dynamics of raising children in a glass house. He wants to help you…both on the days when it’s easy and you feel honored to be a ministry mom……and on the days when you want to raise your kids first and then go into ministry because it’s just too hard to do both.

Ministry mom, God is on your side as you raise your children…Are you on His?

“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Many seek the ruler’s favour; but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.” Proverbs 29: 25-26

17 thoughts on “The Truth About Being a Ministry Mom

  1. Such a great post, Leah!! I love the reminder to focus on Godliness, not goodness. So good!
    I have 4- ages 11, almost 9, 5 and just turned 1. Sunday mornings are certainly an adventure, but one thing that I have learned is that I absolutely cannot do this on my own. I used to try, thinking that I had to be the perfect pastor’s wife. But for the past 3 years, we have been in a church that is teaching me the beautiful blessing of leaning on others. Every Sunday, one servant takes care of my baby girl, during Sunday school and then drops her off in the nursery, so that I can teach the youth girls. A dad picks up my boys from Sunday school and brings them to worship. He holds my 5 year old during songs, because my boy adores him. And after service, our church family shows so much grace!
    Learning to let go of doing it all on my own is still a lesson I am learning, but I am so grateful for the process of learning it. I believe it is a blessing to my kids- I pray it is! I also love your reminder to live out our love for Jesus. There is an old Kid’s Praise song- Put Jesus in your everyday life, not just Sundays and Wednesdays, but all the in between days. Such an important reminder!
    Oh, and I do not homeschool my kids. They are in public school and I have also learned that this is more than okay- again with the approval thing! It is how God is leading our family and I am very thankful for the love of our church family that supports our decisions and values me.
    Great post! Thank you!!!

    1. Becky, you sound like a great ministry mom! And it sounds like you have some amazing people in your church who jump in to help you with your kids at church. And the schooling part- you’re absolutely right about it being God’s decision for your family. For us it is a year-by-year decision.

  2. My boys are all grown, married, and starting their own families, but I WAS that young ministry wife who worried about appearances and tried to please everyone because I was afraid I would damage my husband’s ministry if I didn’t try to “be all that I could be”. Actually, I was damaging my husband’s ministry by trying to be all things to all people, and neglecting both my husband and sons emotional and spiritual needs at home. My BIGGEST ministry to my husband is to create a peaceful home, but I was a stressed-out wife and mom, which put more of a burden on my husband than God ever intended him to bear. God was gracious, we changed ministries, and I learned, slowly, about living truthfully and prioritizing. My biggest advice to young ministry wives is to learn to say “no” without making excuses. You have to be WITH your kids if you are going to influence them the way scripture mandates. Even good things are bad when they distract you from your main ministry to your family.

    1. Beverly, such great advice!!! Perhaps all young pastors’ wives learn this lesson the hard way, but maybe it’s not really the hard way…it’s God’s way of gently teaching us to think more of His opinion than of others.’ Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  3. My children are 20, 18,16 and 11. Somehow, by the grace of God, they still have a heart for God and a desire to live for Him. I have been this young mum at times and my beart breaks because of it. We went through a terrible experience early on in our ministry, when our older 3 were very young. We had a lady in our congregation who took a dislike to ourselves and our children. I found myself parenting to please her and my children suffered because of it. So did my husband and I. Praise the Lord for His loving intervention in our lives and for His bountiful grace. There will always be a tremendous amount of pressure on Pastor’s families. It comes with the territory. However, after this experience we decided to parent for the ‘heart’ and to walk in our integrity. Lur goal is that our children will have a heart for the Lord above anything else.

    1. Lee-Anne what a blessing that your children are living for God! It sounds like we all have an experience like yours early on in ministry. It serves as a wake-up call for which path we are choosing for ourselves and our children- people pleasing or God pleasing? Of course, sometimes those two paths intersect, which is nice. 🙂

  4. I get these dynamics a bit as a worship leader and having served alongside my husband in “prominent” positions in the church. It has been painful and hard for us and we are still figuring it out – how to focus on our children’s hearts over worrying about their behavior in public because “people are watching.” We have to remember we parent before the Lord and not before people — some days remembering that is harder than others.

    Anyway – your heart of humility and wisdom is a continual blessing, my friend. Keep at it.

    1. Yes, the dynamics- great word! 🙂 I’ve been so thankful that some of these struggles for us have been while our children were/are still quite small and more unaware of others’ expectations. Our 7 year old now picks up on things and asks more questions. I’m thankful for wisdom to guide him and help him work through the things he doesn’t understand. This is the thread of hope that runs through….God and His abundant wisdom! 🙂 Appreciate you, Dana! You’re a great ministry mom, I am sure!

  5. Thank you for this! I know I want my daughter to love God and be whatever He wants. That is my focus; thank you for the encouragment and ideas. God bless you!

  6. Thank you for all your wonderful posts!! Scott and I have been in Florida for a year now where he is a youth pastor. I’m coming into this stage as ministry mom with my oldest just turning 2 and learning how to handle him in public etc. Having young children and ministering to the teens is more challenging than I thought. 🙂 Thank you for the great reminders and the mentor you are to me!

    1. Christina, thank you for your sweet comments. God will give you wisdom as your roles change and you may find that you have to say ‘no’ a little more often in order to meet the needs of your family. It does get easier as the kids get older…they begin to minister alongside you and it is precious. You are doing great, I am sure!! 🙂

  7. Great article, Leah. My husband was an assistant pastor for 2 yrs. when our first three were 2, 4, and 7. We didn’t begin full time ministry until our oldest was 16 and our 4th one was 18 mo. I have always been one who didn’t really care what people though of me…even as a teenager. Since I was saved at 16, that was probably a good thing because it didn’t deter me from learning to walk w/ God.
    Maybe it’s because we were older when we went into the ministry full time, but I didn’t concern myself much w/ what people thought my children should or shouldn’t do/be. We had our values for child-rearing already laid out and we already knew we wanted them to have a heart for God and the things of God. Maybe that is what would help a lot of couples going into the ministry…or already there. Know the plan that you believe God would you lay out and follow, according to His principles in the Word, be comfortable in that, and learn to give the criticisms of others to the Lord. That’s not saying that there might not be some value in what others may be observing, but the Lord will give discernment to us to know whom and what we should listen to.
    None of us like to hear our children and spouses criticized, but, as someone mentioned in a comment, it’s going to happen…it’s the nature of ministry. You are SO right that it all boils down to what we value. I hope and pray that the mothers who read this will grasp that truth. Being a ministry mom will become so much more enjoyable and less stressful when we do.
    My children are now 37, 34, 32, 22, and 16. God has been faithful, even when we failed in our imperfect parenting, and at this point they are all living for the Lord. It has been an incredible journey to see how God has worked in their lives from birth until now (despite our best efforts, sometimes, to sabotage it)….still working with that 16-yr. old….still serving and trusting the same God we did with the others! 🙂

  8. My husband retired as pastor of our church after 33 years here. That was a hard decision as we loved the ministry. We have 5 children….50, 47, 45, 43, and 36. We now have 26 grandchildren and 5 greats. I read your article and the comments with great interest. Thanks for sharing your lives. My husband was saved in his early 20’s and we were not raised in fundamental Christian homes. We had 3 children when he went to Biblc College, one was born while there and one in our first church. I was one who did NOT want to be a pastor’s wife…we were on the farm and that is where I had planned to spend my life and raise our children. I look back now on that and see how very GRACIOUS our Lord is. I can see His handprint on each part of our lives…leaading and guiding when we weren’t even looking for guidance or help….can see how He was preparing us for the ministry. I look back and am SOOO very thankful He didn’t giive up on me. I can think of no better way to spend my life than that as a pastor’s wife. I think the best advice I was every given was JUST BE YOURSELF…..don’t try to be someone you are not. Since I have no musical skills, can’t decorate, not a fancy cook, have no great talents, I guess it wasn’t too hard for me to “just be me”….cause I didn’t have the skills to pretend. Another thing that was a big help was not burdening the children with the church problems. They were not discussed in front of them and we did not hold them on a highter pedestal than other church kids. Our folks ended up reacting in the same way and we wept together when their/out kids had problems and laughed and rejoiced together wih their successes. But when it all boils down to it if you would ask me how to raise a child….I could point to Bible verses; but would have to say….I didn’t raise a good child….you name mistakes that could be made..I made them; however, I have a heavenly Father who loved me and did for me what I could do not. I will say it was our HEARTS DESIRE for our children to live for Him…but how to accomplish it was failed so many times. I would have to say GLORY TO GOD for our children because if it wasn’t for His grace…no good thing would have been accomplished. Lord bless you all…..ENJOY the ministry….your attitude good or bad will be reflected in your children. Love and prayers for each of you….

  9. Thank you for sharing this!
    I am a young ministry mom and altough I love the ministry I would be lying if I say its easy. We moved from NC in June 2015 to start a Church in México. (We are actually starting two now), and I have a 10 months old and a second baby due in just 2 months! I looove being a mom, but a ministry mom? sometimes I wonder if I can really do it. I feel like everything is new for me (the ministry and motherhood specially), and as you said, I constantly find myself trying to please everyone and be ‘perfect’, but it is only frustating lol. Thank you for sharing this to us, it has been a great blessing and encouragement to me! 🙂

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