Are you serving from a full cup or an empty cup?
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:35-38 New Living Translation (NLT)
The work that every single moms’ support group leader is doing around this country is valuable, important, life-changing, critical, and………….potentially exhausting. The work of serving others’, looking outwards at the needs of those around us, and pouring into the lives of hurting individuals is fulfilling work as you answer the call on your life, but also high-risk work, as you recognize the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That said, pouring from an empty cup is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. Let’s call it “empty-cup ministry”.
Empty-cup ministry can cause us to be short-tempered, rude, bitter, angry and unsuccessful. It can cause us to throw in the towel too early. Whether we answer to wife, mom, student, employee, pastor, or a hundred other roles, a common theme among ministry leaders is wondering if we are making a difference in our world and how we can keep pushing through, when we’re running low on spiritual fuel. This is especially true of women, who are often makers of the world go ‘round with car pool duties, ministry, employment, friendships, and so much more. Too many ministries have fallen due to burn out and exhaustion.
Maybe you are in a great place right now and don’t feel burn-out could happen to you. Maybe you are new to single moms’ ministry and the excitement and fervor for this endeavor has you blinded to the dangers of not filling your spiritual cup on a regular basis. But this is a false presumption. Passion only takes you so far. It will fade and is often driven by emotion and other factors. In order to stay in this for the long haul, it is critical to guard yourself against empty-cup ministry. Consider the following:
1. Know your role.
When we understand that our role in life is not to be everything to everyone, we then understand that we do not have to fix the world or our kids or our coworkers. We are not in the business of fixing others. We are in the business of pointing people to the God who can. Our role in life is to continue to direct people to the Lord Jesus as their source of strength, courage, patience, and prayer answerer – not for us to be those things. It isn’t our job to answer every phone call, pay every bill for a needy single mom, or fix things. Yes, there are times when God moves on your heart to do certain additional things to serve. That’s important. However, it is very important to recognize that if you become others’ “source” then you are fulfilling a role that only God can, which will leave them and you empty and disappointed in the end.
This can be the hardest. As leaders, we are often driven, hard-working, and passionate. Single moms’ ministry keeps us up at night. The desire to see their children succeed burns within us, as we offer hope to those who many not otherwise have any. Efficiency and excellence are important to us. There is much work to be done. But we must rest. We must take time to simply sleep, sit on the sofa, and do nothing. It is vital to our effectiveness in ministry and relationships.
3. Set boundaries.
Whatever the boundaries are, stick to them. If you know that between 5pm-7pm, you have a sit-down meal with family at the dinner table, then don’t accept phone calls during that time. If you have decided that one Saturday a month will be used for a date night with your kiddos, protect that. When we set boundaries in our lives, it tells those we work with at our jobs, our friends, and our single moms that we value our rest enough to protect it. It is important that you find boundaries that work for you and your family and understand that for your own health, you need to stick to them. It is also a valuable lesson you are teaching to those you serve.
4. Stay spiritually healthy.
You cannot give when you do not receive. Stay in God’s word. Stay in prayer. Continue with regular church attendance. Stay in communion with the Lord. Pray without ceasing. All the things that have contributed to your Christian journey with the Lord are the things that will sustain that journey as you become an encouragement to others.
5. Accountability is healthy.
Your life should be structured in such a way that you are accountable to others in your life – your pastor, spouse, ministry leader, a mentor, etc. They see things that we sometimes can’t when we are knee-deep in midst of life. They offer perspective. They help to keep us safe. This is important in avoiding burn-out. Our accountability partners can sometimes see the things that are sucking life from us and the dangerously low spiritual cups we are working with, and they love us enough to tell us!
6. Sabbaticals are important.
Know when it is time for an extended rest. It isn’t always possible to do so immediately, but for some, it may be intentionally taking a 5- to 7-day rest from social media, work, and ministry responsibilities. Examples of extended rest can be summer breaks, holiday breaks, regular breaks each quarter or whatever works for you. This allows for a time of refreshing, extended family time, and perspective. The more well-rested you are, the more fervent you can come back to fulfill the call of single moms’ ministry on your life!
The Life of a Single Mom is a national, faith-based, nonprofit that exists to see that no single mom walks alone. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s support group in cities throughout the U.S. and beyond. We have a large array of books, curriculum, training materials, and online instructional videos to support ministry leaders who lead single moms. Our single mom programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, financially, and parentally through a number of projects including: Single Mom University, Single Moms Across America, the National TLSM Single Moms Conference, and a variety of programs throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com