When gathering for worship services, Mother’s Day has traditionally been the third-highest attending Sunday of the year, following Christmas and Easter.
While Father’s Day doesn’t make the top of the list, it’s safe to expect a few extra visitors that day. On these holidays, adult children often attend worship in deference to or in honor of their parents.
It only makes sense that churches acknowledge these special occasions in a way that honors the mothers and fathers in your community. Here are a few inclusive ideas to help your church celebrate the beauty of parenting.
Moms are sweet; dads are a treat
Serve coffee and doughnuts in the lobby of the church before the service for everyone to enjoy. If lingering COVID-19 restrictions prohibit serving open items, offer juice or water bottles and individually wrapped pastries to take on the go.
Set up a photo booth on your church lawn or inside the lobby. Ask those in your congregation to take pictures of themselves and their loved ones. Encourage them to post the pictures on social media with a tribute to someone they love. Ask them to tag your church or create a special hashtag. Of course, #BeUMC is always a good one.
Include a special element in worship
Include a song that is a tribute to motherhood or fatherhood. Have someone read a poem. If your church primarily uses male speakers, ask a female to speak on Mother’s Day.
Say a prayer of blessing over parents. Include a Father’s Day or Mother’s Day call to worship or Father’s Day litany, or preach a sermon on Biblical parenting attributes that everyone can model.
Talk about the history
Did you know that a Methodist woman named Ann Jarvis played a part in the creation of Mother’s Day? Were you aware that Grace Golden Clayton was the first person to ask her Methodist pastor to hold a Father’s Day?
Inform your congregation about the historical background of the days and what role these United Methodist women played in their history. Spend a few minutes honoring their efforts.
Collect a special offering
Instead of celebrating mothers and fathers with a cheap, throw-away gift, why not give a financial gift or take up a special offering for a local ministry that specifically helps women, men, or families? For example, there may be a nonprofit in your area that helps women escape abusive environments.
This is also the perfect time to encourage your members to participate in the #IGiveUMC for moms and #IGiveUMC for dads campaigns. These campaigns are an opportunity for them to honor their loved ones with a gift to the local church.
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Create a video honoring the actions of mothering and fathering. While everyone loves to hear children’s messages of love, mix it up with adult interviews. Pose questions in such a way as to be inclusive.
For example, instead of asking, “What is one thing you love most about your mother/father?” you may get better responses by asking, “Tell me about someone who helped care for you. What makes them special?”
You could also create a tribute to all the people in your church who help nurture others. Feature photos or videos of Sunday school teachers, nursery workers and hospitality personnel, with a message of gratitude at the end.
Think outside the box
Unfortunately, during these types of holidays, some people feel forgotten. Moms and dads don’t always have people in their lives to encourage or remind their children to do something special. Other times spouses may forget. A family may not have the money for a special celebration.
Do something a little unexpected. Ask volunteers to sign cards with appropriate but generic messages: “Happy Mother’s Day. You are loved.” “Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for being you.”
If your church has the funds for a small gift card or coupon for a treat, include one in each card. If your church is small, you may already know to whom you can give these gifts. If not, ask volunteers to look for people who appear left out. Place these in baskets on restroom counters or in the lobby with a sign that says, “Did you forget to honor someone?”
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are not only for parents. It’s a day for all people who nurture others. Whether you choose to go big or small, spend time honoring the people in your church who love and care for others.
Be mindful about people who are hurting
During the service, make a point to acknowledge that these days aren't always easy for people and that you're praying for those who may be struggling.
Tricia K. Brown is a Christian author and inspirational speaker. She shares stories of life, loss and laughter to encourage women to grow in their relationships with the Lord and each other. Her recent fiction release, “Seen, Heard, Beloved,” can be purchased on Amazon. For more information about her ministry and books, visit The Girls Get Together.