Children: A help or hindrance to Christian ministry?

One of the biggest shocks for me about motherhood was the sudden decay in decent conversations! 

I had been used to having long, luxurious and uninterrupted conversations, using the normal conventions. Sitting; eye contact;  asking questions; listening and talking – oh, and a hot beverage. But then children came onto the scene and I had to kiss good bye to all of that (or to be more specific, to give up doing all of that at the same time). Add in sleep deprivation, baby brain and a sudden fascination with ALL THINGS BABY, and well the topic and quality of conversation decays, it just does.

Before having our first child I was in paid Christian ministry. Pastoral and evangelistic tasks involved being able to give theological talks and have conversations with similar content. Boy oh boy did ministry, and church involvement, for that matter, change after having children!

Fast forward a few years and picture the scene…

Our second child is six months old and I feel like I might be ready to resume a one-to-one Bible study with a student from church. I invite the student over for our “one-to-one” (with a six month old baby and two year old toddler in the room too!). I stick on the TV, get some toys out and crack open the Bible.

The experience was horrendous! I tried to breast-feed the fussing baby, bat off the jumping, attention-seeking, highly jealous two year old from climbing on top of me, while trying to string together a sentence related to the passage we had just read. The Bible study just didn’t work, and suffice to say that was the first and last time I attempted that. Scott and I did some reshuffling of schedules and we found a slot in the week where I could meet this student without any children.

Which got me wondering: is having children detrimental to meaningful church involvement? Was having children a hindrance to ministry and suppressing my spiritual gifts (at least in this season of having very small kiddos?).

Then I came across these verses from 1 Thessalonians 2, where Paul addresses the people who he witnessed to and discipled in Thessalonica:

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

This parental imagery struck me. The Apostle Paul wasn’t a father to biological children, but he uses parental metaphors to describe how he evangelised and discipled his spiritual children. In these verses we get a glimpse at the method and manner in which he did his ministry – there’s a blending of word based ministry and practical, sharing lives together type ministry too. He explained the gospel to them using words, and demonstrated the gospel to them through his life. His ministry or his “church involvement” was very holistic. He didn’t separate the spiritual stuff from the real-life stuff – there is no separation after all!

This is liberating, and challenging too.

Meaningful church involvement won’t always look like sitting down and opening the Bible with someone, although it’s an amazing blessing when it does!  But sometimes church involvement whilst having small children will look like going to the park with someone and having chats about what’s going on in their life and how the gospel applies to that – interspersed with catching the toddler at the bottom of the slide. Or having an impromtu prayer time with another parent at a play date. Or chatting at the school gate with another church parent and her friend, and inviting that friend along to the church-run BBQ which is happening at the weekend. There’s a myriad of different ways to do it.

There’s great opportunities that come from being a parent, both in outreach as we get to know other parents, and in discipleship as we let other Christian’s see the crazy-messy-rowdy-preciousness of our family lives.

Paul’s parental imagery in the verses above show us the model and method for church involvement, but also reminds me of what parenting our physical children is all about too – explaining the gospel to our children using words, and demonstrating the gospel to them through our lives.

So, is having children a help or hindrance to our Christian ministry?

In all honesty, it could go either way.

So let’s be intentional to use this season to pursue evangelistic and discipleship opportunities – both within our own families and beyond them. It is hard. There are times when what we’re able to do is very limited, and that’s fine – we’re not justified by our church service. There are times when conversations are interrupted, children embarrass us, we are TIRED. But its so worth being intentional in this season.

Why?

Well because of the final sentences of that passage above…

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

What an exciting prospect it will be for us to stand before Jesus on that last day, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people that we invested in – both our own children (hopefully), and others who the Lord has brought into our lives. As we bask in his radiance, we’ll know that the people surrounding us are our glory, our joy, our crown and our gift to him.

 


Here are links to a couple of resources which may help you to think further about this topic.

Total Church*

This book was so helpful for helping us develop a biblical view of the church – the community of God’s people. Full of practical ideas and theological reasons to live your life in community.

https://youngwifesguide.com/category/podcast/

Episode 97 of this podcast is all about Biblical hospitality and using our homes for evangelism and discipleship – in a season of life where we are more confined to our homes because of little one’s routines, it makes sense to make the most of the opportunity to invite others in to our homes. This episode is full of encouragement and some practical ideas for crafting a spiritual conversation with your guests.

https://www.gospelcentredparenting.com/hospitality/

This is a blog post that we wrote earlier in the year about hospitality. Read it for some gospel-encouragement to get started, particularly if you’re like me and wouldn’t naturally relish the thought of it!

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2 thoughts on “Children: A help or hindrance to Christian ministry?

  • January 15, 2018 at 11:41 am
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    My kids are older now and it does become so much easier again, as mine are now old enough to open their bibles and join in. You are right though, ministry with babes and toddlers is about keeping God present in wherever life leads you that day, the soft play, park etc.

    We used to have a fab bible study at one mums house. There were about 8 of us and we all took a 1 in 4 turn to go out with the kids. So two adults had all the kids of the 8 adults and would play in one room or the garden and the other 6 got to study. It was ace. Mich x

    Reply
    • January 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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      This is such a great idea! We’re about to have a baby boom in our church so a mum’s Bible study might be a good option for us.
      Thanks so much for your encouragement Mich!

      Reply

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