Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
For those of you who don’t know, it was about 15 months ago when I stepped down from my job in children’s ministries to go, what I call “all in” with Love Does That. And as I share that story with different people, I keep getting asked, “How did you know? How did you know to step down? How did you make that decision?”
And let me tell you, it was not easy.
I know a lot of you might be facing similar decisions—whether to step down from a job, whether to move, whether to pull your kids out of public school and homeschool them, whether to put your kids back in public school, whether to pursue a specific treatment for your illness.
There are so many situations that require us to make decisions. Some are big, some are small.
We talked specifically about discerning how to help a hurting friend back in episode 5, but today we’re looking at discernment as it relates to some of those bigger decisions we need to make.
And really, I’m just going to walk you through some of the prayers and practices I engaged with as I made this decision to leave my role in children’s ministries. Because there is no exact formula to follow here. It’s all about finding ways to connect with God and hearing what He has to say on the matter.
So let me explain where I was at when I felt called to make this decision.
I had been working part-time in children’s ministries at a church of about 120 people. This church was about 20 or 25 minutes from where we lived. This was a role I loved. I loved being with the kids each week and teaching them. I felt it was a good use of my gifts and skills. It worked well with my schedule of working part-time so I could also have time with my kids.
And at the time, Love Does That was just something I did on the side. I sold my Tear Bottles as sympathy gifts for those who were going through difficult times. I did some writing on the website, which offered some training in encouragement and care. And that’s just how it worked. I did both jobs—children’s ministries and Love Does That—in the couple of days a week that I worked.
As time went on, though, I felt this growing sense in me that I was supposed to go “all in” with Love Does That. I was supposed to pour my time, energy, and focus into that.
And let me tell you, I resisted for a while. I didn’t want to let anything go. I thought I could figure out how to make it work with both. I even went through a productivity course to make sure I could make the best use of my time. I really honed in on my work time to make sure I was getting done everything I needed to get done.
Yet still, I felt that sense inside of me. Go all in.
And I realized that to go all in meant I needed to step away from the children’s ministries role.
And guys, this was not easy. And so I started to list all of my concerns:
We would need to find a different church. Since this was a church we started attending because I worked there, we knew it would be hard for us to stay and not work there. It would have been different if we had already been attending and then I took on the role. But since it was a paid position and my job, it just felt like it would have been too hard to stay and not feel the pressure to fill the gap I left in children’s ministries.
We would need to find somewhere else to serve. Not only was this where I served at church, this is where my husband served, too. He loved teaching and interacting with the kiddos, and they loved him, too. It meant a lot to him to teach about Jesus and just be there for the kids.
How would our own kids respond to this change of work and change of church? It was a lot of change all at once, and it meant loss of their friendships, too, with the other kids at church. Where would they develop these godly friendships we so wanted for them?
We would need to figure out my loss of income. Because, let’s be honest, when you start a business, the first few years are heavy on the investing side. And I had already stepped down from being the office manager at the same church when I had my son, and so we were already feeling the loss of that income. Would we need to figure out the loss of this children’s ministries income, too?
Also, our church had experienced a couple of years of hardship and loss. Without going into all the details, someone who was very important and very loved in our church and community got cancer and she ended up passing away. It was hard. Our church was still grieving, in many ways.
Not only that, but the pandemic had just started, and so I wouldn’t have the chance to say goodbye to the families or the kids or the members of the church. I would, essentially, just disappear. And for someone who has experienced a teacher, a mentor, just disappearing, I didn’t want to put the kids through that.
As I started praying through this decision, I tried to pray with open hands. Whatever God led me to do, I wanted to do. Or, at least, I wanted to want what He wanted. Do you know what I mean?
So here are a few discernment practices I went through. It’s kind of messy, because discernment isn’t always this neat and orderly process. It’s back and forth, and asking this and asking that, and sometimes it takes a little while to figure out.
First, I brought the question before God in prayer regularly. God, what do You want me to do? Do You really want me to go “all in” with Love Does That? What does that even mean? I kept bringing my questions before Him to see what He had to say. And I would jot down phrases or ideas that I sensed from Him. “All in” was one of them. I just kept sensing “all in.”
One of the books that was really helpful to me during this time was Ruth Haley Barton’s Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups. And even though it is directed toward church leadership teams, there was a lot of practical things in there for me to try as I tried to discern this decision of whether or not to step down from children’s ministries.
For example, there is the need to actually clarify the question at hand. For me, that question really became, “What does ‘all in’ mean? What does that look like?” I knew Love Does That would be there one way or the other. I just didn’t know what it would look like, specifically in regard to children’s ministries. Would I be able to hold on to that, too?
Also, there was the prayer of indifference, which I kind of mentioned above. This is when you pray to be indifferent to the actual outcome of a decision. The only thing you care about is wanting what God wants. I wanted to be indifferent to the ultimate decision: would I stay in children’s ministries and Love Does That? Or would I step away from children’s ministries to focus exclusively on Love Does That?
I’ll be honest. It took time to come to this place of indifference. Change usually doesn’t come very easily, and this was a big change, not just for me, but for my entire family and, really, for the children’s ministries at the church. It impacted a lot of people. To come to a place of indifference meant that I was trusting God with all the pieces, all the people I cared about. Trusting that He knew what He was doing and He could handle the consequences of my stepping down if that’s what He called me to do.
Because, that was, indeed, what I sensed He was calling me to do. As I prayed, I felt that nudge to step away from children’s ministries.
Throughout this time, I asked my husband and some close friends to pray for me. I knew this was a big decision and I didn’t want to make it in a vacuum. I needed others who loved me and my family, and who wanted what God wanted for us. And so I briefly explained that I felt God was calling me to go “all in” with Love Does That, and how I thought that meant I would need to step down from children’s ministries, and would they please pray for me as I worked through this?
During this time of prayer, my husband and I received word of a bonus that he would get. A bonus that would help cover my loss of income if I did end up stepping down from children’s ministries. While this didn’t make the decision for me, it certainly helped ease some of my worries about finances.
At one point, I talked with my productivity instructor. Actually, I emailed her. A long email describing this decision I needed to make and what I felt God leading me to do and questions I had. And her response was basically, “Wow, I’ve never thought through a decision so much. If God is telling you to do it, you just need to do it and let Him worry about all the other things.”
You would think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? Just make the decision already. But I did one more thing.
I also got this from Ruth Haley Barton, and this was the idea to try on a decision for a few days. Essentially, you tell yourself you made the decision one way and go through a set period of time acting as if that was the case. And then you change and choose the other option and go through a set period of time acting as if that were the case.
And so I took a week and “tried on” the decision to step away from children’s ministries. I used my work time solely focused on stuff for Love Does That. I pretended I was no longer in children’s ministries. I tried to dream a little about what Love Does That might turn into.
And I felt so much peace with that.
There’s this idea in discernment of consolation and desolation. Consolation is that feeling of peace deep in your soul, and desolation is feeling uneasy about something. And when I did this exercise of trying on the decision, I truly did feel consolation—at peace—with it.
And so that’s how I decided. That’s how I discerned what God was leading me to do. And that’s how I stepped down from children’s ministries to go “all in” with Love Does That.
But, you guys, this doesn’t mean my decision making was completely over. I still had to announce it to everyone and follow through with my decision. It took so much for me to set up a meeting with the pastor and another leader from children’s ministries to tell them this. And while I was on the phone with the pastor, I was literally telling him through tears.
Even though I was at peace with the decision, it was still hard. It still required us to go through a sort of grieving process, to let go of that role, to let go of those relationships, to let go of control in what people were told and how they found out and what they would think of me. It was hard. But it was what God was calling me to do.
And ever since then, it has been the same thing on a smaller scale: constantly asking God what He wants this to be and what “all in” looks like right now.
I don’t know what decision you are bringing before God right now. I don’t know where you need discernment. But I do know that God wants to share His heart with you, that He has so much to share with you.
Next week, you’ll hear more about the practice of spiritual direction and how that can help you discern a big decision like this or even just learn to hear how God speaks to you in your own life. But for now, I just want to invite you to lift your question before Him, maybe try a few of these practices I went through, and see where He might be leading you to go.
Until next time…
- Episode 5: Discerning How to Help a Grieving Friend (www.lovedoesthat.org/5)
- Book: Pursuing God’s Will Together, by Ruth Haley Barton
Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. SHOP ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. SCHEDULE A SPIRITUAL DIRECTION DISCERNMENT CALL
Interested in spiritual direction? Schedule a complimentary Discernment Call where we’ll talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.