By Susan M. Clabaugh
Many churches use Mother’s Day to recognize and have special services to make the day extra special for moms and their families. There are good intentions behind this celebration, and mothers should be recognized and affirmed for the many sacrifices they make on behalf of their families.
While most might think of Mother’s Day as a happy occasion, some women—even mothers—don’t see it that way.
For some, it’s a rough day filled with heartache—a reminder of what was lost or never was.
I was reminded of this recently as I was answering security questions on my banking website. The choices I was given for one of the questions were questions related to my (non-existent) spouse or my (non-existent) children. The only question that didn’t assume marriage or parenthood was one about my father’s age when I was born.
For someone who has a deep longing to be married and have children, practices like these not only feel discriminatory, but painful.
Assuming everyone is married and has children is a common practice in our world—and especially in the church. Churches spend a lot of focus on ministering to families, which is a deep ministry need.
However, those of us who haven’t been blessed with marriage or children still need the support of the church.
For me, Mother’s Day is difficult because circumstances in my life won’t allow children. Other women may suffer because they have lost a child to death or miscarriage. Though I will never comprehend their pain I can only imagine it is most unbearable.
Then there are the mothers whose children have chosen a wrong, painful path or who just don’t want to talk to their mothers anymore. There are also women who’ve tried to have children and aren’t able, and there are adoptions that fail.
No matter a woman’s circumstances Mother’s Day there are some things the church can do to help ease the pain—things that let all women know they are cared and loved no matter their marital or parental status.
1. Acknowledge the pain.
If you observe Mother’s Day during your church service, go beyond recognizing mothers and the blessings they bring; simply acknowledge that this day can also be a painful day for some.
To those who have lost a child, those who are unable to have children, or have other painful circumstances—remind them they are loved and cared for by you and your church.
Pray and give thanks for the mothers, but for the grieving women as well.
2. Be inclusive of all women.
If you give out tokens—such as flowers or other simple gifts—to moms on Mother’s Day, consider giving to all women.
For example, one church I attended gave out carnations to all women on Mother’s Day—regardless of their motherhood status. Then they did as I said in my first suggestion during the service. It was a sweet time for everyone.
3. Don’t make the whole service about Mother’s Day.
This can be painful for many people, not just women. Many families have difficult relationships. It can be tricky to talk about mothers for an entire Sunday. For the adult or child who had (or has) an abusive or emotionally distant mother, hearing about how wonderful all mothers are can be uncomfortable, at best.
For others it may be something else. Perhaps they had a great mom, but they still have fresh grief over the fact she’s no longer on earth.
Continuing your current series or sermons, staying focused on what God has to say, and just mentioning Mother’s Day in the service, expressing gratitude for mothers—while also acknowledging any pain this man-made holiday may bring.
However you decide to address Mother’s Day in your church, prayerfully consider these suggestions. Have a chief end of reaching the people in your pews—regardless of how they view Mother’s Day.