Influence

 the shape of leadership

Motherhood and Ministry

Finding balance, and enjoying every season

Kristi Northup on May 7, 2018

Moms in ministry. It can be done.

I come from a long line of strong women. During the early 1900s, my great-grandmother traveled by train as a college-educated single woman to teach school in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1948, my grandmother was an associate pastor in Huron, South Dakota, the year before she was married. My mother was ordained in Minnesota in 1985, the year the district began ordaining women. My aunts are missionaries and ministers, and my sister is a presbyter.

What makes them distinct is not just their strength, but also the mysterious empathy and perspective they bring to the ministry. I’m often amazed at the dedication and involvement of women serving as church planters, staff members, seminary professors, and leaders in many other areas of ministry.

While carrying out their duties, they somehow manage to keep the wheels on at home as well. These are a few of the observations I’ve made about these incredible women.

The ‘Mom Hat’ Never Comes Off

Leaders often talk about taking off the pastor hat, putting on the CEO hat, etc. But for moms, there’s no taking off the hat. Whether she’s the executive pastor at a church of 10,000, the worship leader in a church of 50, or a leader in the corporate world, a mom is always a mom.

Sometimes I see women trying to hide the hat and putting on a tough exterior to demonstrate that they are always able to perform the job. But there’s never a moment where carpool pickup and medication regimens are far from a mom’s mind, even as she pursues excellence in her work.

Those who don’t have young children may help care for grandchildren, or even nieces and nephews. Many women are caregivers to aging family members as well. The hat never comes off.

If we pace with the Spirit, there will be time to accomplish every dream God has put in our hearts.

This nurturing quality gives many women a natural inclination toward ministry. I once heard a pastor say, “Women are nurturers, and they are naturally pastoral.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s not a detriment; it’s what facilitates our ability to understand the need at hand.

I love to see a well-planned event that includes quality resources and sessions. But it’s the TLC that women often add to the décor and the feel that make it personally impactful for me.

One Thing at a Time

When I was expecting my first baby, my former college roommate passed on some amazing advice she had received: “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

I wrestled with this, not wanting to believe it, because I preferred to think I could multitask my future. But in the end, this thought set me free. For most people, life is long. If we pace with the Spirit, there will be time to realize every dream God has placed in our hearts. It just doesn’t have to happen all at the same time. Accepting that takes faith.

Embrace All That Womanhood Has to Offer

At this moment, I’m in that strange in-between time where I’ve just had a baby, I’m on maternity leave, and my life is anything but normal. At the age of 41, with a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old, I’m back in the world of sleepless nights and baby bottles and peachy soft cheeks on my face that make it all worth the insanity once again.

There will be time for strategy and powerful ministry, but this moment is fleeting, and I want to savor it.

My mom is a professor and director of a post-graduate program overseas. She has given up a month to come and take care of our family during this time. It doesn’t make her less of a leader; it makes her more of a woman, and ultimately strengthens her ability to lead others.  

I want it all. I want to be as great of a leader as I can for what God called me to do as the woman He created me to be. It’s the convergence of creation and calling.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it. But somehow, my mother figured it out before me, and my grandmother before her, and my great-grandmother before us all.

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