Our theme this year is “The Life.” Today we explore that theme with…..
The Life of a Mom in Ministry
Sharon Kirkpatrick Felton has been the Minister to Youth and Students at Faith Baptist Church for a year and a half. She has over 25 years’ experience in student ministry having served in churches in Texas and Tennessee and on college campuses in Kentucky. She graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Psychology and from Southwestern Seminary with a Masters of Divinity with biblical languages. Sharon is passionate about advocating for others and working to ensure that all people experience justice and are free to live the life God has for them. She also loves to cheer for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and Texas Rangers! She is married to Dr. Keith Felton, and they have three children, Carter, Dakota, and Maya. Matthew 22:36-40 is the foundation for the way Sharon does life and ministry.
The life of a mom in ministry is complicated, fulfilling, chaotic and filled with joy! Seventeen years ago, when I was a campus minister and pregnant with my first child I had no idea the impact both of those roles would have on me as I tried to navigate them. Carter was born the week I had the biggest event of the year scheduled. I remember when my doctor told me his due date, I laughed and said, “No! That can’t be!” It was the first of many schedule and priority changes. In the first few years with one child I was fortunate to be able to take my son to work with me and I found a wonderful woman to care for him in her home when that was not possible. However, when kiddo number two came along, things became much more complicated. Traveling with two small ones was not as easy, juggling my schedule, my husband’s and the boys was challenging to say the least. While my husband was and is very hands on and supportive, involved, etc., all the things you want in a spouse, life was just hard. I soon realized my calling and ministry were changing. I remember standing in my son’s room, looking over his crib, and praying that God would show me how to do this work of raising young children and serving in a professional ministry capacity. I soon knew that, for me, one had to take priority and it was time to step away from my outside job. It was challenging, often gut wrenching and many times mind numbingly mundane. I knew that if God had called me to care for and nurture other people’s children, certainly he had called me to do at least the same for my own!
I chose to stay home with the boys for several years (my husband had done this during the first few years of Carter’s life.). It was an adjustment! I remember telling Keith that I would be ok, but I had been going 120 miles an hour and I had to get used to going 20. There were days I didn’t think I would make it. Too many episodes of Wonder Pets and Diego, goldfish, potty training and no adult conversation made the days drag at times. However, I can say that I managed to find a new normal, discovered the sheer joy of little faces discovering new things, a slower pace of life and a new ministry to my own kids.
I thought I was out of ministry but discovered that volunteering in the schools, caring for friends children, serving on boards and teaching my children how to be loving caring Christ-like people was a whole new avenue of ministry I hadn’t really thought of before I had children. I always knew that if God called me into ministry God would provide places to serve. Those places just haven’t always looked like what I initially imagined when I left seminary.
Much to my surprise, God was preparing me for the next stage of the journey, back to youth ministry! Circumstances brought me back to youth ministry, part time initially. I did not want to do it. Didn’t think I wanted to hang out with teenagers again, it had been so long, I felt I was out of touch and just really didn’t want to step back in to that world. After much persuasion, I realized God was opening a door, so I walked through. Youth ministry, ministry in general, was different now. I had patience I didn’t have before. I understood the need to incorporate parents and adults more intricately. I saw the bigger picture of challenging teenagers to become the adults who would eventually lead and change the world! My ministry to my children gave me a perspective I couldn’t possibly have had before! As my own children have grown, (I have three, 16, 13 and 9) the challenges are new and interesting, but the joy is immeasurable. I’m trying to find the balance of being my kid’s mom and youth minister without embarrassing them to death and giving them the space they need to grow into independent young adults. It’s fun to hear girls talk about their crushes on my sons, as I promise them that I am their youth minster and what they say stays between us, but grinning inside! It’s overwhelming to see my own kids grow and lead and serve God as I also see others growing and serving. I appreciate the challenges of parents and the importance of encouraging them along their journeys and making sure they know how unique and wonderful their children are as well. Balancing our own schedules is challenging, but it gets easier as my kids grow and become more independent. I feel as if God has continued to open doors and prepared me for each step of this journey. Melding motherhood and ministry has been the hardest and most rewarding aspect of my life and I know that God walks with me and prepares the way for each step we take together.