Friday, October 3, 2008

Q&A: how do I balance home-making and minstry?

One of you asked me a brilliant question in the comments today. It's a question I could have put my own name to (minus some of the specifics) and I could do with your wisdom on this too! So I thought I'd share it, and see if anyone has any ideas, before attempting an answer myself. Here it is:

I was wondering if you had any ideas on where to draw the line with different avenues of ministry. What I mean is probably best illustrated by this more specific question:

I have a husband and four children. At what point to I draw the line and say "I've ministered enough to my husband (his shirts will be hung up but they won't get ironed) and my children (they can go to a Christian school and not be homeschooled after all)" so that I can then say, "now it's time for me to minister to others outside my family (lead a Bible study, take on a class of Sunday school kids, or just sit and chat with the next door neighbour who's recently divorced and hurting)"?

This is a very real problem for me because my husband will soon be a minister (well, if he gets through all the interviews) and I want to support his work in whatever church congregation we end up with but I also know I have a very real responsibility to be "busy at home" and I don't want to shirk my duty just to get on with the fun or exciting stuff outside our home.

I know there is an element of needing to submit to my husband's leading in this, but I'd also like to know my choices are right because they're right, not just because I'm being obedient in making them.

Ideas? Comments?
In more general terms, if we're married with kids, how do we work out the balance between caring for our husband, children, and home, and doing ministry outside the home, whether it's serving in our church, or caring for people in our community?


jeana said...

wow - it's a big question isn't it? I guess the most general answer is in prayer and seeking God's wisdom - also I guess knowledge of the needs of our families, which vary immensely, will play a big part. I know there are things I'd like to be part of in our church, but because of my husbands needs (and now my own health needs - I'm still learning to take care of myself and that fine line between selfishness and reality - but that's a different story) it just isn't possible - and I guess knowing when that is real and not just an excuse as well... I think the answer will be so different for each of us. I guess partly not overlooking opportunities God places in our paths is part of it too?

mattnbec said...

I'm not always very good at getting the balance with this. I think I over-do it and then have to pull back sometimes, but what follows is how I've tried to think about this sort of thing. It is particularly related to new ministry situations, which sounds like what you're going to be moving into. It is, of course, all stuff I've learned from older, wiser Christians.

During the first 6 months of a new ministry situation, it's worth just sitting back and watching without getting involved in things. That way, you have time to invest in relationships and find out what is really most needed and how much time it's likely to take up. It also helps you to remember that your primary ministry is within your home while the situation is new and exciting and helps you to see the dificulties that might arise. Get involved in things, but don't take on leadership. After that waiting and watching time, then take on new things one at a time. This helps you not to take on too much.

I think it's worth weighing up your support networks before you take on new things too - in Perth we had two sets of very supportive parents around. They were very happy to look after kids and help out when I was finishing assignments for college or busy with more intensive ministry seasons (eg Women's Convention or setting up new children's ministry initiatives at church). That's not the case here in the UK, so that has changed how much I take on.

I need to let my 'no's give value to my 'yes'es by not saying 'yes' to everything, but by choosing only the very best things to say 'yes' to. In answering this bit, once thing to consider is also to what extent the ministry will enhance my husband's ministry. Where it does, it's sometimes a better thing to say 'yes' to (of course, this isn't to say that being a good wife and mum doesn't enhance his ministry as a husband/dad or that looking after the house stuff doesn't free him up - just meaning there are some things he can't do so well at church).

Finally, I need to remember that this will look different in each situation. It's obvious, I know, but it's tempting to think 'X can do this. Why can't I?' etc.

In the end though, the line will look different depending on what my energy levels, my husbands energy levels, my kids needs...are at any one time. That means I need to be re-evaluating how we're going every so often.

This is a long reply and I feel like I haven't really answered the question, but hopefully it helps with directions. I'm not sure there really is a clear line. I think it's a constant juggle. But I think the longer I've been a ministry wife, the easier it gets. I think I can 'feel' when I've pushed it too much better now than I used to be able to.