Motherhood and Ministry: A ministry of example

Mother and Son by Pam McCabe

Lately I’ve been considering again through scripture and prayer and seeking the wisdom of others to see more clearly how to appropriately balance the roles of mother and missionary. The end result is that I have become all the more passionate about what we are called to both as moms and as missionaries.

First, like I mentioned in a previous post, I strongly believe that along with the blessing of motherhood comes a call to hold that responsibility above all others. Motherhood IS ministry, and though we all know this, this concept is constantly under attack by our cultures, and Satan who wants to devalue this high calling. Even in ministry there is constantly the temptation to consider the work that we do in the home as less effective than that which we could do outside of it. Motherhood though is the chance to shape the next generation from its infancy and to shape it with love, and the utmost of care, commitment, and Biblical influence. It is the blessing of being entrusted with little souls to love, lead, and care for in a way that nobody else is able. It is the opportunity to provide security, to instill values, and raise our children knowing their worth in the midst of a world that is all together too eager to tear them down and lead them astray. It is the opportunity to be a daily living example, for better or for worse, or what it looks like to follow Christ in every moment of life. It is clear biblically that this is a high, worthy, God-glorifying, and challenging call.

Because of my strong convictions on our responsibilities and high calling as mothers, this has a great affect on how I see ministry. Ministry as occupation too is a great call, but I don’t believe that it comes at the expense of my commitment to motherhood. On the contrary. I find that they can be amazing compliments. The better the mother I become, the more effective I believe my “ministry” will be. The more committed I am to my children, the more patient and loving that I am, and the more that I value my role as a mother and the more that I invest in my children and point them towards Christ, I firmly believe that the actual effectiveness of my ministry will in no way be hindered, but rather will thrive and grow as a result.

Though of course our outreaches, gospel conversations, church services, our acts of service, and every traditional act of our ministry is incredibly valuable and absolutely necessary and things that we need to be involved in, I believe that as mothers, most likely our most prominent ministry is simply living out Biblical motherhood and family life as a ministry of example. Those whom we minister to and those who are seeking to know what it means to truly follow Jesus are going to look to the practical expressions of this in our daily life.

The reality is that most of the women that we minister to are probably not going to be called to be missionaries by profession. It is however very probable that they will be, or already are, called to be wives and mothers. These women that we are blessed to have as part of our lives are probably more likely to look at us to see what it means to be a godly mother and wife, than what it means to be an effective missionary (though hopefully they will see that as well and perhaps even sense a call to ministry themselves).

Titus 2:3-5 is a call to be actively teaching and leading, but it is also carried out simply through example, through living out Biblical motherhood in a way that it can be observed and learned from. I want to be careful to state clearly here that I am NOT saying that we should diminish the value of active ministry in our lives and speaking the truth. If we merely ministered by example and never opened our mouths about the reason for the difference that is hopefully visible in our lives and values, that is not an effective ministry at all. We must point towards Christ not only with our actions, but also with our words.

I think all of us probably battle with wondering if we are doing enough in ministry though, and probably fight the temptation to believe that what we are doing is inadequate. I wonder though how much of this struggle would be diminished if we were to have a broader scope of what ministry actually is. I have fought off the temptation time and time again to feel like my contribution to the ministry is not enough, but lately God has so graciously encouraged me by opening my eyes much more to the scope of my potential ministry as a mother.

In our community people  know we are believers. They want to see how this affects the way that we love, care for, raise, and even discipline our children. We serve in ministry to college students and I know that most of the young women desire to be married and to have children, and whether consciously or not, they are looking at my life as well as the lives of the other believing mothers and wives around them to see what that looks like in practice. Then there are also friends, shop workers, team mates, people at church, etc. who are also observing.

As I’ve been seeing this broad scope more clearly, I have been trying to find more ways to create natural ministry opportunities of  example (not to mention to seek God all the more to make sure my example is one worthy of being observed). I might not be able to run a large event or lead a ministry, but I can be out in the community with my kids and can invite people into my life, and hopefully, but the strength and grace of God, I can minister by example and encourage women towards Christ and true Biblical womanhood and motherhood.

I have always loved 1 Thessalonians 2:8, which reads, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” This is a perfect verse to capture exactly the heart of what I am hoping to communicate. Yes, we are ministers of the gospel, but the effectiveness of our ministry is not limited to the traditional ministry work that we are a part of. Sharing our lives is a very valid and effective part of our ministry, especially in the stage of life that many of us are at as mothers of younger children. Don’t diminish this valuable work in your own hearts and minds!

As a parting thought on this very long post, I would love to just ask you to consider more deeply how wide the scope of your ministry actually is. I hope this is greatly encouraging to you! If you have already had this sort of perspective, please share it with other younger or less experienced missionary moms, because I know many of us struggle with this sort of perspective. Lastly, what are some ways that you could open up more opportunities to minister through example and word? I am not talking right now about planning events or serving on a new committee, but rather opportunities where you could more actively share you life.

God bless you and all of those to whom you minster through your godly example! God bless your children too as you value your role as their mother above any other call!

(art courtesy of allposters.com)

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16 Responses to “Motherhood and Ministry: A ministry of example”


  1. 1 Gina Marie March 14, 2009 at 1:33 am

    It’s an interesting situation to be a missionary mom, because while it’s true that being a mom is our first priority, I’ve found that if I’m not connected to the ministry and culture outside my home, it’s easy to start thinking, “I could be doing this back home!”

    But you’re so right in saying that our example is a huge ministry. I used to have a local woman come to my house for mentoring, and while we had great discussions, she said one of the greatest things for her was to see a Christian example of a wife and a mom. She had none of those in her life! And taking my kids out when they were little was like bringing a giant magnet with me! They open so many doors.

  2. 2 alatvala March 14, 2009 at 4:09 am

    Hi Gina! Thank you so much for your great thoughts! I totally agree with you! I didn’t mean to say that outside involvement is not important, because I DEFINITELY agree with you that it is! Sorry if it sounded that way! We need to actively maintain our vision for the work that our whole family has been called to and I also believe that we have things to contribute. (Also, I think there are often ways to do some of our “outside” ministry effectively in the home.)

    I was mainly writing this based on a number of conversations with several missionary mom friends who have expressed this same feeling of having a great desire “do” a lot because they have a huge heart for their ministry, but at the same time feeling defeated because their capacity and responsibilities limit that more than perhaps they/I would have expected pre-child.

    “Motherhood and Ministry” is a series of a bunch of related topic, and there will definitely be one about maintaining vision and involvement in outside ministry. A big part of my heart though is to encourage moms (missionary moms or not) about the value of their unseen work as being of great eternal significance.

    Thank you for your thoughts and making sure to address the other very important aspect of our two roles as missionary moms!

  3. 3 jami March 14, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot, too, lately, and have come to the same freeing conclusions. There is no greater ministry than loving and investing in our children- and the world sees this and Christ shines brightly through!

  4. 4 Jen March 18, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing your heart and passion. I recently was thinking about your title for this blog and how my identity as a missionary mom works itself out even as I live in the states. I was thinking that if I held the title of a pastor (no worries, it’s just an example), I would be accountable just by my title to live a life of worship as others would come to a pastor for guidance and example. Having the title of missionary mom (in the states) and not just saying stay at home mom is something I’m all for.

  5. 5 alatvala March 19, 2009 at 4:23 am

    I love it, Jen! So true! Yeah, I totally agree that all mommies are missionaries by the very nature of their job and call. And what a challenging and amazingly worthy mission field!

  6. 6 Sarah March 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Hi, I just found a link to your site and have enjoyed reading it this evening. We’ve been working overseas for 4 years and for the last 3 years after language study we’ve been in a high-demand support ministry for our co-workers living in remote locations. I’ve struggled since day one to find a good balance between being just mommy and then being overwhelmed-in-ministry mommy. Some days I go to bed feeling great about the day I had with my two little ones, but other days I go to bed feeling so defeated and deflated remembering all the mistakes I made with my kids and my time that day. Anyway it was an encouragement for me to find your site, and I look forward to continuing to follow along!

  7. 7 alatvala March 25, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Hi Sarah! It is really great to meet you! I totally hear you on how hard it is to find balance in both of our roles. Of course first we are moms and then we are missionaries, but where exactly does the line fall? Sometimes I wish there was a detailed schedule outline for moms in the Bible that would tell us exactly what we should and should not do! I will pray for you as you try to find the balance that God is calling you to and for wisdom. I am glad to hear that you find this site encouraging and I hope it continues to be so!

  8. 8 Renee April 26, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Although I’m not a missionary mom, I need some advice. I have a 6 month old and I am having a hard time serving in the ministry where I am. My heart is not there. I just want to take care of our little one. Every time my husband and I leave him in the nursery, he screams most of the time and they have to call one of us to come get him. It’s funny though..he doesn’t behave like that anywhere else. I’m not sure what else to do. I’m thinking of taking a break from serving and bringing him in the service with us to see how it goes. On top of that I recently started a new ministry, which will require travel. My husband and I know that God wants us to be a traveling family and not leave our little one with anyone, which is the easy part. I’ve been asking God to lead me as far my little one is concerned.

  9. 9 Ashley L April 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Renee! It is so great to meet you! First, I wanted to say, that you most definitely ARE a missionary mom! You might not live outside of the US, but the fact that you love the Lord and are seeking to live out the gospel in whatever capacity He calls you to makes you just as much a missionary as anyone else!

    I wanted to encourage you that ministry at this phase with babies (and in every phase actually!) looks so different from person to person, and I agree that it can be such a challenge to figure out! =) It sounds like you have a wonderful heart to be serving, even in this new and demanding time as a new mom, but I want to encourage you also to accept God’s grace during this time. It is a huge transition, whether or not it feels like it! We need to give ourselves grace as we adjust to this new season of life and ministry. It is a time of readjusting priorities and learning, and shifting pretty much everything in life to a new norm. And this is a good thing! If you succeed in doing anything other than taking care of your little one and adjusting to life with a baby, I consider that above and beyond! It is God’s design that our babies take most of our time and energy, and loving our little ones is a wonderful and vital ministry.

    Of course we should always have our eyes open to the opportunities that God brings to us to serve, and should keep in mind that He will most certainly bring us opportunities to serve others outside our family during our mothering years, but I think we also need to remember that He is a loving and gracious father, and he is not going to burden us with service to Him. There will be seasons where we do a lot outside of our family, and maybe seasons where there it looks like we aren’t doing anything beyond the walls of our home, and that is ok. Only God can reveal this to you for sure about your specific situation, but I think either He will give you peace about leaving your son in the nursery, or He will give you peace about taking a break from serving.

    On a slight side note, it is so unique to our American culture that moms are often expected to be doing so many other things so soon after becoming a mother. Most other cultures take this transition much more slowly and with so much more outside help. Here in Russia it is very common for the mother to come and live with her daughter for quite some time after she gives birth to help her during this transition to being a mother. In fact, at our church, moms are with their kids for the whole service until up to 3 years! It is also very acceptable to decline any sort of task for months and even years just because you have a baby/child and are tired. Everyone understands that having a baby is hard and tiresome work! It makes me sad that we as American women feel so much pressure to be doing so much. (Sorry if this is a tangent! I have no idea if you feel any internal or external pressure to be serving or not, but it just came to mind since I really really struggled with this at first, and still do!)

    Also, I think it is good to remember that every baby is so different. I have seen many moms with babies who are quiet and easy going, who sleep great and hardly cause a ripple when they enter the world. They often will take on an opportunity to serve here or there because really it is relatively easy or at least reasonably doable for them. Only on the 3rd try did I get a baby like that! =) Then there are babies like my second child who come into the world screaming at the top of their lungs and don’t stop for 6 months straight. I literally did nothing other than try to survive during those first 6-8 months (I can’t think of a single “ministry” thing that I did during that time), and even that was practically more than I could handle. It sounds like your little guy might just need to be close to you during the church service, and if you decide that this is what he needs, you should not feel bad about that at all. You are glorifying the Lord as you love your son and meet his needs. Our priorities are the Lord, our husband, our children, and then other opportunities for service. Perhaps this is a short season where you will not be able to do your current service at church because your son needs to have you close. I can pretty much guarantee you that this season will be very short, relatively speaking (most little ones grow out of separation anxiety pretty fast… as in a few months), but by putting your son first (if after praying you feel like God is telling you that he really does need to be with you), you will be setting up a great habit of living out godly priorities. AND you will be living out a great example to others about dying to self and loving your son! (Again, I am not saying that God is definitely calling you to stop serving at church, but just saying that IF he is, even stopping serving for a time could be a great example….)

    Lastly (sorry for being so wordy! I get really passionate when it comes to balancing motherhood and ministry!), I want to also encourage you to always be praying that God will give you His motives for service. That is a constant battle I think for most if not all believers who desire to serve the Lord. So quickly can our service out of joy and love for the Lord become service out of a desire to do works or a desire to do what we think a good Christian “should” do. As women we also all probably struggle to a degree with comparison, whether it be to real women around us or our own idea of the “ideal christian mother.” I personally think we all need to be constantly seeking the Lord about this and to ask Him to give us his motives for serving others and to reveal to us His personalized calling for our own lives. Of course He will bring opportunities for us to serve and to be salt and light, but not every good thing will be something that He is specifically calling us to.

    I know this is probably way more than you were expecting in response, and perhaps some of it is not relevant, but I pray that some of it might be an encouragement and speak to whatever the specifics of your situation are! I will be praying for you, Renee!

  10. 10 Renee May 8, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Ashley,
    I apologize for the late reply as I was hosting a conference right after I posted this and am still recouping from that conference! 🙂

    Thank you thank you thank you so much for your reply! It is not overload at all! It was so helpful. As of right now, I have taken our little one out of the nursery at church and am taking him in to the service with me. If I have to step out with him, it’s better than having to go to the nursery and hear him screaming. I have stepped down from leadership/serving at church indefinitely, however, I do have my own ministry that is still a priority.

    My husband is very helpful in this transition and I truly thank God for him.
    God bless you Ashley and thanks again!

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