Dearest Disciples: Balancing Ministry and Motherhood

In an age when schedules and to-do lists are fuller than ever and productivity is worshipped, spending one’s heart pointing children to Jesus can be difficult. Navigator moms juggle their ministry and family roles daily, trusting God to catch dropped balls and heal inevitable mistakes, trusting God that their deepest impact will be on their own children.

Dearest Disciples: Balancing Ministry and Motherhood

Linnette Bachman and her husband, Dave, Navigator City leaders for Nashville, serve primarily with Navigators Collegiate. They have five children ages 2 to 11.

“It is so easy to think that our greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God will come through our ministry on campus or in our neighborhood,” Linnette says. “Often, the fruit from ministry done outside the home can be seen a little quicker! But loving our children, caring for them day in and day out, and modeling what it looks like to follow Christ for the 18 plus years they live with us, is a very long commitment. It will take much patience, endurance, and trust that seeds planted slowly over time will one day bear fruit.”

Emma Sumrall, mom to a toddler and a newborn, serves with Navigators Collegiate at University of Georgia (Athens). She clings to Scriptures like Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Ephesians 6:4, and 2 Timothy 1:5 to remind her of the importance of building disciples at home.

“It can be easy to think that donors give their support so that we can reach whatever specific target group we are ministering to,” Emma says. “When actually, instead of giving our children the leftovers, our ministry to them should be a given, a priority—before we reach out outside the home.”

Sadly, ministry kids can tend to be left with the remnants of their parents’ energy and time. It’s something Navigator moms work hard to prevent.

“We don’t want our family to be the only priority, but we want it to be a priority. We want to nurture and love our kids and pass on faith to them wholeheartedly,” Linnette says. “We ‘close the gates’ at times to make sure we have space to connect with our kids. You can’t love well when you are rushing. You can’t nurture while hustling. So, sometimes that means saying no to busyness so that you can say yes to connection with your family.”

But how do you practically prioritize your children’s path to Jesus? Beth Luebe is a mother of grown children and serves with Navigators 20s and first responders in New York City. The years have taught her the value of presence and availability.

“If children want to talk about spiritual things, do it, even after midnight for teenagers,” Beth says. “Being present is key in allowing our families to know we are investing well in them.”

Emma looks for teaching moments every day.

“I have found that some of the deepest conversations with my kids about faith happen not necessarily when I originally plan, but when I make space and time for us to be together,” Emma says. “This can be while I’m making supper, or when we’re in the car on the way to school. It keeps me on my toes, but in such a good way! You never know when kids are going to ask you a question that seems out of the blue, but actually, they’ve been thinking about for a while.”

This investment, in the everyday moments and even the mundane, is deep and eternal.

“I remember standing at the changing table one day wondering if me being home to change my little one’s diaper really could be as good a use of my time as sharing Christ on campus,” Linnette says. “I felt so torn between a mission I love—to reach college students for Christ—and a calling I was sure God had given me to be a mom, since God had blessed me with kids. Our role as parents is demanding and often thankless. I think this can lead many of us to put our best energy elsewhere—but it can also be an invitation to die to ourselves and look to Christ.”

Our children are always watching. They are our most present disciples. A blank slate for the hand of God to write on.

“Children model what they see,” Beth says. “The good, the bad, the correct or incorrect theology. It takes a lot to stay on top of it. Our children see it all. You can’t be a phony disciplemaker in front of them. If they see you read the Word, perhaps they want to read it. If you pray faithfully, they will learn that, and so on. I encourage women to always have at least one other woman they are investing in in all seasons—and of course there are exceptions. Our children need to see us influencing others too, so that they hopefully will do the same.”

For Linnette, discipling her kids is a unique opportunity.

“We get to be with them 24/7,” Linnette says “I like the principle in Deuteronomy 4:9 which says, ‘Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.’ We want to disciple by first prioritizing our own relationship with God and letting our kids see it. We want to foster a close relationship with each of our kids and pray often that their hearts would be turned toward us—beginning in the young toddler years! We want to have a family norm of speaking about the real presence of the Lord and the habit of getting into the Word. I love that God enables us to shape their worldview in these foundational years and point them to Christ!”

It’s about coming alongside your kids, just as you come alongside any disciple.

“I am passionate about relating to my kids as someone who struggles right alongside them—wanting in my flesh to be self-sufficient, desperately in need of God’s grace and help, struggling at times to choose what will honor God,” Linnette says. “It is humbling but also powerful.”

The fruit may be slow-growing, but it’s precious.

“I love to think ahead to what I hope my kids will be like spiritually in their 20s and 30s and teach towards that end,” Linnette says. “It changes my prayers from ‘Help Daniel to sleep well tonight’ to ‘Give Daniel faith to trust You, and say yes to You no matter what You would ask of him. Help him to know who You truly are, God, to love You with all his heart, and most important, to know deep down that he is known and loved deeply by You.”

A noble calling.

Discipleship Tools for Kids

Finding Time

  • Advent and Lent are sweet seasons to make special memories and plant seeds.
  • Take one of your children out for a date and some intentional discipleship once a week, once a month, whatever works for you—but schedule it!
  • Use bedtime to pray personally and individually with each child.

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