This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Laura, and I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me.
Laura: Today we’re excited, because we’re giving a repurposed talk we gave earlier this spring at the Proclaim Truth Conference in Dallas, TX. We talked about the ministry of motherhood at the conference, and that’s what we want to talk about today: How can we serve our children? There’s kind of that first level of needs—the obvious ones—but then there’s that second level of meeting the needs of their hearts. That’s what we want to discuss, because ministry is hard. Both of these types of ministry are really hard. But let’s start with defining the word ministry.
Emily: I think often when we hear the word “ministry,” we’re speaking in terms of a vocation through our local church or through a nonprofit organization. Oh, you’re in women’s ministry or a Bible study leader! We may use that term to talk about someone who’s a pastor. But really the concept of ministry in the Bible is more of a broad term used to describe the work and service we do for God. There are a few types of ministry that are an office, but overall this is the service we do for Christ. He’s of a superior rank, and we’re carrying out his mission. We’re kind of the boots-on-the-ground. This is service for God in our community, our local church, our workplace, and all the different spheres of influence we have in the world. We also have work to do for the Lord in our homes with the little neighbors around us that we’re hopefully raising up to know and love him. So that’s what we’re honing in on today.
Laura: Something Emily and I have discussed—especially in the last few months—is the recognition that ministry—the one you do for your children and other people—looks a lot of different ways individually. We have all been called to do ministry; that’s kind of a non-negotiable. How that looks really depends on if you work out of the home, part-time in the home, full-time stay-at-home, or a single mom. There are so many ways this can look! I think it’s up to you as an individual—who’s in community with others—to really sort out how that looks. So the stuff we’re giving today isn’t a prescription for how ministry should look. We want to say that caveat first and recognize it’s hard to figure this out.
Emily: In ministry, whenever we want to do the work of God and serve others, we’re also giving of ourselves to them. So let’s start with, What does a mom need in order to do ministry? It seems like an obvious point but it’s important we don’t gloss over it, so first and foremost, we’re unable to truly serve and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God unless we’ve died to ourselves and taken up Christ’s mission.
Laura: Emily and I sort of joke that motherhood brings a thousand tiny deaths. [Laughter] It’s one of those things where we’re not dying to self once during that moment of conversion when we came to life in Christ. We’re dying every single day. It’s a process of growth for us. We have these decision points where we can either choose the way of the Lord or choose our own path wherever our natural, sinful desires want to go. These are the points we have to choose ministry and service unto God, or we can choose service unto self.
Okay, so to understand how to have this ministry in motherhood, to be able to minister to our families well, we put it into two buckets for today’s show. One is we need to be equipped. The other is we need to obey. We’ll dig into them in a little bit. The reason why we have this process and ongoing conversion is because we grow in motherhood. It’s not like we’re just magically “there.” You don’t have your first child and suddenly find yourself as the best mom in the universe. There’s a lot of growth in motherhood. Something I love—and have clung to—is this passage in 1 Tim. 4:15. Paul is talking to Timothy, sharing godly character traits to pursue, and he says, Practice these things. Immerse yourself in them so all may see your progress. And that “so all may see your progress” piece is pointing out we don’t have it all together and your process of sanctification and growth towards godliness is helpful to others. It’s okay for others to see you don’t have it all together. And that’s motherhood; you aren’t perfect at it today, and that’s okay. It’s a chance for other people to be encouraged and edified. And even for yourself to be encouraged to see how different you are from last year. Praise God for that work in my life!
Emily: Building on that equipping piece, how do we get trained for the work of ministry? Because it doesn’t just happen overnight. I think we all know that for other ministries, like leading a Bible study, you have to get trained and practice it. We know we won’t be as good at it on the first time as we will be on the 60th time we lead a Bible study. In motherhood, we really need to do the proactive things: we need the spiritual disciplines, to be reading and understanding the Bible rightly, to pray and be involved in our local church, to remember the gospel, to memorize scripture. So all of these little deposits we put in are shaping our thinking and tuning our hearts to the Word of God. Whenever we’re in our moment when we need to die that death—100 times a day—we know what it looks like to obey and what we need to remember.
Laura: Right. So in obedience, this is the chance to make the right decision where we can say we’re going to live unto God and his word, because we’ve learned to do so during that equipping stage, or we can go our own way and give in to our natural, sinful inclinations. These are the pieces where we’re living by faith day-in and day-out. These are the one million tiny moments for you to have the chance to die to self and choose Christ instead.
Emily: Now we’re going to transition a little bit to what does a mom do in ministry? As we were thinking through this, there are so many things we do to serve God and love our children. We want to break it into two buckets again. The first is we serve our children. What we mean by that is we’re meeting their tangible physical needs. This is all of the stuff we can rattle off—
Laura: Three meals a day, taking them to school, helping them get their homework done…
Emily: Making sure they get to wellness checks, buying them clothes…
Laura: Changing their diapers. [Laughter]
Emily: Yeah, all of those things. They’re automatic. I think most moms see that need and do it. We want to note this is a super valid aspect of our ministry, because God makes us as physical bodies, hearts, and souls. God provides for our bodily needs. It’s kind of a building block or a foundation from which he can woo us at the heart-level. I think we see Jesus meeting physical needs. He’s healing a withered hand and feeding the 5,000 with bread and fish. Does he go beyond that? Yes, we’ll get to that in a minute. But it’s definitely a mercy to meet our children’s physical, tangible needs. Often they can’t meet them for themselves.
Laura: Another piece of that is seeing our children and meeting their deeper needs beyond the physical needs. It’s really diving into their hearts, their spiritual status, their emotions, and all of those kind of things. This is honestly, for me at least, way harder. It requires a lot more of who I am, of slowing down. It’s an active and passive passing on of Christ. There’s the verbal, intentional pieces, which are easier for me because I’m so verbal. But then there’s the passive modeling of Christlike qualities, which I’ll be honest, is a lot harder for me. [Laughter]
Emily: We want to talk through how we model Jesus to our children by looking at what he did in his ministry when he was here on Earth. One thing is we want to spend time with our children; when we look at the life of Christ, he spent so much time with his disciples. They did life together, they ate together, they slept together, they worked together teaching. I think that’s something motherhood—at whatever level this means for your life and the way God is orchestrating things—requires too. It requires our physical presence and an ongoing relationship of living life alongside our children.
Laura: Another one we see from the life of Christ is modeling what it really means to live by faith and daily dependence on the Father. I love that we see Jesus—the God-man, the King of the universe—still living in dependence on God. He went away when the crowds were clamoring and crying to him, I need you! I need you! He still said no and would disappear to spend time with God in prayer, talking with and asking him for help. This is the equipping piece we mentioned. It’s where you invest in your own fatih. As moms, we know often you have little kids around and you’re not solo on a mountainside, but Jesus still modeled to us the importance of going and speaking to the Father, pouring out our cares and concerns to him. This allows you to continue in ministry.
Emily: Another thing we see in the life of Christ that we can model in motherhood is giving grace to our children when they fail and reconciling that relationship. One way we see this in the life of Christ is with his disciple Peter. Peter said he’d die for Jesus and definitely wouldn’t deny him or forsake him, but we know he did. He denied even knowing Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead and saw Peter on the shore, Jesus extended grace and forgiveness to him, and Peter repented. They have this great exchange where Jesus says, If you love me, feed my sheep. I think we can model this to our kids by knowing our kids haven’t fully arrived; they’re works in progress. Our expectation should be that they’ll forsake our instruction, and be slow to obey, and mess up, and do things incorrectly. But we can extend opportunities for reconciliation and trying again. We can know we all need Jesus.
Laura: Another one is being attentive to them by listening and asking good questions. A story I love from Matthew 16 is when Jesus and his disciples are talking about who people thought he was. People thought he was a prophet, or John the Baptist, or all these different things. Jesus goes a little deeper and asks, Who do you say I am? He’s penetrating a little bit deeper and making the disciples think a little bit harder about their answers. We can model that to our own children as we’re talking to them. Sometimes when we’re having conversations with them, we’ll have a little red flag go off. It can be easy to think we’re too tired to get into it, or we may not know what to say or feel equipped with the right words. For example, my son has been asking about death, and hell, and all of these harder questions. I think one thing that’s great is being willing to go into those anyway. My kids are young—they’re five and under—but one thing I’ve really appreciated is as they dig in, I try to be willing to practice those questions. Often, they don’t remember the answer I gave. So while I’m trying to be as theologically sound and correct and give them what’s age-appropriate, it’s a great chance for you to practice how to answer harder questions and not shy away from something that’s more difficult to answer. At the same time, there’s another side of it which says knowing when not to speak, because kids will get exasperated with you if you’re over-spiritualizing everything. It’s definitely a fine balance. I think it’s a great way to model Christ to go a level deeper and talk about these things with open communication.
Emily: Right. It’s kind of like, I see you have a need for a snack, but I also see you have a need for some self-control and we’re going to press into that a little bit here. [Laughter]
Laura: Good mama! [Laughter]
Emily: Another thing is praying for and with our children. We see this in the life of Jesus when he prays the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 or in the garden before he goes to the cross. He’s praying and asking his disciples to pray alongside him. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. We want to bring our kids alongside us in prayer.
Laura: Another one is being aware of your kids’ personalities and their sin tendencies, even worldly enticements. The only example I could really think of this was kind of Peter and Jesus again. Jesus warns Peter that he’s going to deny Jesus three times. It’s gonna happen, Peter. And Peter says it won’t.
Emily: Yeah, and he was so hasty. A little more impulsive.
Laura: Totally. So Jesus warns him of that. We know that’s exactly what Peter did, and Jesus just knew Peter’s natural tendencies. We can do that with our own kids by trying to warn them as we care for them. Many of you who are listening have really young children and you’re wondering how you can protect them, like if yours is a natural leader or natural follower. HOw can I talk to my child as they’re with their peers? How do I give them wise counsel? What else, Emily? Maybe they’re prone to anger, so you want to focus in on that. I think sometimes it’s even picking a character trait in your child and then looking for strengths and weaknesses. And talk to your husband about how you can foster the great qualities you see and help them choose godliness in the midst of their sin.
Emily: Another one is being willing to affirm and encourage them. This is something Jesus did in Luke 10; he affirms Mary has chosen the good portion. Remember, this is when Mary and Martha were in their house, and Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. He acknowledges she kept her eyes on the right thing. There are a lot of those examples of when Jesus calls out something is honoring–even the anointing of the oil in public, not just in the hidden moments.
Laura: The last one we have is teaching the truth about scripture to our children. This is the active passing on of our faith. We see in Luke 24, Jesus meets the two people on the road, and he interpreted to them the scriptures about all the things concerning himself. We see an active teaching Jesus did, and that’s something we can do. Emily and I are going to post a video to Instagram stories...today?
Emily: Or this week. [Laughter]
Laura: Yes, or this week! [Laughter] We want to share some of the resources we use. It’s going to have a lot of options and ideas. Of course, we don’t want this to incite guilt for you. We want this to feel like you can pick one thing off this list to do today. There are one million ways to do intentional teaching! You can look at some past shows for lots of ideas or head to our show notes today. We feel like this is a really big one with lots of options, but it doesn’t mean you need to do all the options.
Emily: Right. We want to end here by saying don’t feel pressure to think that in order to serve your kids and do all this you have to spend all this money and have all these fancy resources. We can simply disciple, seeing and serving the needs of our children, and minister to them by having a relationship with the Lord, reading his word, being involved in the local church, and passing it along to them. And reading the Bible to them!
Laura: All you need is the Bible.
Emily: It can be that basic. And that’s a wonderful thing. There’s nothing wrong with that! Again, you can go to our website risenmotherhood.com to see all of the resources we recommend—but don’t get overwhelmed by that. If you want to find out more, you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @risenmotherhood. We’ll be sharing more about this topic this week.
Laura: Thanks for joining us, guys!