Who’s Afraid of the Mommy Minister?

“You can lead a ministry, you can have babies, and you can take them to work. You can run an organization and still be a good wife and mother.”

No one had ever really told me that before. I mean, I think I’ve always believed it, but there honestly just aren’t that many women out there demonstrating that it’s possible. As my mentor, in her 50’s, shared this with me, my heart immediately responded, resting in the reassurance and confirmation that my desires are not misplaced and may actually be plausible.

For me, these desires include pursuing wifehood and motherhood while serving in roles of leadership of a church or non-profit. Also entangled in that is a desire and calling to be an ordained pastor, a role still only open to woman evangelicals in a small number of churches.

In the back of my mind, I always assumed that once I start having babies, I’d need to step down away from pursuing leadership. In my deep longings, I’d always hoped that being a mommy and a leader in a ministry was possible, but because of the influence of evangelical culture, I figured it’d be too hard or unhealthy. There’d be rejection and too many battles, and maybe I wouldn’t want to fight that hard. Maybe my kids would resent me.

My mentor was speaking to me from her experience, however, and so her words carried weight. She had been there, and she had taken her baby son to work while leading a successful ministry. The Lord had blessed it, and through it, she grew into a place of deep intimacy with Him. And she has a great relationship with her son. God made a way, and her influence grew, and she managed and led adult male leaders in a compassionate and humble way while raising a family.

She told me I could do it too, and she could see it for me…it wouldn’t be easy, but God could certainly make a way for me too.

So, delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Ps 37:4). Wifehood. Motherhood. Ministry. A Wife and Mommy leading the church? A Wife and Mommy shepherding leaders with a pack-and-play in her office? Is that something the evangelical church of America is ready for? Is that something I’m ready for?

3 responses to “Who’s Afraid of the Mommy Minister?

  1. Ironically, that’s what your mother did 30 years ago. Granted it wasn’t a church but it certainly was a male dominated industry. She was told more than once she was in the wrong room, at the wrong luncheon, and that they wanted to speak to the person (read..man) in charge. I’m guessing she did a great job of raising 2 kids in the midst of this since the results are two highly motivated, educated, intellectual and caring children named Heather and Sean that are now adults.

  2. X came to work with me. I had a “zoo” (playyard?) in a corner of my office, with a bouncy chair for her to sleep in, and toys and blankets. I hired a college kid to babysit her there when I had staff meetings, etc. My Sr. Pastor and the other Associate I work with were extremely supportive of me and loved having her there. Our church just got licensed to open up a Christian preschool, so now X goes to school 10 hours a week and those are my Really Efficient office hours (because the older she got, the less work I was doing and the more chasing her around the office I did!) Other times, she hangs out with the youth and I for dinner before her dad comes and gets her to take her home so I can do youth program. She attends youth church league basketball games, youth worship practice, and other events with me. She’s not even two yet, but she’s known for months how to circle up, hold hands, bow her head, and pray with the youth. She learned how to give a fist bump before she was 1, and loves being at church! I love that she is growing up there. And that she is learning that the world does not center around her–sometimes momma has to work. She has to share. It has been good for the youth–to see her grow from newborn to toddler, to know us as a family and see how X shares her love with everyone.

    But, it hasn’t always been sweetness and light…the chair of staff-parish relations committee was not so pleased, and there were a few ‘discussions’ about the inappropriate nature of my bringing a child to work with me. But, basically, since I had the support of my boss/coworker, her opinion didn’t matter or need to phase me much. However, I am prepared that she might want to put up another fight now that baby #2 is on the way!
    It sounds like you have people who will support you–which is wonderful! But you might face those who don’t like the arrangement–in my case it was a few 50-ish year old professional women who didn’t have the option of being a full-time mom and having a full-time career at the same time. They sacrificed the mom part, and I think they feel that is what everyone needs to do. They tried to attack from behind the guise of “Staff-Parish Committee” (I think a couple wanted me fired! They were digging for anything they could find).
    Fortunately for me and my work situation, the pastoral staff disagrees that X was a hindrance to me working in ministry. So, sorry this is long, but hopefully it can be encouraging as well as cautionary. Just like anything in ministry, there might be some people happy and some displeased. But all in all, I have found it extremely wonderful to be a full-time mom and a full-time pastor.

  3. Thanks for the insight Calia. What you’re doing is the model I’m really looking at…leaving the baby at home with Daddy one day, and bringing the baby to the office 3 days a week with the play gear and Pack ‘n’ Play in the corner of the office. Being in the non-profit world right now, it seems like there are other women who make that work…I’ve just never seen it done in a church, mostly because I haven’t seen any moms working at a church before. Right now, I’ve really been advocating for the leadership I work with to be flexible with women through different stages of life, accommodating when kids are young so the women stay active in ministry and continue back to full-time once their kids are older. There seems to be a lot of support from my male coworkers in that ideology because they’ve trained up so many wonderful women and hated to see them leave when they move towards being a full-time mom (even though everyone supports that…it’s just hard to lose wonderful staff). We’re discovering with encouraging our women to consider other options that a lot of them want to keep doing ministry if there are more flexible part-time options or bring-kids-to-work options available.

    It’s interesting that you’ve dealt with that kind of backlash. I wonder how they would have responded if they would have had that kind of opportunity when they were our age.

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