May 22, 2014

Mothering While Churching (Question Series)

This is the third and final post in a series where I'm answering questions from readers about church planting. The first post is here: I'm exhausted. How can I thrive rather than just survive? The second is here: What would you say to someone like me who is getting ready to church plant? 

Today's question is from Stephanie: Often times ministry and our social life lines are blurred. For instance, we're with our family while also attending weekly small groups, monthly church dinners and outreach events. This has caused stress and loneliness on my part, because I am watching two young boys (ages 1 and 3) by myself at all these church functions, because my husband is the pastor and this is his job. Any insight on how we find a balance where we can do church things as a family without him always being "on", so he can also help with the kids and I can feel more connected? Or is this a crazy fantasy of mine? Keep in mind, we are a young church plant without many teens or kids old enough to help watch my kids.
Stephanie, I can tell you right now that I'm not going to have the perfect answer, because I don't know your specific situation and context, but I can tell you what worked for me in a similar situation. Our boys were 5, 2, and 6 months old when we planted a church in our living room. I spent the majority of church time in an upstairs room with my three kids for the first three months, and I cried after everyone left. Every. Single. Time. I felt so disconnected from what was going on and from relationships. After many weeks of this and many weeks of watching me wilt, my husband and I sat down to discuss options. After almost six years now in an ever-evolving church, we've had this same discussion several times as needed. Here are the things we've learned about helping me mother while churching:

Help others know what you need. 
Our church was built on a foundation of college students and young, newly graduated singles, which is a beautiful foundation. But for over a year, I was the only mom in our church, and we were the only family. After our Sunday evening gathering, they would flit away to a movie or restaurant, and I'd stay home to put kids to bed while longing to be with them. I tried to get resentful about this, but my husband gently reminded me that it wasn't that they didn't want me around or didn't want to help me with cleaning up the house after our gathering or didn't want to help with my kids; it was that they didn't know what my needs were. If I actually voiced what I needed, people would probably help me, but he said I wasn't asking. 

I've learned that he's right. If we're doing kids ministry every week while all the while hoping someone will relieve us, unless we say something, people will assume that we're perfectly content doing it. The same applies to most situations, including how we handle church events with our children. So if we need help with our kids, we should ask. Most people would be happy to serve you in that way. I have a friend who asked a young woman at her church to meet her at the car on Sunday mornings and help her with her young children so she could use that time to connect with others. I thought that was a great idea, but again, it requires asking.

Let your husband know what is most important to you. And ask him to help.
One of the best things my husband did for me in church planting was to ask a local church in town to provide childcare for our kids during our church times so that I could participate. They sent two college girls to our house each Sunday evening, which totally saved my sanity! Perhaps it would be worth it to hire someone (with church funds) for at least one thing a month so you don't have to worry about taking care of kids during at least one thing.

As a part of the discussion with your husband, consider these questions: What are the times and events that are most important to you that you have your husband's help or that you are together as a family? What are the times and events that your husband feels he needs to give his undivided attention to others? As you discuss these questions together, you may find that you're able to meet in the middle where you can work together as a team, both in ministry and in parenting.

For example, my husband can't help me with our children on Sunday mornings, but he can help me at social gatherings or small groups during the times he is not teaching or leading a discussion. He helps gets plates of food for our children and deals with behavior issues. And I often ask him to do those things in the moment if I need the help. I believe an important part of pastoring a church is letting people see him as a dad who cares for his wife and kids. 

Ultimately, this is a conversation that you need to have with your husband with clear, tangible ideas in place of how he could help you and communicated without blame or emotion. 


Use the stroller. 
Strap the kids in at the outreach events or at church. The stroller is your friend

Church planting wives, what are some tips you could give about simultaneously mothering and churching?