A few weeks ago, my friend Deanne passed away from her long battle with cancer. I never met Deanne in person, but we served together as group leaders in an online ministry.
When we first noticed the Facebook post from one of her daughters, informing her friends of Deanne’s leaving to be with Jesus, it hit us hard. Deanne was a special friend to all of us.
We have had a lot of volunteers pass through the ministry over the years. We’ve celebrated births and marriages and graduations. We’ve grieved over the death of friends and family members. But this is the first time we know of that we’ve lost one of our own.
I’m not a sad crier. I’m more likely to cry when I’m angry than when I am sad. So the tears did not come for me when I first heard the news. The tears came when I saw the comments on our team Facebook page from those that knew Deanne.
This sweet woman impacted so many women with her gracious words of encouragement and steady, faithful heart. She believed the best in people and loved unselfishly.
It made me wonder … did her family know the impact she had?
Did they know she often spoke (or wrote) the well-timed word of hope a weary mom needed? Or did they just see their own mom sitting behind a computer? Again.
Did they celebrate the lives that were changed because of the time Deanne dedicated to online ministry? Or were they resentful of that time not spent with them?
As we serve in online ministry, it is easy to compartmentalize what we do. We have an online life and a “real life” and sometimes we don’t mix the two. Our families don’t know and don’t understand what we do. They just know mom spends a lot of time working at her computer. Or sitting behind a closed door with a sign that says, “Mom’s Busy – Go Ask Dad.”
I know my own family sometimes feels that way. They get tired of me rushing home from a family dinner to finish a blog post. My sweet husband does the dishes almost every night while I write. I’m sure that gets a little old.
But let me tell you. Online life IS real life. The friendships we make are real. The people we touch are real. The problems they have are real. The impact we can make through spreading words of life and hope is real.
The difference is that often when we are serving in our church or another local ministry, our family has an opportunity to see what we are doing. They may hear a young mom thank you for rocking her baby in the nursery. They may see the Christmas pageant you spent hours organizing. They may go along with you as you deliver meals to a widow.
So I encourage you to take your family along with you in your online ministry. Leave a legacy of ministry that will outlast your physical presence. Share your successes and your struggles with them. If there is anything they can do to help, let them. My adult daughter recently started helping me with Do A New Thing. She said she likes seeing me do for other people what I’ve done to her for her whole life. (I’m not sure that was really meant as a compliment, but I am taking it as one ;))
When your family is engaged in your ministry and feels like they are a part of something special, that time you spend behind the computer screen and the closed door will be less of a barrier in your family relationships. Some things you can do to engage your family are:
- Make your ministry part of the normal family conversation at meal time. Ask their opinion on your blog post ideas. You’ll be surprised how even small children have deep thoughts about some of the tough questions in life.
- Allow them to use their gifts to help you. Ask your tech-savvy teens help for with your tech challenges. My son used what he knew from hours spent in online gaming to find and set up video screen capture software for the instructional videos I create.
- Honor some healthy boundaries around your ministry time. If you are setting time apart from your family, be focused and efficient during that time to make the sacrifice worth it. Then be all-in and present for your family.
- Ask how you can support them in their ministry. Even if their “ministry” at this season of life is to be the best co-worker he can be, or the best sixth grader or the best summer hamburger flipper … God has a purpose for where He has placed them just as He has one for your ministry. Make it a priority to support the things that are important to them.
I can’t guarantee there won’t be eye-rolling the next time you say, “Just one minute … let me finish typing this sentence.” But by involving your family in your ministry, you can be sure that one day, they will know that mom did something that mattered, and they were part of it.
What Deanne did mattered and left a legacy for the leaders who came after her. I hope her family feels a part of that legacy.