Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Ministry of Openness



My husband and I have talked a lot recently about "ministry" and how we complicate what it "should" look like. We tend to think in terms of programs or events or a strategic plan to fill our calendar with "reaching out". Our spirits begin to feel burdened before we ever even start. How can we do this "plan" with six children? How can we keep from burning out? Why does this sound hard and tiring? So we shelve the dreams and get back to being mired down and closed off in our own little stories while the years pass by.

In order to demystify "ministry" or "reaching out" or "being missional" or whatever your Christian sub-culture calls it, I am simply seeking to be more open.  Open to what? Sharing my Jesus-life with others in simple ways.

I smile at cashiers in the check-out line at Kroger.  I ask them how their day is going.  I listen to a lonely older woman share with me all about her life and children as we wait to have our fabric cut at Hobby Lobby. I hold doors open for others. I give drivers the right of way and a wave. I ask people questions.

I text other mamas.  I have several conversations going with many different women almost every day. Sharing prayer concerns, sending each other encouragement, offering wisdom and insight.  Being available. Laughing and debating and pondering the deep things of life.

I make meals. For the sick, for the ones with new babies, for the family that needs tangible support. I send packages and cards to those that need to know that God sees them and He cares.

I keep my schedule simplified so that I can watch for needs. Opportunities to show support and care and to cultivate an environment in my home of service and warmth and thoughtfulness. Someone may mention that they need a date night on Facebook, and if my time and energy allows, I offer to take their children. I take mental notes to check-in with the  friend who mentions they are tired and hurting during the next time I see them in person.

Ministry doesn't always look like running a children's program or leading a Bible Study or working in the nursery. It can simply be an openness to God and where He is at work and an openness to loving others in small ways. An open heart is willing to be vulnerable, to share weakness, to listen without judgment, to discern and offer wisdom, to give time and a meal and a hug. Availability to be used by Him wherever the steps in your day takes you...as you check-in to social media, as you go through the line at the bank, as you talk to your librarian, as you pick up a couple of items for dinner...as we are going, we make disciples.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming so quickly, the opportunities to show kindness and care will abound.  The hurting need hope during this season. Pain is magnified this time of year. How can we be the open and gentle and loving hands and feet of Jesus? May we have open hearts and willing hands  and eyes to see as we go into this holiday season.




12 comments:

Stephanie Shepherd said...

Yes, yes. This is something that I have been thinking on a lot lately and pondering for my life, similar to yours with the demand of homeschooling, kids and activities and the desire to be home and keep it neat and prepare food. Especially as I'm noticing in my church a distinct lack of ministry available to young mamas. I know it's not my season to commit to leading the study (not that I'm sure I'm even qualified for that) or hosting the weekly playgroup, etc., but there is a need. And, like you, God recently impressed upon my heart the idea that I need to be "open and available". Pondering through what that should look like, or maybe less pondering and just doing?

And then, sometimes I get overwhelmed because I'm still one of those tired mamas that could use the encouragement. : )

Sandi said...

I loved this article!

K said...

I took a year sabbatical from all the things--many "ministry"--I was doing. That was five years ago. It's changed my life. Now I actually have time for people when they need me, not just at the meeting time for the activity at the church. Know what I mean?

People come to my home at all times and we all live life together here. I know more about someone's real needs than I would have ever learned just being at a ministry gathering together. In some ways, it's harder because there aren't those boundaries of meetings and sometimes I cringe when there is a knock at the door, but I never did read about Jesus asking anyone to wait for the proper time to see him at the temple.
It's life and we need to live it in REAL time, not just ministry time.
Stepping off soapbox now...

Leigh Ishee said...

I love this Aimee! So beautifully said!

kristinwithani said...

Yes
Yes
Yes!

That is SO ministry!

Nicole Pivec said...

Love this, Aimee! I have done this for years, but have not really put a word to it. Thank you for finding one and sharing your thoughts so eloquently, as always.

tonia said...

You do a lovely job of ministering as you go, Aimee. It's a beautiful gift!

Hill upon Hill said...

I strongly agree, thankyou.

Sara said...

I loved these thoughts! Thanks for taking time to share. I actually work in two ministries- one is the ministry to my children and one is a Holy Yoga Ministry. I also try to be open as you write, for other opportunities to show Christ's love in day to day interactions with others. However, there are times when I can't stop for as long as I would like because I do have an obligation to go lead a class. What this brought up for me , though, is that I love doing all of these things. My attitude toward these ministry opportunities it is that it's a GET TO. I get to have a conversation with the random woman in the produce section at Kroger, I get to talk to the new mom at Library story time, I get to go share yoga and scripture with women in the hopes that their walk with Him becomes deeper. I think when the GET TO turns into a HAVE TO, then it might be time to reexamine what you are doing. For example, I worked for a long time in the children's ministry at my church and though I love kids, I often dreaded the commitment and had guilt surrounding it. That was not good. I felt like I was trying to be the wrong body part and that is when I resigned. I think sometimes we make mistakes getting into things that really weren't intended for us, but His grace and mercy are good and if we are walking closely with Him, He is definitely able to get us onto the right path!

Nancy said...

I think it is wonderful what you have said. So many times we all get overwhelmed by this topic "ministry" feeling as if it has to be some organized effort with a title to it. You put it perfect. I forget and thank you for reminding me that it is about giving of yourself, even in little ways, that helps or comforts someone else. It's the whole: "how do you act to others when no one is watching?"

Ellie said...

Were in sc are you? I stumbled across your blog because a similar post I found in a search about advent. Your blog s lovely, I look forward to reading more.

Rain San Martin said...

If only women at our churches would apply this mentality to others within their congregation. So many long to have someone simply ask them: "What are your interests?" I am amazed by how rare it to ask questions, taking a moment to get to know someone. And so we go on "in silent desperation". All we can do is hope to be that person who asks questions. Who takes the initiative.