12 Ways to Lesson Physical Demands - Part 1

by Mary Somerville

No matter what size flock you serve, you feel like you have always left things undone that would be good to do. At times you may become physically drained—"maxed out." You have been bearing the concerns that your husband bears—and perhaps you take on all the tasks that no one else wants or can do: nursery duty, the bulletin, clean-up, informing people of upcoming events, women's ministry, Vacation Bible School and so on. As a result, you find yourself under the constant weight of ministry. 

You want to have the simple, focused life that we discussed earlier, but you don't know how to keep your life from being swallowed up by the demands of ministry.

I want to give you twelve practical tips for dealing with the physical demands of ministry. If you follow these tips that we have discovered over the years, you will find your ministry life to become much more balanced, enjoyable, and rewarding.

1. Focusing on Your Role in the Body of Christ

We will find our greatest joy when we use our God-given gifts effectively in the church. What positions are open to us as women seeking to use our gifts in the church? God has directed us through the Apostle Paul that we are first to be learners within the church with an attitude of submission toward the church leader (1 Tim. 2:9-15). God has also directed us  "not to teach or have authority over a man" (1 Tim. 2:12), which would be over the pastor and elders whose role is to shepherd the flock. We are free to serve in every area not excluded to us by Scripture.

So many vital areas of service are open before us. As we have seen, the mature women are specifically commanded to teach the younger women in the faith. We can have a special role in counseling and teaching women and children. We can be involved in the music ministry of the church, secretarial work, direct women's ministries, help with visitation, and so on.

Work on developing your spiritual giftedness to the greatest extent—and if you aren't sure what your gifts are, study the passages on spiritual giftedness (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-14:40). Enlist your husband's help in identifying your particular giftedness. Others within your circle of friends can also give input. Then focus in on your area of giftedness. Do not expend your energies elsewhere. As difficult as it is for us to do, we must trust the Lord with the things that are not our responsibility.

For example, I have never directed the women's ministry programs in our churches, but I've encouraged other women to use their giftedness to direct the programs. This freed me to focus on my strengths—visitation with my husband Bob and using my giftedness for administration and counseling. Just in these later years I've been writing and speaking more often.

If we just serve in our area of giftedness, does this mean we should automatically turn down other opportunities that do not involve the use of our gifts? Not always. We are instructed,  "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).

In our first church in New Jersey, I served in the nursery a great deal. Our children were babies and it was the natural place to be exercising the gift of helps. When we came to California to start a church of eight families, the church office was in our home for ten years. That meant that there were many opportunities for me to do many things for the church that were not in line with my gifts and education. I was needed to answer the phone so my husband could study, and the children were small and I home schooled them for several years. 

Were there times that I felt overwhelmed? Many! We were often compelled to claim the promise of His strength in Isaiah 40:31, waiting on Him moment-by-moment. And His strength was always there for us. Have you found that when you are called upon to give beyond your own resources and to wait upon the Lord, He enables you to do it? It's a "soaring on eagles' wings" experience. God carries us along and we look back and ask how did we do it all? It was God!

2. Recruiting and Training Others

Despite the fact that God will enable you to do things beyond your abilities or endurance, if they are in areas that do not fit with your giftedness, you should see service in that area as a transitional role. Constantly look for someone who is better suited to that task. Then you can bring that person alongside and equip her to use her gifts in that area. When she is ready, she can take over, thus freeing you up and allowing the whole body to work better.

3. Prioritizing and Organizing

Jesus gives us the principle of putting first things first—prioritizing. He said to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all the other things would be added to us (Matt. 6:33). Our relationship with Christ comes first. If we have no time for Him, then we are too busy. Do you need to say no to some things? Yes, you do! You must say yes only to the things that are part of your God-given calling, and say no to the extras. That may be difficult, but it's much better to do our priorities well than to try to do everything poorly.

There is the possibility of "burn-out." Instead of being trapped by the tyranny of the urgent, we need to create a plan for making the best use of our time. What's more, as homemakers, we need to be organized (1 Cor. 14:40). You can make a graph showing the hours of the week and map out a schedule. On my schedule, the first thing I do is fill in the important things that I must accomplish each day. However, because God comes first, we can let Him write over our schedules at any time, and we need to let Him do that without hesitation.

4. Keeping Family First

When you participate in your husband's calling, you want to do it in a way that doesn't dominate your family life. You do not need to live, breathe, eat, and sleep his ministry. Paul told Timothy that an elder must manage his own household well (1 Tim. 3:4). The household and church are two distinct responsibilities, and your husband is to manage both of them effectively. Under his authority you are to manage the home. 

You as a wife can try to ensure that your family does not end up focusing on the needs of your congregation all the time. We must maintain our priorities: family first, then ministry, and lastly recreation and other interests. We don't want our children to feel like they're less important to us than ministry. It takes conscious effort to continue to assure them that they are our first priority and blessing.

Caring for the needs of sick or elderly parents would also take priority. We had my dad in our home the last year of his life, when he needed constant care. Needless to say, that dominated most of my time, but the family and church understood that and encouraged us in it.

5. Not Adding to Your Husband's Load

Could this be played out in your home? "Honey, did you notice that the nursery needs painting? I've noticed that the church down the street has catchy sayings on their sign in front. Shouldn't we do that? When are you going to get someone to clean up the leaves on the side of the office?" And on and on we go! Our husbands do not need extra pressure from us. It is their responsibility to manage the church of God, not ours.

How can we lighten our husband's load rather than adding to it? To help out my husband, on Monday mornings I often make a list of needs that I became aware of during church on Sunday. During the week, I'll add to the list—and I like to send get-well cards, notes of encouragement, sympathy cards, and baby cardsthis helps to take some of the responsibility for ministry without burdening my husband about it.

If we still see a need to bring up a suggestion, we must be careful to find the appropriate time—which is not bedtime! We need to let our husbands go to bed in peace without a reminder of things left undone—even though this is a real temptation because many times it is the only time we have our husband's ear.

It's good to set limits. We can only do so much. Therefore, we need to trust people in the church to take care of certain needs or get to them another time. A well-taught flock will regularly meet people's needs before the pastor even hears about it.

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