Shepherd Mothers

A family is a lot like a church. After all, a mother has a little congregation at home, as my mother-in-law kindly pointed out to me long ago. “You have three in your congregation, three in your little Bible school.” It seemed like a pretty big congregation to me, but some of you mothers have two, three, and four times that number in yours.

Mothers of children, let me tell you something. You are like a pastor to your children. You must feed them like a good pastor does. You must know how each one is doing. Each and every one. You must make sure each child is receiving love and attention, that each feels loved as a special member of this family/congregation of yours.  You must see that each one is washed and clothed and fed. And you must be available at all hours to minister to these little or big ones. You may not ignore them or put them off. The way you love and teach them is showing them what God is like. You are teaching them about God, about His world and His Word, and you are teaching them who they are in the Big Story God is writing. This is momentous work.

A big family, like a big church, may need more pastors. But a big family doesn’t work like that. You are it. So you must ask God to give you plenty of grace and strength and help to shepherd this flock He has given you. The bigger the congregation, the bigger your duties. Learn to shoulder them. Getting help from the bigger kids may be great, but you can’t hand off your responsibilities to them; they are some of the sheep you are ministering to, not co-shepherds.

Of course, I am not excluding the father’s responsibility here. We can call him the chief shepherd in this little analogy of mine. My point here is that you mothers are the shepherds who are out in the field each day, tending these sheep of yours.  You are the teachers and pastors in your little (or big) Bible school. You must give an account of how the sheep are doing. You must tend them. You must care for each one.

Don’t take this lightly. Learn to be a good shepherd to your children. Read the Scriptures and take them to heart. Don’t compare your little flock with the other flocks. Compare your flock with what God wants from you, not from what you think will impress others. Are you being faithful with what He has given you? That is what counts.

God will give you all you need to finish what you have started. He has promised! And God bless you and your little or big congregation as you go.

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36 thoughts on “Shepherd Mothers

  1. Yes, thank you, Mrs. Wilson! I needed to hear that again, to be reminded of my duties and God’s promises and faithfulness.

  2. I love the picture of our children as our own little flocks. Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting a little “narrow” as a person, but I don’t think I could pull off mothering eight kids without voluntarily narrowing my focus. There isn’t time for any side projects for me at this time of my life and that’s okay by me. My kids don’t care if I don’t have any hobbies. They really need all my attention to thrive.

  3. Nancy,
    I remember you saying this at your talk in AL. It stuck with me. I love this post. I am filing it and will be forwarding it to the young moms that I work with, too.
    Thank you for your wise words. A right perspective makes all the difference in difficult moments on trying days.
    Blessings to you,
    Jo

  4. Thank you for this post! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I need to see each of our 7 children as indviduals vs one unit.

    (Please pass my thanks to your daughter Rachel for the book “Loving the Little Years.” We’ve been in the trenches for awhile & it was good to reminded to ejoy it!)

  5. Nancy,
    You know, it’s funny how things come across your path at just the right time. “God’s timing”. This post was just that for me. Thank you. As our 7th blessing is on the way, I am reminded to seek God’s Grace, daily!
    Merry Christmas & Blessing in the New Year
    Jerene

  6. This part is so good: “Getting help from the bigger kids may be great, but you can’t hand off your responsibilities to them; they are some of the sheep you are ministering to, not co-shepherds.”

    My oldest couple of kids are adults now.. 21 and 24yo. My 21yo is still at home (which I love, btw:-}) and so it’s easy to fall into the practice of handing off responsibilities to her. Actually that is how it should be! But still I need to remember that I am still her shepherd-mother; still need to remember that my primary role is her teacher/mentor/guide. Thanks for the reminder?

  7. what about the mother’s who are doing it all alone – husbands are away, shift work –
    it’s impossible to wake up and be a nice mother I give up – God has abandoned me.

  8. Emma–You will do it, and God has not abandoned you! My husband works approximately 70 hours a week and we have seen many hardships. I have been at this for nearly 22 years with many children, and some not-typical children (we have adopted several children from difficult situations at older ages, and I also have a foster child w/a horrific case that never seems to end). Little money, and little help. God has been good.. more good than I can express to you. Please know that whatever your situation, you can run to Christ and he will show you and help you. I have felt hopeless at times myself. Sometimes our prayers are groanings but He knows and He helps–draw near to Him and he will draw near to you. I remind myself often that “God has set the boundaries..”.. HE determines when the hardest things will end.. and He is good (focus on his **attributes** and THEN be comforted that he is in control). There are seasons.. this season will not be forever. He will send times of refreshing. Don’t compare yourself w/any other flocks, as Nancy advised in this article. A mom at home w/less help or input from a husband is not in the same position as a mother who has a husband working 9 to 5 or w/more input. You cannot always do exactly what another mother can do, but remember.. God is the source of blessing and help and he meets those who are humble and broken in spirit, and lifts them up. Those who look to him are RADIANT and will NOT be ashamed, Psalms 34 says. You stick with him and glorify Him every day, and you will see His excellent hand. Your position and the skills you will learn by being in this hard position will make you an asset in a special way to the body of Christ..count on it, girl! You will be able to understand, comfort, and advise in ways that people need, in years to come.. if you WORK THIS hard stuff, GROWING through it, despite weakness, despite circumstances. Just go day to day and do “the next thing” as Elisabeth Elliot always said. Repent when you go wrong, trust Him when things are outside of your control, make good plans and structure your life w/your children in a way that keeps God’s priorities in tact. And just know.. He knows you are only dust but he LOVES you and will HELP you, and me! Do not for circumstances to change for hope.. look to God, despite your circumstances! I will pray for you tonight. Been there! xoxo

  9. Any suggestions for shepherding the very littlest ones? As a new mom, I am totally lost as to how to do this for my one little baby. I know, though, that I better figure this out now before the next one comes along.

    Also, what can I do to encourage my husband to shepherd me and the rest of his family? I don’t want to nag or harp on him, or in any way appear disrespectful. I honestly believe he wants to do this. When it comes up, he apologizes for not having family devotions, or not praying with me etc. but nothing ever changes.

  10. Bethany,
    All the natural things you do for your baby, anticipating his or her needs, changing those diapers, loving, snuggling, singing, and feeding translate into shepherding. As soon as your baby is old enough, you will start teaching him about Jesus, and when he grows up, he should not be able to remember a time when he didn’t love Jesus.
    Regarding your second question. I suggest that you keep praying for your husband. Ask him how you can pray for him. Respect him. Ask him questions. Be a blessing to him. You can read the Bible on your own, and you can read it to the kids as well. Be content. And then prepare yourself. Because your husband may suddenly decide to read or pray with the family, and often wives who have wanted spiritual leadership resist it once it comes. So pray that you will respond wisely and not correct him or offer suggestions. Just go with the flow.
    Hope this helps!
    Blessings,
    Nancy

  11. Fantastic post! I believe I was led to this today, and I have a question.

    I am a fairly new re-believer. I phrase it that way because I grew up in the church and have always believed, but recently discovered how the Lord truly wants me to be as a wife and mother. I am so grateful for this, and thirst for Him more and more daily.

    My problem is that my children are older and had already begun being swayed by the ways of the world. My husband also fell in love with “the old me” and is not close to the Lord at all. I’m unsure how to goon from here. The way I think I should live my life is very different from how I lived before.

    Is there a way to, I don’t know, ease them into this? I’m afraid of turning them off to the Lord and knowing Him. My children are used to watching tv shows that I don’t approve of now, and I’m ashamed to say, not reading the Bible or having family devotions. Some peoe will tell me that I’m the parent, and I should just make the changes and just do it and they’ll deal with it. I do not, however, want to drive them away from the Lord and His perfect peace. Any suggestions?

  12. Thanks so much for this reminder of something I already know but sometimes lose in the trenches with my kids. With a just-two year old and 8 month old, it is so easy to get bogged down in the teaching, the disciplining, the potty training, feeding, diapers, picking up toys, trying to minister to my husband – all the duties and pressures of the day. It is so easy to forget to keep my eyes on The Shepherd of our souls in the daily grind. Your blog always refocuses my vision just to where it should be.

  13. Thanks Anna,

    I keep re-reading your response, am so thankful
    For for your wise words. My husband worked 81hrs
    Over 9 days with overtime – just adjusting to this
    New roster and have 4 kids under 5
    Youngest being 6 weeks. Am tired and keep failing as a mum
    Feel wrecked no time to read
    My bible, feel ungodly about my actions letting my
    Frustrations and annoyance be known to
    My kids. Used to be a fun, relaxed mum now I am cranky.
    Keep praying for a new job for
    My husband past 11years, feel he is going to give up on God.

  14. Dear Emma,
    If you used to be a fun, relaxed mum, but now you’re a cranky mum, then something on the inside has changed. The outside circumstances bring out what’s on the inside. Here’s what I do when I am feeling cranky and out of fellowship. I confess the sins I know of, and then I ask God to show me if there is anything else (and there usually is). Often it boils down to discontent over something. If I consider that these circumstances, however difficult, are PERFECT for me, because God has ordained this very thing for MY soul’s good, it helps me to get back under His feet where I belong. When discontent rises in our souls, it sucks the sweetness out of everything. Get contentment. It may not change your circumstances, but it will bring joy back into them.
    Warmly,
    Nancy

  15. Thanks how do I get contentment when my husband is so unhappy
    Complains everyday about his new work and I believe it’s a fair complaint
    Sometimes he only gets 4 hrs sleep between shifts before he has to get up again.
    Joy is being sucked out of me.
    I have confessed my sins – but then everyday I’m just failing again and i find life so hard
    Can’t see any joyful times.

  16. Thank you Nancy! Yes, that is helpful…and a good reminder that only I can be responsible for my own spiritual growth. It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of working full time and caring for my family, and allow those circumstances to become an excuse for my own laziness & resulting discontent.

  17. I thank God for finding this blog. I’ve been encouraged so many times (this post included!) but not once have I felt bad over things that I shouldn’t feel bad over- that is extrabiblical things. Your words bring encouragement, teaching, and conviction according to Scripture.

    This specifically is a great reminder to me. My eldest is 4 1/2 and really starting to ask some good questions but also starting to struggle with things- like not wanting to go to church because he has to sit still. We try to share why we go to church and the importance of hearing the Scriptures but this causes me to think if there are other ways during the week to teach these important things. Thank you!

  18. Emma — Happiness, joy, contentment…these are things that I, too, find elusive. Here’s something I’ve been doing lately to help correct that: I got a notebook and wrote on one cover “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” As I read my Bible, I go until I can find something to rejoice or give thanks for. Sometimes it’s just something I know I should rejoice or give thanks for, but I’m not really feeling it. Then I write a brief prayer of praise and thanksgiving for it. My reading plan is just alternating between an OT book and an NT book. Sometimes I read just a verse or two, sometimes a chunk of chapters. Any plan would work…this is just most helpful to me. For now, I’m not even letting myself focus on other insights from the Word. Not because there aren’t other good and useful insights to be had, but because I’m so deficient in gratitude. It’s like taking megadoses of a vitamin to build up the body. The relative goodness of circumstances waxes and wanes, but God never changes. As long as He is glorious, as long as He is holy, as long as He is merciful, as long as He is love, there is more than sufficient cause for joy and grounds for contentment. If my attitude doesn’t reflect that, giving thanks for who He is and what He’s done for me and for all of His people throughout history is the best antidote.

  19. What a sweet post. I love the “Shepherd Mother” title. The power of a mother as Bible School teacher can never be underestimated – consider King Lemuel, the author of Proverbs 31 who starts that great chapter by saying that his utterance was inspired by what his mother taught him.

    How nice to stumple upon your lovely blog.

    Blessings!

  20. Kelly-
    I would go to your husband and children and with true humility, apologize for the way you were before, repent and ask their forgiveness, and then explain how the Word of God and the Holy Spirit have changed you and helped you to grow. Ask the kids’ forgiveness for having let them watch certain things that they really shouldn’t have. Go through the scriptures and show them what God says about such things. I would start small. Don’t expect too much from them right away, but keep living joyfully and obediently, and watch the Lord work in their lives. And then also, take one day a week to fast and pray for your family. You can still go about your daily business, but focus on prayer at each meal-time and any other break time you may have (driving and walking are great times to pray!). It may take time, but I believe God will work in their hearts! Continue to show LOVE and be understanding, after all, it took you this long to “get it”, right? :-)
    I hope this helps!
    Love in Him~ A Sister in Christ

  21. Dear Emma, Please encourage yourself in the Lord that this situation you find yourself in is temporary! You must also assess what is physical and what is Spiritual. You are tired (with a new baby) and need rest. Please reach out to your sisters in Christ and ask for help. Perhaps they can come hold the baby while you rest. Ask your church to help with meals. Spend any free time (haha) in prayer and Bible reading. Actually, you can do THAT with the helpers there holding the baby and playing with the others. Remember to tell yourself the truth, “God is ALWAYS good” “He never test us beyond what He enables us to endure” “His love and mercy are never failing” “Though we are faithless He remains faithful!” Take heart dear sister. Much Love, Laurie

  22. Thanks Valerie – that’s a good idea – am thankful for many things it’s not that it’s how do I adjust to this new routine of my husbands work and be a happy, fun mum? lost my joy asking God for joy..just get’s exhausting – have a sick child too.
    Thanks Laurie – I don’t think it’s temporary – that’s why I am cranky shift work overload of shifts back to back – is life now and it’s upsetting lost my husband to work and I am tired
    and annoyed at God! don’t understand his ways?? life seems painful, miserable and nofun it did but now it’s no fun … just tired and hard work… for what??
    Yes God is good I get that .. but why suffer for what??

  23. Maellen, thank you for the response. I have been praying for my family members and for the Lord to change me as well, and I’ve seen differences already. I will start the once a week fasting as well to focus my prayer. Again, thank you for the encouragement.

  24. Emma,

    OK, then focus the thanksgiving more tightly: give thanks for your husband, for your marriage, for the shift work, for the overwhelmedness, for the sick child, for the wisdom of God that is greater than yours, for the providence of God that is mysterious to you, for the reasons of God that are hidden from you, for the mercy of God that forgives your annoyance at Him, for the suffering that reveals your weakness of need of Him, for the call on your life to love and support your husband and care sacrificially for your children. You will not necessarily feel grateful, at least at first, but do it anyway. Write out a prayer to help focus your thoughts so your praying doesn’t devolve into whining. If you feel you can’t write your own, use this one:

    “Sovereign Lord, thank You for the hard providences that are as much Your kind provision as the easy ones. Thank You for the chastening that is proof that I am Your child, and for the peaceable fruit of righteousness that results from Your discipline. Thank You for the losses and longings that drive me to utter dependence on You. Thank You for ruling my life with omniscient fatherly wisdom rather than letting me rule my own life with blind childish whims. Thank You for not leaving me to my own wicked devices. And thank You that no matter how painful my circumstances might seem, I suffer only light and momentary affliction, for You do not treat me as my sins deserve. Thank You for instead providing the perfect sacrifice of Your Son my Savior Jesus Christ, who endured with joy the hardest of all providences when He bore on the cross the penalty for my transgressions. Thank You for continuing to conform me to His likeness as You grow in me a contented and cheerful submission to all Your holy will. Amen.”

    Fight this, Emma. Fight the anger and the self-deception. Fight for joy and contentment. Your strength will seem puny compared to the task, but fight it with all you’ve got and you will find that the Lord is fighting for your with His infinite strength. Read or listen to John Piper’s books When I Don’t Desire God (FREE download if you can get it today: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/free-audio-book-through-december-31) and Battling Unbelief. If the cost is an issue, let me know and I will send them to you.

    This battle is the story of my life, so I know how hard it is and how long it can take. Our circumstances are different, but I deeply identify with how you’re responding to them. And I exhort you to repentance because I know how sinful that response is. And I know how willing our kind Father is to forgive it!

    Praying for you…

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