By Jennifer Anderson

Helen Lee: Missional Parenting

The words "missional" and "mom" aren't usually paired together.  As an InterVarsity alumna and author of The Missional Mom (Moody Publishers 2011), Helen has a passion for parenting that she wants to pass along to new moms and women looking to develop their lives as mothers.

“The idea of being missional became the missing link (in understanding motherhood) for me,” she said. “It means having an outward orientation to your life and reflecting a desire to be used by God for his purposes, to further his ongoing mission in the world.”

It was at Williams College in Massachusetts with InterVarsity’s Williams Christian Fellowship (WCF) that Helen began to grow in faith.  “The Lord challenged me the summer between my sophomore and junior years,” said Helen, “to reconsider my lifestyle and my Christian commitment.  I went to InterVarsity and never left again!” 

Helen’s involvement with InterVarsity was life changing.

“God used my experience with WCF to save me in more ways than one.  I will forever be grateful for InterVarsity’s influence. I would not be the same person without InterVarsity’s presence in my life. I will preach the virtues of inductive Bible study to my grave!”

Jack of all Trades

For two years following her 1990 graduation with a bioethics degree, Helen volunteered and was on staff with InterVarsity at her alma mater, finding opportunities to disciple people, lead, build relationships, and be mentored. In the following decade Helen returned to academia, earning a graduate degree in communications and theology, and an MBA. She also met and married Brian, was a Christian journalist, started a business, and worked in Christian publishing. Helen called herself a jack-of-all trades.

“And then the kids started coming!” she smiled. “God pretty clearly indicated that the time had come for us.”  Today she and Brian have three sons, ages eight and under.

Transition to Motherhood

Helen confessed that she didn’t feel ready to enter into parenthood; transitioning to motherhood presented a number of challenges.  She wrestled with questions like, “What am I supposed to do with my experiences and education that God had given me before I was a mom?”

She chose to approach motherhood with a both/and, rather than an all-or-nothing philosophy. “Throughout my years as a mother, I have continued my journey on a concurrent vocational path.  Doing so has been critical for me to maintain my sense of identity and balance.”

With the birth of her first son, Helen cofounded the Best Christian Workplaces Institute; and through the years, she has continued her writing career.

Writing led her to some clarity about motherhood and to her recently-released book.  “A few years ago, Leadership Journal asked me to do an article about trends in the missional church (“Missional Shift or Drift”, November 2008),” Helen recounted. “Researching the topic was my introduction into the missional church movement. The more I read and understood, the more I found myself resonating with all I was reading.”

The Missing Link

As The Missional Mom was being “birthed,” Helen believed the book’s theme would resonate with many women. It is filled with stories about missional moms.  “And,” she added, “a number of InterVarsity alum moms make an appearance in the book!”

“Our homes are not just havens for our own comfort, but the places in which we are training the next generation of Christians to be mission-minded. Our calling as mothers is critical yet never to be placed above God's primary mission to be God’s ambassadors in the world around us. However motherhood looks—whether you are in the workplace, in ministry, a stay at home mom, or some combination of these, you have a God-given mission.”

This InterVarsity alumna believes that there are missional opportunities all around—in children’s schools, our neighborhoods, the grocery store, the workplace, and through our church ministries.  “And of course, with our own children.”

Messaging Moms

What would Helen Lee tell new moms?

“Remember, your primary calling and mission does not change when you become a mother. You are still called first to a relationship with God and charged with pursuing the mission he has given to all his followers. Being a mom does not mean that you have to bury all your pieces of identity that defined you before becoming a mom. You might have to lessen the investment you make in those other areas, but I highly encourage you to make time to exercise your gifts and passions even after you become a mom.

For more on The Missional Mom, and to read an excerpt, go to: The Missional Mom.  Follow Helen on her blog at: