I once was stunned by a boss – the lead pastor at the church where I was serving – when he said, “Now, don’t go getting pregnant.”
His assumption was that I would not do as good of a job as a minister if I had a child.
Wow. Most people who feel that way at least don’t speak it aloud.
Many of us know all too clearly that this prejudice against mothers extends beyond the church-workplace and into the almost-anywhere-workplace. Pregnancy discrimination and unconscious bias is real.
But I think the nay-sayers are wrong. Here are some reasons that I think being a mother makes me a better pastor:
I relate to parents better.
I’ve struggled their struggles. I know how to pray for them better now. I share illustrations in my sermons parents can relate to.
I draw and keep boundaries better.
Pastors who know how to manage boundaries are less likely to burn out. I have strict boundaries because I have to have them. People accept my boundary-drawing because they understand my little kids must be cared for. It allows me to encourage my people in the importance of drawing boundaries in their lives, too.
I am more efficient.
This is related to the boundaries part. My working hours are constrained to the time that I have childcare or by my ability to stay awake past their bedtime. But this forces me to be efficient. I get things done, limit my distractions, and am better at prioritizing.
I am a better team player.
Some pastors try to do it all. Working mothers learn how to share the load. I enlist help at home, and I enlist help at the church. Volunteers and staff get to work together to accomplish God’s mission, and thus everyone has the chance to grow and use their gifts of leadership.
My appreciation and support for children and youth ministry has grown.
I always knew it was important – from the viewpoint of having been a child and teen who benefitted from thriving age-appropriate ministries. Now I have a passion for its strength because my own children are in the ministry, and I want them to learn about Jesus in ways they can understand and in ways that get them excited.
I better realize the brevity of life.
Seeing how fast it all goes helps me to live in the moment and try to take advantage of the days. Adults don’t change physically very much from year to year, but the passage of time is abundantly clear in the faces of my children. In the blink of an eye they are another year older, and I am led to reflect on what God has done in my life and in our church, and I am even more ready to listen to what God wants to do in the future.
I see my susceptibility to idolatry.
Other things have caught my attention before – success, achievement, approval – but my love for my children is overwhelming. It’s easy for me to see how so many parents idolize their children by putting all their focus on their family and neglecting the God who gave them their family. Acknowledging another weakness in my spiritual life helps me be a compassionate pastor.
My lack of control brings me to trust God more.
Elizabeth Stone said that deciding to have a child is a decision to forever to have your heart go walking outside your body. And every time I cannot stand the thought of losing them in a car wreck or having them get hurt in any way, I have to entrust them to God’s care. I have to let my faith grow and believe that God will sustain them, that God loves them even more than I love them, and believe that they are actually God’s and not mine.
All the motherly things that make me a better Christian also make me a better minister. And just in case anyone gets the wrong impression, with this article I am not saying that people without children cannot pastor as well as people with children. I’m just saying that for me, personally, I see how I’ve grown. For me, motherhood enhances my ministry. This is to speak truth in the midst of a culture where many believe motherhood just makes employees frazzled and less committed to work.
Thankfully, I serve in a community of people who go against the grain of culture, in more ways than one. I thank God that they have celebrated with our growing family, and I know they will celebrate yet again. Again, you ask? Yes, Jason and I are expecting our third child.
God bless those who appreciate ministers, mothers, and mothers who are ministers.