Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ministry Focused vs. Homeward Focused?

I’ve been thinking lately about a concept that I increasingly hear mothers and specifically missionary mothers discuss. I often hear us define ourselves as being in seasons of ministry, or in contrast, seasons of homeward focus. Though I do definitely agree that there are so many different seasons of a mother’s life in ministry, I have recently wondered about whether this clear-cut distinction is healthy.

If we think about it, the Lord does not state any conditions for when we should be ambassadors for Christ, when we should make disciples of all nations, when we should love our neighbor as our self, when we should be salt and light, when we should become all things to all people…. The idea of having seasons of ministry and seasons without is just not something that comes from scripture. Loving others and sharing about Jesus is very much innate to what God calls us to as His children all of the time! The commission toward outward focus of loving nonbelievers and pointing them towards Christ is given to all Christians, regardless of life stage or occupation. That means that even our homeward focused seasons are still seasons of ministry to non-believers!

Doing some "ministry," a.k.a. hanging out with a neighbor friend while our kids play, and talking about life and God's plan and love for us.

I want to be very careful that you don’t get the wrong impression of what I am saying here. I don’t mean at all to guilt any of us busy and sometimes overwhelmed mothers into feeling that we need to do more or add more to our plates than is healthy.  I believe that also would not be what God wants from us! In fact, for the sake of my own health and well-being, I have personally had to resolve to take on fewer obligations for this particular season than I have in recent years. I trust that I am glorifying God in my doing less for this season. 

What I want to suggest, though, is that we many not necessarily need to distinguish a difference between seasons of ministry and seasons of homeward focus, and that it could in some ways be detrimental to do so. We could certainly describe seasons as being more one way or the other, as they certainly are, but I believe even in those times when we are filled to the brim with responsibilities at home, that God still has many joyous opportunities for us to be his light to those around us. The danger in labeling seasons as specifically homeward focused seems that we might then be less inclined to consciously keep our eyes open to the many opportunities that God sends our way to reach out to others in the context of our homeward focused season of life. 

I fully believe that we are glorifying the Lord in our vital ministry to our families, but I also have a passion to see each one of us sharing the love of Christ beyond the walls of our homes during every season. My passion is also not that mothers will be burdened to do more and stretch themselves thin, but that we will make the most of every opportunity that we have, big or small, whether it be hanging out on the playground, befriending shop keepers, getting to know neighbors, extending help to a needy person that comes across your path... May we always have our eyes wide open, actively looking for the opportunities that God has for us each day to be His light to others.

(And this is already long, but I could write a whole second post about why it would be equally as wrong for us to negate the necessity of devoting ourselves to serving our families for the sake of ministry! In embracing His call to be ambassadors for Christ to the lost, we still can and should fully embrace His call to love and serve our families! Oh the great joys of being called to both motherhood and ministry!)

What do you think, mom friends? I have definitely defined my own seasons of life as being ministry focused or homeward focused, but now I’m wondering about this idea. What do you feel the benefits or detriments are of defining seasons in this sort of a way?


  1. And thinking of this again, these thoughts were brought about largely by the common phrase "my family is my ministry." Though even right now I too see my family as where the Lord has me investing the majority of my time and energy, I've seen that phrase sometimes used to be a way to say that just investing in our families is all that there needs to be (and truly it is a HUGE ministry and effort!). I think that phrase and idea might inadvertently cause us to forget the call for all believers to actively be salt and light to the unbelieving world. Like I mentioned, this does not need to be a huge organized ministry effort, but just being consciously aware that this is part of our call simply because we are Christians might help us to be actively looking for opportunities and to have the boldness to reach out when those opportunities come our way. Sometimes it is a sacrifice to do so, but I think that is ok. I don't desire mothers to feel burdened to do more out of a works based theology, but I do hope for us to remember the Lord's burden for lost soul and our part in bringing them His gospel. =)

  2. I love the point you make. "Let your moderation be known to all," Paul writes - and as I've studied, I see moderation as lives lived in balance (i.e. not extreme) where we cling gently to our own plans and willingly allow God to change them at any point or to any degree. Our lives are to be lived consciously, intentionally, trying to point/lead/direct/walk with others into a closer, deeper relationship with our Savior. I like to think of that by loving God so that I live loving others for His glory... nice, cliché-ish type thing to type and so hard to live out daily. Some days, that opportunity is just within the walls of my home. Other days, God opens the doors and lets me love on those within my church family. Other times it is the lost. I need to be sensitive to and open to that leading and take intentional advantage of those opportunities as God brings them to me... or me to them. :-)

  3. I always love what you have to share, Richelle! Your point is so well put about balance. I know that you say that it is hard to live out in daily life, but even through your blog it is so clear to see that God leads you by His spirit in living just this sort of life. You are such a beautiful, amazing, and fully devoted mother to your children, and it is also so neat to hear about the ways that God has opened so many unique doors for you to love and serve others. Thank you for being a wonderful example!

  4. When we had to leave Russia in the very midst of my busiest babies/home/family years, the main thing I heard from people saying goodbye was along the lines of "thank you for showing us what Christian family life looks like." In those years I rarely got out of my home, but apparently when I did, people were watching. (Scary!) And watching intently. So, there's that aspect of this, too... however that ties in?

  5. Oh yes, I totally agree, Phyllis! Such an important point. Having a strong, healthy, loving, Christ-focused family is a HUGE and very important witness! I can so relate with your comment about it being scary at how intently people are watching when we go anywhere with our family. =) With 4 kids, we might as well be a circus we're such an unusual sight! I bet you get the same sort of attention with your 4. People are not shy about watching and asking questions or making comments. Those curious questions are often opportunities to share a bit about God's love for children and family. The fact that our 4th was a "surprise" has been a great open door on many occasions to talk to the issue of abortion. Being a spectacle keeps me very aware of my need to depend on God so that I can love my kids and family well, of course for their sake, but also for the sake of our family's witness for Christ as well.

    1. Yes! I must admit that I've been surprised about how many times people have told me about their abortions and wanted to talk about that, just because of seeing our family.

  6. This is so right. Thank you for writing out your thoughts.