by Anna Maschmeyer
A ministry family seems to either exist in the assurance of their mission and longevity of their position or in a state of uncertainty and desire for transition. My ministry family recently took a leap and moved to a new church and city across the state. Transition means many things in the ministry, but for me it meant an opportunity to move in faith into untried territory.
For years I served the church as pastor and volunteer and taught full-time in a public high school. It was the most rewarding and exhausting life. The students are apathetic, curriculum is challenging to implement, assessments are labor intensive, actual learning is complex to assess, and federal and administrative regulation is exhausting. I loved teaching, but the all-encompassing nature of my pastor life and my teacher life took everything out of me.
Roughly three years ago, I began to pray for a better way to do life. I wanted to devote more time to our family and serve the church in a healthier capacity. Our family deserved more of me than it was getting. I intensely wanted to reserve the best of me for my girls, husband, and church. As I sought the Lord for a way to accomplish this, two things became clear. First, God spoke deeply into my heart that my calling was not about my career, but about being more like Him. I had preached this for years. Yet suddenly, it wasn’t just something to say. Jesus did not need my effort at school, my worries over the job, my time preparing lessons and grading; He needed my heart. My job was distracting me from giving Him my full attention. I was in essence serving two masters.
A year ago, we began thinking about transition to a new position. One of the things I wrote in my journal as we began to pray over the transition was, “Lord, I want to be free of the classroom.” I was not trying to be a stay-at-home-mom. As a driven, independent woman, I champion college and career ambition for my female students. So I looked for a position in a school, but out of the classroom. I thought just being out of the classroom would be enough.
When we relocated, the timing of the move meant teaching jobs were not available. As I’ve sought the Lord and explored options, more and more I was called to walk away from my career to be more like Jesus. Since August, I have started teaching our oldest to cook and do laundry. We finally have a regular chore schedule (something I never had time to put together before) for all three girls. My husband and I have been on a date every week since we’ve moved. I've written a 5-week Sunday School curriculum and taught it. The girls and I have had deep conversations about real things like politics, Jesus, and how to make friends. A couple of times my husband has asked, “Who are you?” because I am not falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM or cranky for no reason.
Don’t get me wrong, many of those things I listed above happened in small doses while I was teaching. My girls had chores; we did homework together; we read at night sometimes. My husband and I did date. Our family was not falling apart, but there wasn’t the structure or purpose in our home that I wanted. It was good, but not great. I had two masters constantly pulling me in different directions. The message is that there are good things we can do in our lives and there are God things. Our family was doing good things, but the God things were being squeezed out by exhaustion, stress, time, and mess. Although the budget is tight, I have not been this happy, nor this at peace, in a long time.
The lesson I am learning is that discerning His will is seldom about finding a place or a career, but it is always about becoming more like Him. Peace is there for us when we finally submit every area of ourselves, including our careers, to His Lordship. Our obedience even in the anxiety of transition makes us more like Jesus.
QUESTIONS: What have you learned in a ministry transition? About your faith? About yourself?