We are blessed to have a wonderful church that has a true heart for ministry.  They have a large number of local, national, and international ministry programs to choose from, such that every person can find a ministry that suits them–at least, that is the idea.  Yesterday, we had a special service to recognize and publicize these ministry opportunities, and the congregation was encouraged to fill out little cards to make a commitment to serve Christ through one of these programs. 

At that moment, my heart was heavily burdened.  Now, please don’t misunderstand me in what I am about to say.  There is ABSOLUTELY a place for every Christ-focused outreach and ministry out there.  Many people are led to a saving relationship with Christ through these programs.  However, I have begun to see how the focus on such ministries has turned to the point that we are forgetting one of the most important ministry opportunities we, as parents, have been blessed with–that of raising our children. 

I did a bit of research in the hopes of finding some statistics, but each resource varies slightly in their numbers.  Nonetheless, most agree that, while “Christianity” is the #1 religion claimed by people around the world, less than 50% of those claim to be practicing their religion.  That number gets lower almost every year.  On the other hand, religions that are rapidly increasing in membership include Islam and Wicca.  So, it would seem a logical conclusion that if pagan religions are increasing in numbers and Christianity is decreasing in numbers, then that would mean some of those new members would be folks who previously claimed Christianity.  In fact, the average statistic claims that 2/3 of children from “practicing Christian” homes drift away from the church entirely by the time they finish college!  That’s over 60% of our children!  A few other statistics show that there is no difference between divorce rates within the Christian church and outside the church.  In fact, as a general rule, there are very few differences of any kind when comparing the folks inside the Christian church and outside of it.  That is so sad!  As Christians, we are commanded to “Therefore come out from them and be seperate, says the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 6:17).  The world should be able to watch a Christian and know that something is different–for the good! 

As I sat there in church yesterday, I realized that, while the church certainly meant well, the modern ideas regarding ministry were just not broad enough.  My little card gave me choices between “going on an international mission trip,” “participating in national church-planting,” or regularly participating in one of several areas of local outreach such as a prison ministry, homeless ministry, etc.  I could not fill out the card.  For a brief moment, I allowed the outside pressure of those filling out cards around me to make me feel guilty.  Then Christ reminded me of the struggles I had already gone through, and what he had already shown me over the last few years as I have become a mother. 

You see, the Bible doesn’t say that ministry is limited to the choices on those cards.  What about the ministry of ensuring my young children are sheltered from pagan and secular ways?  What about the ministry of training my children to be passionate over reading and memorizing the word of God, serving others in Christian love, and love each other within our family setting?  What about the ministry of fulfilling my God-given role as a mother and wife, and creating a safe place where my husband and children can always turn in a time of need or struggle?  What about doing my part to ensure my children remain in the statistic of the 30% who REMAIN in church as adults?  Furthermore, what about the ministry of adopting children who may otherwise be aborted or, worse, be born into a life where they may never learn about the Savior?  And rather than encouraging EACH member of a  family to fill out a seperate card, what about encouraging opportunities that allow families to serve TOGETHER in ministry (like we did this past Thanksgiving)?  Or consider how much more effective a ministry could be if I teach my many children to do it together, than if I had tried to do it alone or with a divided focus?

My heart just got heavier as looked around the room, and saw women, wives, and mothers around me.  I wondered how many of them would walk out of that room discouraged that they were “stuck” at home raising their babies and unable to answer the “call” to minister with the church.  Of course, this is by no means what the church intended to do, yet, it happens all the time.  Even the church has allowed it’s worldview to become so tainted and entertwined with  secularism that it completely disregards the idea of ministering within our homes!  How many of our own children are lost to Christ because parents are so busy serving in church ministries?  How often do we apply so much pressure to a young mother who would like to be home with her children, yet we convince her it is much more important to put them in a public school or pre-school or daycare so she can fulfill her “duties” to minister and serve the church?  Oh, my heart breaks at the thought! 

When I was a teen, I participated in a couple of mission trips and worked in the church nurseries.  When I got married, I volunteered at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center, my husband was active in church choir, and we particpated in serving where we could.  Over the years, our callings have changed.  Now, while our focus in still on Christ, our ministry has been re-directed from the church opportunities to the family ones.  My husband is still able to serve within the church periodically, but I generally need to stay home with the children.  For a while, I actually questioned if I was doing the right thing, and God showed me a passage in His Word that helped me understand…..Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a t ime to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. ”

Oh, how fitting and refreshing that scripture has been to me on so many “useless, stuck-at-home, mommy” days!  He opened my heart with that passage to the understanding that this is my time to be a mommy to little ones, and to have a ministry right inside my own home!  It doesn’t even have to be limited to my own family!  We love to invite people into our home –Christian and non-Christian alike–to fellowship, get to know each other, and just enjoy sharing in Christ’s love!  I also realized that God can use those different times or seasons of our lives to prepare us for future ones. 

For example, I always felt a calling to serve on a mission trip in Africa.  Unfortunately, every door always slammed shut, and I was never able to find the way to go.  One day, I realized that, perhaps the mission trips I did serve combined with the call I once felt to go to Africa was just God’s way of opening my heart to the African people.  I didn’t know at the time that He would be bringing the Africans to me through adoption! 

Again, I emphasize that every Christ-led ministry has its place.  We just need to not be so close-minded as to think going “out” is the only way to minister.  Mothers/fathers/parents should not feel guilty, rather they should be encouraged that God has given them an incredibly important ministry within the confines of their own home!  And we should be proud to serve there!