Erika from Des Moines, Iowa writes in to ask this: “During my years as a single woman and during my childless married years, I served in a variety of volunteer roles in student and adult ministries in the local churches that I called home. Now I am a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to my two young children, one of whom has an autism-spectrum disorder and learning disabilities. My husband and I are also expecting our third child. Currently, I teach my children’s Sunday school class once a month, but that’s it. I feel right now like I’m a consumer in my church family more than I am a contributor, and I feel badly about that. Pastor John, what encouragement do you have for moms like me?”
I am going to start right there on this consumer thing, and maybe this will cause a little paradigm shift for her.
Seven Counsels for Busy Moms
1. God’s people consume before they contribute.
Consuming the feast of God’s word and the grace of God with satisfaction week in and week out with God’s people is a great honor to God and a great encouragement to pastors. In other words, what I want from my people is that they don’t come to church to give me or to give God anything. I want them to come starved for God, hungry for God, desperate for God. And I want to spread a banquet for them in the worship of singing and the worship of preaching so that they can drink and eat and delight — like at a great banquet and a great feast that ends with cheesecake and strawberries — and stand up and say, “Ahh,” which is worship, and go out feeling like they have met the living God at the river of living waters.
So I would just love to disabuse her of any sense that consuming, if it is understood this way, is a bad thing. This is what we were made for. We were made to consume God, eat God, drink God, be satisfied with God. We were not made primarily to contribute to God, but to receive from God.
I would just like her to lay down that mindset and delight in going to the house of God to consume the feast prepared for her by the worship leaders and by the pastor.
2. Ministry at home glorifies God.
Second, be done with the mindset that ministry that is pleasing to the Lord is mainly church work. The gathered church exists to glorify God and to equip the church for scattering to the ministries of the home and the neighborhood and the workplace. And therefore, to have a glorious ministry at home — some relationship with a few friends that you care about and minister to — is a beautiful thing for which the church exists. That is the second thing I would say.
3. When Christians receive even one child, they receive God.
The third thing I would say — and this is one of the most important, or let’s just say amazing verses in the Bible. I have used it often with the people who care deeply about the nurseries of our church — comes from Mark 9:36–37: “Jesus took a child” — so let’s just say this little autistic child — “and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’” That is simply staggering. That is staggering. One child received in the name and for the glory and in reliance upon Jesus is a receiving of Jesus. And then he says, “No, no. It is the receiving of the Creator of the universe!”
So I would like to lift this mother’s and all mothers’ hearts out of the mundane for a moment up into this text and say, This is a glorious thing. And we must allow God to tell us about the significance of what we are doing as moms and dads when there is one child that we are pouring our life into, especially a disabled child or a child with special needs. When we receive one child, we are receiving Christ. We are receiving God. That is stunning.
4. Life comes in chapters.
Fourth, remember that life comes to us in chapters and seasons. This is a season where the proportion of your investment in others outside the family may be smaller. This chapter is going to change. There were other chapters once. This is the chapter now. And some chapters are very lopsided. They have to be lopsided. It is just the nature of the chapter and especially the nature of a mom with a child with special needs.
Accept the chapter you are in. Be patient in it. God will bring you to another chapter in due time and that, too, will be a good chapter.
5. Married couples minister as teams.
Fifth, you are a team with your husband. What he does in life counts for what you are doing. You are one flesh with him. If he has any significance at all in his workplace or in the church, it is your significance as well. Maintaining a sweet and beautiful and satisfying and peaceful home for the children and for him is releasing him and you in him for significant ministry.
6. Your ministry today is an investment in the future.
Let me share two more observations. Never forget that you are investing in what your children will be, not just what they are now. This season may be one that makes all the difference in their ministry twenty years from now. I have known kids with autism. I had a young man come up to me a few years ago. I didn’t recognize him at all, and he said, “Hi.” His voice was kind of stilted. He was stiff. He spoke methodically, and he said he was a senior at the nearby college and introduced himself.
As soon as he said his name, I was just stunned, because I knew him as an eight-year-old autistic kid. And here he is making it. He is making it in the world, and he wanted to thank me for the church and to thank me for the ministry. And it was clear that life was going to be hard for him. It was going to be awkward. Now if he makes it, you know why he is going to make it. Mom cared. She just poured her life into this kid, and that is the way it is with all of our kids. So you are investing in the future, not just now.
7. Your giving and praying can change the world.
And finally, you can be a praying woman and, with your husband, a giving woman to the church so that your impact through prayer and giving may be beyond all reckoning at this season in your life.