Mother’s Day is a special day to honor mothers and grandmothers, but it also can be a painful day for many women.
Some women struggle to get pregnant or to carry children to term. Others may have lost children during the previous year. There are even women who are struggling with their roles as mothers, while some women (and men) have recently lost their own mothers. Since a representation of modern parenting goes way beyond the one-mother-one-father relationship, Mother’s and Father’s Day gets more complicated.
For those who already are experiencing pain, this day of celebration can make things worse. So, how can the church appropriately honor mothers while also respecting the feelings of other people in the congregation?
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Honor the variety of mothers
When planning a worship service to celebrate mothers, consider preparing a special sermon that incorporates Biblical examples of motherhood. The Bible is full of mothers, from the teenage mother, Mary, to the mother of James and John who petitioned Jesus for the privileged seats in Heaven. Use examples to not only express thanksgiving for mothers but also to remind your congregants that motherhood is just another way God expresses divine love for us.
Help people remember that a mother’s love is special but not perfect; however, God’s love never fails.
Purchase a Mother’s Day video or utilize tech-savvy volunteers to honor the many forms of mothering in the congregation.
Create a video in which you ask members of your church to recount a pleasant memory or an “I’m thankful for” statement about mothers or any women in their lives who have taken care of them. Try to include a variety of examples of mothering: biological mothers, foster mothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, children being raised by grandmothers, aunts or friends, Sunday school or public school teachers or community workers who serve as surrogate mothers, etc.
You also may want to consider incorporating children into the music portion of your worship. Children have a way of bringing joy to any event. Without an overt reference to mothers or Mother’s Day, children can honor mothers simply with a performance of “Jesus Loves Me” or “This Little Light of Mine.”
In addition, you can include children in a recitation or reenactment of a special poem in honor of mothers or honor them with a special prayer such as Amy Young’s Beyond the Surface of Mothering or a Mother’s Day litany.
Pronounce a special prayer
Don’t be afraid to recognize those who are grieving on Mother’s Day.
Losing a parent is painful at any age, and perhaps even more painful is losing a child. No parent ever expects to bury a child. That kind of pain can be magnified during a celebration of mothering.
In addition, some people are mourning a different kind of loss. They may feel the grief of infertility, abuse or abandonment. Some may be grieving a living but absent parent. Grief comes in many forms, but just knowing that you have not been forgotten can help ease the pain.
Perhaps the most respectful way of recognizing those who are struggling with loss is through a prayer that acknowledges the grief. Create your own or use a prepared prayer, such as this Mother’s Day prayer from Ministry Matters.
Thank God for mothers and children who have already gone before us, and pray a prayer of blessing on those who have been left behind. Ask for comfort and help to ease the hearts of those who are willing to love a child but whose arms are empty. Pray for healing for those who have been abused or abandoned by the very ones who should have loved them the most. Acknowledge the hurt, and pray for healing.
Encourage sensitivity in Sunday school
Oftentimes, Sunday school teachers incorporate Mother’s Day crafts and cards into their lessons in an effort to send children home with a special keepsake for Mom. However, given the assortment of family circumstances present in churches today, this too can become a complex endeavor. As Mother’s Day approaches, teachers as well as preachers should plan with sensitivity.
The best way to avoid a difficult situation is to know the students. Some children may have multiple mothers. Some may not have one at all. Some children may live with someone they don’t call “Mom.” Others may have lost a mom this year or may have a mother that is terminally ill or absent.
As best as you can, be familiar with the family situations of the children in your class, and always plan your activities (and your words) carefully. Talk about all the special women in their lives who help take care of them or teach them.
If you provide pre-printed cards, consider using more generic statements such as, “Have a blessed day!” or “Thank you for taking care of me!” Then you can specifically honor mothers or others by allowing the children to choose the manner of address such as “To Mom” or “To Aunt Susie” or “For Mrs. Halloway.”
Allow plenty of time and provide extra supplies, so that if a child seems torn between two or three different people, he or she can make multiple cards.
If a child recently lost a mother or can’t think of anyone to honor, don’t argue or try to convince him to think of someone. Encourage the child to know that it’s OK to make a card in memory of a loved one, or provide a name of someone in your church who would love to receive a card from a child. You might say, “I know someone who would love to have a card from you. Would you make a card for Miss Smith to remind her how much she is loved today?”
For very young children, you may want to create simple crafts or cards that the children can give to any woman who they love.
Whatever you do, don’t make the children feel awkward or left out because of their circumstances. Remind the children they are very loved, by God and by men and women in their lives, and that Mother’s Day is another day to honor those who help take care of us.
Despite the complexities that come with Mother’s Day, it is not a day that can or should be ignored. In fact, many people who might not otherwise be in church come at their mothers’ requests on this day.
With a little sensitivity and forethought, you can honor the mothers in your congregation while also making it a blessed day for everyone else as well.