Three years ago, I felt called to start a Women’s Ministry at our local church. I dog-eared a stack of Susan Hunt’s books and studied the material on the Committee on Discipleship Ministries website. I prayed and talked with other women about it. I presented a thoughtful proposal to our elders: they were enthused and supportive. Everything was moving forward… until I got pregnant with our fifth child. By the time I entered my third trimester of the pregnancy, I humbly told my husband and our Session that I had to “push pause” on the whole shebang. I didn’t have the energy or drive to continue. They were understanding, but I was disappointed and discouraged.
This wasn’t the first time I had to modify my commitments to the local church in order to tend to my life at home. In fact, it seemed like every time I offered my gifts to the church, I inevitably had a baby (wonderful!), or got sick (not wonderful!), or the kids got sick, or my husband traveled, or we moved, or we needed to visit family.
I felt doomed to inconsistency and undependability.
Being a daughter, wife, mother, and friend seemed diametrically opposed to my calling to serve the local church. Because my life ebbed and flowed so much, I believed that I was disqualified. I struggled with cynicism. Why should I volunteer when I know I’m just going to have to back out in 6 months?
I began noticing that I wasn’t alone. Grad students could only volunteer during the second year of their studies. New moms could only serve one Sunday a quarter… maybe… if the flu hadn’t hit their house yet. Working women could only serve in the slim margin beyond work and home responsibilities. Older women could only serve if they could prioritize their husbands or their grandkids. We all wanted to serve the Lord in the local church but felt like our hands were tied by our other commitments.
What if we could serve the Lord in the local church while loving the people within our private spheres, while going through difficult and demanding seasons of life, and while navigating our own fragile health and well-being?
What if we could we do it well?
Over the past few years, I’ve dug deep into this dilemma. I still have a lot to learn, but I want to share 3 principles that have transformed the way I see my calling to serve the local church.
1. Jesus will build the Church.
It’s not my responsibility to hold the church together. Jesus promised, “I will build my church.” He’s the Cornerstone, the Alpha and Omega, and the head of our household of faith. I’m just one member of His beautiful and complex Body. I’m free to serve when I’m able, however sporadic that may be. Jesus will complete His work through our weaknesses and limitations… and we’ll all be amazed by the miracle.
2. Our private work is a significant part of the local church.
The local church fuels my ministry at home so that when I love my husband and nurture my children, I am serving the local church. The local church also fuels my work in the public sphere so that when I share the light of Christ, serve my neighbor, and make disciples of many nations, I am serving the local church. I’m receiving life from the church and serving it in real-life. My life and my local church are deeply integrated.
3. Plan ahead for life’s changing seasons: give and receive grace.
My availability ebbs and flows. Sometimes, I’m free to dive in and contribute to the needs of our local church: I coordinate, teach, write, play the piano, and hold babies. Other times, I have to pull back. Knowing that this is a regular pattern for me, I pray and reflect before committing to something new. If I can foresee something that will affect my commitment, I’m open and honest about it from the start. Most of the things that pull me away are not foreseeable: sickness, pregnancy, emergencies, and personal needs. I’m learning that this does not disqualify me. I simply need to communicate clearly with other people and prepare someone else to step in for those inevitable times when I need to step away.
Working as partners, friends, and teams allows everyone to pull together, to fill in for one another, and to extend grace in the time of need.
4. Work alongside other people.
Last summer, when my 5th child was a precocious 1-year old, I returned to the idea of building a Women’s Ministry at our church. Twelve women gathered around my dining room table to pray and work together to strengthen our local church and welcome every woman into a thriving life with Christ.
For over a year now, the 12 of us have worked side-by-side to enfold many women into the work of the ministry. Pairs of women work together to lead smaller teams that lead Bible studies, pray together, host life-giving fellowship events, and disciple women. By God’s grace, we’re beginning Year 2 of a thriving, thrilling, beautiful ministry in which one person is strong when another is weak.
Some people have said, “Twelve?! Are you sure you want that many women working together?”
My response is, “Yes! We need each other!”
As I type this I am expecting our 6th baby, in the third trimester. I am weak and tired, but this time, by God’s grace, I’ve been able to continue serving in the Women’s Ministry because many women are pulling together in the Body of Christ, with His strength, and for His glory.
About the Author:
Laura loves to share practical applications of the Bible as she encourages women in their walk with Jesus. She received a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in English Literature from the University of Richmond, an M.A. in English Literature from Penn State University, and a Certificate in Women’s Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. Laura serves as the Coordinator of Women’s Ministry at Oakwood Presbyterian Church in State College, PA. She lives with her husband and 5 (going on 6) children on a beautiful farmette in Pennsylvania where they raise some chickens, host campfire parties, read lots of books, and cheer for the Nittany Lions. Connect with Laura at www.LauraBooz.com.