Mums in Leadership

It’s easy to subscribe to a “one-size-fits-all” mentality when it comes to navigating a life of parenthood. It’s also easy to watch from afar and compare ourselves with others.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my short time as a mother thus far, it’s that there are many ways to the same outcome without straying too far from the main priorities.

In this section, I wish to explore how a number of different parents have/are finding their way along this path in relation to leadership.

I hope that we can learn from one another without comparison and celebrate our different expressions of motherhood.


I have sat down to write this post multiple times now and always been unable to finish it because honestly there seems to be an exhaustive list of reasons as to why mums make great leaders. Therefore, I have decided to start an ongoing conversation on the topic rather than a complete one-off blog post.

I must stress at the start that I believe all people, regardless of title, age or background can make great leaders. I simply choose to write about mums in particular because, not only does it provide personal encouragement as I navigate early motherhood, but also mothers historically have been discounted in leadership by others or themselves due to a lack of confidence, knowledge or misplaced perspective as to what leadership is. Fortunately for me, I live in an age and culture where that mindset has shifted, but there is still work to be done.

Motherhood certainly presents many opportunities in which to be stretched, challenged and grown (all the mum’s sigh). Opportunities that enhance and enrich our character and therefore leadership qualities if we allow them. With that said, to kick-start the conversation, here are what I believe to be, two fundamental attributes of good leadership that mums have…

1. Influence

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

John C. Maxwell

Ultimately I believe that leadership is influence. John C. Maxwell is well known for his teaching on leadership, and the above quote sums up perfectly why a mum can make a great leader. When we realise that leadership isn’t dependent on having a platform or title, we are empowered to lead well in all situations in our everyday lives.

As Sienna’s mummy, I have one of the greatest responsibilities to influence her well; to lead her. The power of a mums influence can shape a child for life. More now than ever I am aware of my influence. How I treat Sienna and others, how I demonstrate integrity and curiosity, my attitude to life and my countenance, all have the ability to help set the foundation of her character. She is unique and wonderful, has her own personality and gifts, and will develop her own set of interests, but my influence can provide an environment in which these things can be nurtured. Will I encourage and praise or criticise and put down? Will I lead with love and faith or bitterness and fear? The answers to those questions will help to set the trajectory for her life. The impact I have, amongst others, will also reach beyond her as she develops her own sense of leadership and influence that emanates from her everyday life.

This daily practised influence will only sharpen any further leadership I am privileged to have, in any sphere of life, with or without title or platform.

Proverbs 22 v 6 NIV

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  

2 Timothy 1 v 5 NIV

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

2. Sacrifice

John 15 v 13 (NIV)

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Mum life is hard work, the hardest I’ve ever done, 24/7 responsibility. Sienna had to overcome many little hurdles in her first 6 weeks of life and she wasn’t the easy baby I had imagined sticking in a carrier and picking up from where I left off. 

Before Sienna arrived, I’d been leading a team at church alongside working, socialising, and running at 100mph, and going to the toilet on my own – luxury! (#mumstruggles). There is a freedom and independence that you have pre-kids that somewhat diminishes when you first become a parent. Now other mum’s may have easily embraced this change, but honestly, at the start, I struggled. I had to navigate this new responsibility of motherhood, relinquish control over my life, and lay aside many things that I had previously been involved in. Each mum’s sacrifice is different but equally significant. 

When you have a child, and in particular a baby, the needs of this little life become a priority. They can’t do much for themselves beyond their involuntary bodily functions, and even some of those have to be taken care of by someone else! When I look at Jesus, Who is, in my opinion, the greatest example of good leadership, His sacrifice was the greatest gift given to all and motivated by love, it changed history forever. As leaders, sometimes I think we get it the wrong way around when we look to those under our care only to do our bidding. Rather, motherhood reminds me that as I make sacrifices to love and value my child, to give her the best start in life, to focus on what I can give rather than get, the hope is that I will provide an environment in which she can flourish. As I encourage Sienna to be the best she can be, she will hopefully be empowered to in turn produce her best, and together as a family will be better and stronger and able to have more impact.

Motherhood is a labour of love. When I consider the scripture, 1 Corinthians 13, it strikes me that the description of love very much coincides with sacrifice. I particularly admire the statement in verse 8 which says, “Love NEVER fails” (emphasis added by me). To love is to sacrifice, but according to that statement, love has a 100% success rate. I am learning as a mother that the sacrifices I have made for Sienna, motivated by love, have the potential to have a far greater impact than perhaps the things I initially mourned letting go of. I continue to learn that leadership is in fact servanthood. 

I Corinthians 13 (NIV)

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There’s so much I feel I could write on both of these points as well as many more, but I look forward to exploring this topic further in the future and inviting others to add their perspectives. So, for now, I will leave it there. Hopefully, it has encouraged some and made others think. 

To be continued…

Join the conversation – what do you think?

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PART II

In the midst of the debate over equal pay for women, and varied opinions on the recent news that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pregnant, it is obvious the need to continue to reaffirm why mums and even women, in general, make great leaders. It is astounding to me that the potential and value of women is still questioned in many places around the world in 2018. However, that’s a larger topic to be explored another time.  

Continuing on from my previous post (see here), here are a few more attributes of leadership that I believe can be enhanced in motherhood…

3. Adaptability/flexibility

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

John C Maxwell

When I gave birth to Sienna, it was also the birth of a mother; me. Parenthood isn’t something you arrive at with experience and qualifications. Even those that have worked with babies, children and young people have to navigate the intertwining complexities of loving, teaching and providing for a small human who has their own personality, will and needs.

If we are to be the best we can be, adaptability and flexibility are key as we learn to be parents to an ever-growing child in an ever-changing environment.

For example, as soon as you feel like you’ve nailed some sort of routine with your baby, their nap changes! Or just when you feel like you’ve built a positive relationship with your child, puberty hits and suddenly there’s a whole new storm to navigate.

As parents and leaders we have to be ready and able to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that we find ourselves in, otherwise, we are susceptible to becoming overwhelmed, ignorant or insignificant.  

4. Perseverance

To persevere is a choice. For me giving up on my child is not an option. As a mother and a parent, I realise that the buck stops with me. No-one else is going to care for Sienna as much as Rich and I do. In spite of sleep deprivation, flu or anything else for that matter, I still get up in the middle of the night to attend to her needs. When your toddler is having a tantrum or your teenager a strop you still have to persevere in love, patience and discipline.

The perseverance built in motherhood can help re-ignite the tenacity to not give up in other areas of your life also. For me, I want to be someone that inspires Sienna and encourages her to be all that she can be, to go further than I have gone and do more than I have done. If I don’t demonstrate perseverance, how can I expect from her what I’m not willing to give myself? It’s a matter of integrity.

Leadership that lasts the distance requires perseverance. No tree springs up and bears fruit overnight. Likewise no team, business or pursuit fulfils its potential in an instant. Like a child, all these need continuous support, investment and nourishment in order to bear fruit.

5. Discipline

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh

It can be easy to feel like small tasks lack significance when faced with them on a day to day basis. Yet nothing of great worth ever just happened. Reaching long-term goals requires daily discipline.

Motherhood helps to reinforce or implement discipline and understand the consequences of a lack of it. For example, every day I have to wash and sterilise Sienna’s bottles, an often boring and mundane task. If they aren’t sterilised, however, there is an increased risk that bacteria will breed and have the potential to make her ill.

Consistency can be hard when it comes to disciplining a child. However, the risk of a lack of consistency in this area can have long-term negative consequences. For me, as a parent, it is important that I maintain discipline and consistency in the values that I wish to pass onto my daughter.

As a leader discipline is key to long-term success and credibility. Integrity is built upon discipline; a consistency of good character.

There you have it, three more reasons why I believe that mums can make great leaders. I’d love to know your thoughts and even experiences in relation to this topic. Will you join the conversation? 

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PART III

Priorities

As I continue to grow as a mum I realise there’s daily choices to make, battles to fight and things to learn. Within my choices, there are often multiple responses I could make dependent on how important I believe the value of the outcome is. For example, Sienna has started to hold onto the safety gate at the top of the stairs and shake it. When I’m trying to get things done and want her to be occupied it’s easy to let things slide, but this is not something I can afford to do that with. Apart from the obvious, immediate potential safety risk if she pulled too hard and the gate was compromised, there’s the ongoing safety risk as she gets older and stronger. Further to this is the greater issue of learning to listen to her parents and understanding the value of no and safe boundaries. Because there are often multiple decisions to make of varying significance, prioritising in preparation and on the spot are key to both good parenthood and leadership.

Efficiency

Simply put, as a mum you have more things to do now that you have a child and less time to do them. Therefore, as well as streamlining what you do, you have to become fast and efficient in the outworking of tasks. There’s a saying, “If you want something doing, ask a busy person”. It’s amazing how little time you waste when you can’t afford to waste it.

Teachability

If you want to do a good job in any area of life, teachability is a must. As a mum, you’re forever learning new things as your child learns new things. New nap times, new tantrums, new questions, maths homework, boundaries, new independence and opinions. Not only are you navigating new discoveries, but you’re also having to help them navigate new discoveries – puberty, disappointments, first loves (eek). Mums have to evolve just as leaders have to evolve in order to be able to respond to the ever-changing environment. Each child is different and whilst there are general practices and advice that can be adhered to, people aren’t a puzzle to be solved but rather living organisms to develop alongside.

Honesty

As a good leader, you can’t avoid confrontation, even if you believe it’s not a personal strength. It is the responsibility of a leader to address certain awkward situations. Confrontation must be done with honour and tact and the truth must be spoken in love. As a mum, we have to encourage our children in the right direction even when it’s uncomfortable. As parents we have to fiercely and unconditionally love our children which sometimes requires brutal truths. It could mean steering children away from bad choices, attitudes or company or it could be gently guiding them away from the pursuit of things that aren’t their strengths.

Honesty and clarity when giving praise are also important. Parents should be the greatest cheerleaders of their children and specificity in what they do well is as important as being specific on what they need to improve on.


Part IIII

Good leaders influence well, they inspire greatness in others, they believe in a better future and they pioneer into the unknown. Today as I was scrolling through my Instagram stories, I came across an incredible example of great leadership by a mother posted by a friend who is herself a great leader and mother to five children! She posted a tale about Thomas Edison and his mother that reads as follows:

One day, as a small child, Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her, “Mum, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me that only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”

His mother did just that until she fell ill and passed away.

Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

One day he was going through some of her things and found the folded letter that his old teacher had written to his Mother. He opened it… The message written on the letter read, “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” Edison became emotional reading it and later wrote in his diary, “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the century”

Source unknown

Thomas Edison was a famous American inventor, probably best known for creating the first electric light bulb. If you google the above story, there is speculation around whether it is based on fact or more allegorical in style. Some believe that there was actually a conversation between the teacher and mother rather than a note, but whatever the truth of this particular report, the message is still important, words have power and mums have influence.  

Fact or fiction, reading about the courage and tenacity of Thomas’s mother reminded me once again of the power of leadership within mums. What a responsibility we have as parents to lead and influence our children well. Mrs Edison was unwilling to settle for a negative diagnosis of her son’s abilities. Believing in his potential and motivated by a mother’s love, she decided to set about creating an environment in which she could forge a better future for Thomas than that prescribed by his teacher. I doubt she could have foreseen the scale of impact that her decision and effort would have. What a great example for us all, whatever title we hold, mother, father, grandparent, friend, neighbour, work colleague or stranger, we each have the power to encourage or discourage. It’s a sobering thought to think that because of the nurture, influence and leadership of his mother in his early years and the guiding of his potential, his and her legacy continue to this day. If you’re reading this with the help of an electrical light, you are sitting partly under the fruit of Mrs Edison’s labours. A leader in her own right. 

I am blessed with two lovely sisters-in-law, one is my brother’s wife and the other Rich’s sister. Both are people who you could comfortably introduce to anyone because not only are they lovely, both can also hold a conversation with pretty much anyone. Interestingly, however, Rhiannon, Rich’s sister, as a child of about 18 months old wasn’t correctly finishing the end of her words. The Health Visitor wanted to refer her to a speech therapist, believing there to be further issues with her communication. Her mother Amanda, refused. Amanda knew that this developmental phase wasn’t due to a lack of intelligence or understanding on Rhiannon’s part as she was using language appropriately. Amanda believed that Rhiannon would eventually get there in her own time as long as her and Andrew (her Dad) kept regularly speaking to her. Today Rhiannon is a Cambridge medical graduate who went on to become a GP and is now a pastor who teaches and preaches as part of her job. Although Amanda didn’t know what Rhiannon would become, she believed in her future and influenced her present to help ensure her greatest potential could be fulfilled. 

Whatever season we may find ourselves in and whatever influence we may have or however we view that influence, big or small, whether it’s over one person, ten or multitudes, we have the ability to make a difference for good. We have an opportunity to create change and to speak hope and life into desperate situations. Never doubt the importance of who you to someone and the power that your words hold. This post sits within the category of, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ but it’s really a message to anyone who is willing to love another and be brave enough to lead, even against the odds and at the risk of being misunderstood.

What legacy will we leave?

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (NIV)


Interview with Joanna Adeyinka – Wife, Mum, Presenter, Actress, Author and Children’s Entertainer, about being a mum and leading in her spheres of life.


CONVERSATIONS WITH…

In this mini-series entitled, “CONVERSATIONS WITH…”. I will ask various, “Mums in Leadership”, some questions relating to the why and the how behind what they do. Hopefully represented will be a broad scale of experience, whether from mums in full-time, part-time or voluntary positions. Together I believe we can glean some wisdom and encouragement from each other. 

November 2017

Meet: Stephanie Christine Maddox

Stephanie pictures!

Stephanie recently moved to London with husband Stephen and their two kids, Frankie Jane (7) and Maverick Crosby (4). The Maddox family relocated from America to become a part of the Hillsong London staff, and whilst Stephen works full time in the production department, Stephanie has taken the lead in settling the family into their new home and church here in the UK.

Previously in the States, Stephanie has had full-time and part-time roles within the life of the church, with and without children, on staff and voluntary, and is now navigating ministry from a different perspective here in London.

She has a passion for all things pastoral and loves to encourage and help people to move forward in their lives and with God.

Stephanie loves spending time with her family, listening to music, reading, making new friends and expressing herself through art.

We often travel to church together on Sundays, and we call this our “car connect”. Always up for a giggle and a chat, she is fast becoming a forever friend.

We did this interview in person whilst also looking after our kids, and fighting off GIANT daddy long legs! It’s fun navigating this mum life together!

Enjoy the nuggets of wisdom!


What do you love about being a mum?

“The fun side of it, they are hilarious and entertaining, and you’re never bored. Of course, there are challenges, but it’s so fun to watch their individual personalities develop. I love that, I love watching them grow into who they are, and see how they come up with their thoughts, dreams and goals, likes and dislikes etc…

I also love developing a relationship with them, and I love the thought that I’ve given birth to these two people who I feel will grow up to be great friends and companions in my life.

But the best part is knowing that I’m raising warriors for Jesus. I feel that’s the ultimate goal. It’s really about the kingdom, and I feel like we need more warriors that are in the fight for all of the souls out there who still need Jesus. That to me is at the core of what I love and the other stuff is a bonus.”  

What is ministry to you and what are your passions?

“Making the most of our time on earth, to get as many people as we can to know Jesus. Serving for the sake of bringing in as many lost people as we can.

As for my passions, since studying pastoral ministry, I’ve been seeking God about how this plays out in the bigger picture. Being able to help people with severe mental health issues, i.e. dissociative disorders etc.. and those who are sometimes the least reached, or offered the least hope in terms of complete healing is something that interests me.

I believe that there is healing beyond just managing people’s issues, and I feel that more recently the Lord has steered me more towards wanting to help people who have experienced trauma, and so I’m seeking the Lord in how to best do that. Initially, I thought the best route was to continue down the academic route but that door hasn’t yet been opened or seemed possible so I’m interested to see how that will pan out.”  

To give the readers a bit of context, what’s your background in church ministry?

“From the time I was in my early teens, I remember feeling called into doing some sort of ministry, although I probably wouldn’t have known or used that term. At the time, I wanted to help gothic kids or kids that found themselves on the outskirts of the “norm”.

Obviously, we do what’s in our hand to do, and so as a teenager, I served in kids’ ministry, so when I went to school for ministry I assumed that is what I would do, as that is all I had known. However, after one semester, I realised that wasn’t for me and so instead decided to do a double major in pastoral ministry and psychology.

Right after I graduated Stephen got a job in a church as a sound engineer after applying for many places. Funnily, Stephen had said that he never wanted to live in Missouri, and God in His humour sent us there! I worked a couple of different jobs in Missouri before eventually also joining the staff. At this church we learnt so much, they do things to a very high standard of excellence in all things, from processes to looking after people and putting on church, and we were there for over 11 years. It really helped to build our stamina and set the precedent for a life in full-time ministry. Some of the things that I was involved in there included helping to set up the college, I led the decor and atmosphere team for the women’s conferences initially, and then the whole church and then eventually became the assistant to one of the senior pastors.

When I had Frankie, I was doing the decor and atmosphere and I was still keen to work, and they were very flexible in allowing me to bring her to work etc.. but I felt that I wasn’t able to do either thing well, so I stepped down for a time. God then opened the door for me to be the pastor’s wife’s personal assistant in a voluntary capacity which I did for around 6 years. I learnt so much doing that as she was highly involved with the running of the Church. Eventually, she asked if I would come back onto staff as a ministry coordinator.

After each child was born I stepped down for about 8-10 weeks but I was always able to go back.”

So how did you manage with two kids to remain to be so involved at such a high level?

“For the most part, thankfully, we had childcare that the church offered, but I did also have some help from people around me. My sister-in-law, mother-in-law, college students, friends etc.. would all help. My mother-in-law was a huge help when it came to doing events, as both Stephen and I were so full on.”

How does ministry and being a mum look for you now being here in London? Has it changed at all?

“It’s changed quite a lot! There are obviously some challenges that come along with having an urban church, and not having our own building in central London, meaning the childcare works differently. The venue has restrictions regarding health and safety which means I can’t take the kids into the venue until a certain time, and only to certain places. In the US I could drop them at child care in our own building as soon as I got there if needed, and they also had the freedom to be with me in all areas.

Due to this, at the minute I don’t do a whole lot on a Sunday as Stephen leads production at the venue we attend, and therefore I need to look after the kids. That said, I have managed to help him a little in the mornings with some admin and also in building some relationships with the team etc..

During the week I’ve also just started to get involved with some other things in the life of the church, which I can work on whilst the kids are in the school, which I feel has been a blessing to be able to get involved in that way.”

What do you find are the challenges of juggling parenthood and ministry?

“I think it’s one of those things that if you’re looking for balance you are going to be sorely disappointed. Especially with children, just when you think you have a routine with which you’re comfortable, they change!

First of all, I think you have to know that you’re called, that it’s what you’re meant to do. When the challenges come, you can easily become frustrated if you don’t stay true to that conviction, but if you go into it knowing this is the life I was called to, then it brings great fulfilment, despite the ups and downs.

Time is the big challenge in ministry, so as it relates to parenting you have to discern how to handle that.

Comparison – It’s easy to look at others and think because they seem to be able to do this or that I should be able to do it etc.. but actually each season with a child is different, having a newborn and having a toddler are very different for example. Also, each kid and parent are different so it’s difficult to look at a one-size-fits-all approach. For me, I have to be in tune with the Spirit, so that I can say with conviction, “This is the season I’m in, this is the choice I’ve made”, and then be confident to walk that out, even when it looks different to other people in the same season.

I want my kids to see me laying it all down for ministry, but that can look different in different seasons. It’s good to be able to pick them up after church and school and bring them home and then get the house in order right now, but there’s also going to be a time of stretch for us all as what we do here grows and we will have to learn a new normal etc..

Thankfully the Lord is always faithful to us whatever we face. There’s the verse in the Message that mentions how He works gently and deeply within us (Ephesians 3 v 20-21), and I’ve always found that to be true through each new challenge and season. Even now, moving from the US to here, fortunately, He’s given us lots of time to process the change as we are learning that it’s going to be different and new.”

What are the highlights of being a mum in ministry?

“Taking the kids on the journey and having them be so comfortable in church that it feels like a second home.

Them seeing you give it your all.

It makes it easy to talk about Jesus and keep Him at the forefront of what we do, as it’s Dad’s job.

I see my obedience in ministry as having a direct correlation to their futures. Where they will live, where they will grow up, whom they will meet etc.. it’s all related to our obedience and it’s fun to see how God works all of that out.

In times when it gets difficult – for example, me considering going back to work here, I just remember that if we are called to this then God has it covered and it’s part of a legacy beyond ourselves.”

What are your parental survival tips?

“Know that you don’t know anything; embrace your ignorance. You have to own it to be able to fix it, you can’t educate yourself in an area that you don’t admit you need help in.

Embrace the season, and enjoy every season because they go so fast; suck the life out of every season so you that you don’t regret not having enjoyed it. When you become a mum, it can sometimes feel like – this is my life now – and I’ve lost some of myself and had to give some things up, and to a point you have, but in the greater perspective of life, if you live for 80 years and only get about 10 years of them being young before they become increasingly more independent, we should enjoy it.

Also, keep perspective, for example with discipline, discipline can be really hard – but I have to think long-term, as there’s no way in the world that when they get to 13, I want to be dealing with the effects of not having put discipline in place early on.”

There is some great advice there, do you have any practical day to day tips also?

“Always carry wipes!

Carry a change of clothes for them, in case of an accident or even a wet day at the park.

I always take them to the toilet before we leave anywhere.

I always have a snack on me because Maverick is “snack boy”.

Have toys, plasters, water with you when you go out; basically, you need to carry a Mary Poppins bag with you for a long time still, even after they are babies.”

If you could give your pre-kid self some advice what would it be?

“Relax! I’ve had to tell myself to chill out. My personal nature is to be a bit competitive and want to achieve high results. Whether or not they crawl at 6 months or 7 really doesn’t matter and there’s not a lot you can do about it anyway, so relax.

Kids do what you do in excess, and are the best accountability partners! For example, I noticed recently Frankie saying, “I know, I know,” and it really annoyed me, and then I realised that I was actually saying it too and she’d probably got it from me!”

Any final thoughts?

“High expectations in some things are good – I find if I expect more of Frankie and Mav than what people think is possible, then usually they rise to it, and even if they don’t quite reach it, they’ve probably still gone further than if I had lowered the bar. Children can do more than you think!

Invest the time now to show them that you are interested in the things they care about (even if it’s just dolls and dinosaurs!) so that as they get older and the stakes get higher, that relationship bank stays full.

But most of all, just enjoy the journey.”


October 2017

Meet: Rhiannon Beaumont

Rhiannon and Brooke

Rhiannon is on staff at The C3 Church in Cambridge as a pastor. She has oversight for the 0-30s age group, Connect (host team), The Journey Leadership Academy, and Young Adults which she co-leads with her husband Si. Also on the preaching team, it’s safe to say that her life is “full”. Rhiannon is mum to 2-year- old Brooke and has another baby on the way!

She also happens to be my sister – in – law by marriage but my friend by choice. I first met her over 10 years ago when we were both leading young adult connect groups. We had a BBQ (very Christian) at my house and she strategically, but not so discreetly, introduced me to her brother (Rich). The rest is history! 

We have laughed together, cried together, made up funny (or at least we thought so) sketches together, seen each other get married and have kids and continue to do life together, albeit in different cities. I may have also once abandoned her on stage during a tithe message, (oops).

Rhiannon is incredibly intelligent, (studied medicine at Cambridge – I remember her room was full of sticky notes!), a gifted preacher and teacher, has a strange passion for “Anne of Green Gables” (?) and has the ability to cry at pretty much anything! 

Her heart for people and the Church are a standout and I look forward to sharing her answers with you. 


What do you love about being a mum?

This sort of question immediately makes my heart swell but also feel overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to distil all that I feel about motherhood into a few lines. Is it even possible? Hey, I’m up for a challenge.

I think that the thing I love the most about being a mum, is watching my daughter’s personality and various giftings unfurl. I realise that Si and I, and everyone else involved in her life, are really just stewards and facilitators who help her find herself and of course God.

I think one of the things that have surprised and fascinated me, is how kids process
things. I’ve learned a lot about taking joy in the most simple and ridiculous of
things; like when Brooke decided to shove a doll up her shirt and pretend to be
pregnant, or the time she found my stilettos and tottered into the lounge pushing her
pram.

I’ve actually found being a mum pretty liberating. I know many women will feel the reverse and I can see why some might find it somewhat restrictive, especially practically, but I found a kind of freedom in being a mum. There’s an element of not caring what others think of you as you are prioritising your child, and what’s best for them. It somehow makes decisions about what’s really important easier.

Any funny moments you can share?

One of the funniest things Brooke said to me, was when I was trying to explain to her about how lovely it is to share your heart with Jesus. She just looked at me and replied, ‘Mummy, I’m not sharing my heart with Jesus, it’s mine!'”

What is ministry to you?

“Ministry to me is pretty simple, biblically it is us taking hold of the good works that
have been created in advance for us to do, and doing them.

We are all in ministry –working-mums, stay-at-home mums, church pastors, teachers, engineers, receptionists. All of us are in ministry, whatever our ‘job’ is. Sometimes we still operate under this secular/spiritual divide which is not something we see in the Bible. Everybody has a role to play, all of us have something to contribute to the Kingdom
and everything we do can have spiritual significance.

One of the saddest things I’ve observed is people trying to cram as much life in as
possible pre-kids and then hitting the cruise control, or even worse, the brake, when
kids do eventually happen. It’s like people say, “excuse me while I take a 10 year
gap from all that God has called me to do, there’s no way I can do it with kids
right?”

Now before you all shout and scream at me, I get it. I mean it is more effort to get to church with a toddler. It is more tricky to work out serving rotas and being on a team when you have to get a decent meal on the table (gone are the days of living off the same meal every night or too many cheeky take-aways). I want you to hear me when I say this, life does change with kids, especially young kids. You can’t continue some things exactly the way you did before, BUT, we are wrong to believe we need to side-step ministry while we raise our kids. I believe that kids are a gift from God, and if that’s the case, then they are as much part of our calling and ministry as anything else. By that logic, they should be part of our ministry.

God didn’t give them to us, for us to be ineffective in the Kingdom for years, He added
them to our lives, as a good thing to bring about a depth and effectiveness to our
calling.

Did you have any preconceptions about what parenthood and ministry would
be like?

I think I underestimated the new-born phase somewhat. I thought I’d be up and about in no time and I was, considering I had an emergency section, but I pushed myself way too hard and ended up back in the hospital pretty ill. That kind of shook me to be honest and made me re-evaluate my approach to things. Since then I have
tried to be much more flexible and work with God on His rhythm and timing rather
than my own, always impatient, ‘can we be done already?’, time frame.

What are some of the challenges of juggling a life in ministry and being a parent?

I think you can face a fair amount of judgement. Especially with other parents. I don’t
think this is unique to people who are involved in building the church. I think this is common to any parent who is juggling working and parenting.

I’ve had great role models from my parents, to be honest. They were involved in church planting when I was growing up and my Dad is still working as a church pastor. They are the hardest working people I’ve met.

Anyone who has ever started something from scratch will know how demanding it is. I don’t really know how they did it and managed to bring up two reasonably sorted kids ha! But, they just took me and my brother on the journey with them. We painted the churches with them, set up school halls, got involved in worship, leading Sunday Schools – all sorts of things.

The main thing was, that we were part of it. It felt like it was our church, not just theirs.

What are some of the highlights?

I think when you realise that raising your kid in the house of God is just totally normal
for them.

I love the “village” that raises our daughter. I find it humbling the kid’s pastor
that she has, the guy that lets her sing her worship song on stage when the auditorium is empty after services, the little juice she buys each week from our café,
the friends she has made, the way she dances somewhat chaotically to worship, and
raises her hand to worship. For my husband and I, it makes it all worthwhile.

What are your parent survival tips?

Don’t do it alone, we were never meant to. Surround your kid with people you love,
who will speak life into them. People who won’t look down on them because they are young, but will call out of them the things God has put in them.

I thank God that our church champions kids, that we believe they can hear from God, that they can do things for God and that God loves them.

Practically speaking, allow a crazy amount of time to get to church! I mean, literally,
three times what you needed when it was just you! In the early days, we would arrive ridiculously early to get Brooke fed and sorted so that we could get the most out of the service. It was a sacrifice on one level, but made all the difference on another.

If you could give your “pre-kid” self one piece of advice what would it be?

You’ll love being a mum, don’t worry about the fear of missing out. God is no man’s
debtor and He is way more passionate about your calling and your family than even
you are. Somehow He will weave it all together and make something out of the
strands of your life that is wonderfully coherent and will become increasingly more
intricate, more effective, and more powerful than you’ll ever realise.

Any final thoughts?

Don’t bail on your mission when kids come, they are intrinsic to your mission.


2017 Mother’s Day Video – Why Mums Make Great Leaders