I had ideas about kids, moms, and families in church based on my own growing up experience and what other moms had said. But once I had a little bundle of joy for myself, I found some new twists and turns to the reality of the kid-parent-church dynamic.
1. Moms (and parents in general) have a MUCH harder time connecting with others at church.
I’m a pastor’s wife. Before our little one, I never had any trouble connecting with people. Our house had a revolving door. We had plenty of room for people to be all over our lives. But once we had a little one with health issues that kept him from sleeping along with all the more normal things a child needs, my focus was just filled with him. I constantly came to church and felt (so sadly) like I almost hadn’t even been there. I was occupied with his crying during the service and then everyone would disappear before I got to talk to anyone or couldn’t quite connect with him upset in my arms, etc. I was amazed at how hard it felt to belong in church. I wasn’t able to serve the way I had before, worship, or connect with people and it left me feeling like it didn’t matter if I’d been there or not. I shared this with some other moms and they all were like “Yeah! duh!”
The people I did feel connected to took time to make an effort outside those harried few minutes at church. Texting, Facebook messages, or emails, and graciously letting me get back to them when I could, was the best way for me to connect. There were also people who took the time for our (on the shy side) son to get to know them and warm up to them, then they’d watch him after service and let me get a few minutes of fellowshipping in.
So if there are parents in your church that no one really knows, try to help them connect outside those few minutes in the foyer and get to know their kids a little to see if you can spell them for a few minutes to connect. Pray about some ways you can meet them where they are. It will bless them beyond words, I know from experience!
2. Moms can’t always serve in the children’s ministry.
It seemed like an age old expectation that if you have kids, you end up on a Sunday School rotation. There might be stages in a family’s growth where a mom can easily take that rotation opportunity, but between kids getting sick, having needs like teething, or potty training, she might just need to be available to her child/children and not a classroom full. So don’t make her feel bad about not being able to tend everyone’s child at the sake of her own. This is a great opportunity for some of those seasoned moms or grandmas in the congregation to step up.
3. Allow for church to not be a cookie-cutter-social experiment.
Parenting in decades past seemed to have a little less variety. Now, we’ve got kids allergic to everything under the sun. Parents who co-sleep and parents who sleep train. Parents who homeschool and parents who never in a million years would consider such an idea. And everybody’s got a passionate soapbox on how to best parent.
As a church family, I think it’s important that we make Scripture the focus of our conversations and our ministry to one another. So the Bible tells us we need to talk with our kids constantly about the Word. If you do that by unplugging the TV so you have more conversations in your home or if you do that by watching Theo videos together, it’s up to each family to figure out how to fulfill that direction. Scripture tells us to discipline our kids and it also instructs us to make sure not to exasperate our children. For each family how those principles are lived out will be different because each kid and parent is different.
So issues like nursing or formula, homeschool or public school, co-sleeping or sleep training, being a mom that comes into the nursery class or being the mom who drops her baby off, all those situations might have some Scriptural principle we can apply to them, but let’s have lots of grace and encouragement for one another as we do our best to raise our kids up in church. We are all different, and in a culture that pulls our kids and families in so many directions, let’s make our church interaction one that draws us into truths we need and truths that can unite us, rather than opinions that divide us.
4. Be extra mindful and prayerful of how you talk to the moms in your church that might have a special needs child or a season of intensity in her mothering.
It’s very hard to know how sensitive someone might be at a certain time. But the physical demands of early mothering or special needs mothering often leave a momma emotionally like wet cement. Words sink deep and kind of stay fixed in a heart that is exhausted. So go the extra mile to use your words as a balm. A passing comment that someone might not have turned over twice in their mind before it exited their lips could get turned over hundreds of times in a mom’s heart as she sorts out her worth and competency as a mother.
Allow the moms in your congregation to feel emotionally safe and supported by guarding them with considerate conversation. The most hurtful words that fell over that mothering-competency box in my heart were the most unpremeditated, quick words people said to me about my mothering or my child. It’s rather frightening to me how often I could speak thoughtlessly into someone else’s struggle. So as a church fellowship, really seek to encourage the mothers around you on a personal, conversational level.
5. Lastly, pray for the mommas!
Let her know the job she is doing is literally world changing and pray for her as she devotes her days to raising up the next generation. Here’s a set of Scripture Prayer Cards you can use personally or as a church/women’s ministry to pray over the mommas in your church.
April Motl is a pastor’s wife who loves to laugh, loves her man, loves to talk on the phone entirely too long and most of all, loves her Lord. Collaborating with the efforts of her husband Eric, the two of them share a ministry dedicated to bringing God’s Word into the everyday lives of married couples, men and women. April has been privileged through her own church and ministry outside her local body to share God's Word with women ranging in ages and stages, across denominations, and walks of life. April is a graduate from Southern California Seminary and has written for Just Between Us Magazine, Dayspring's (In)courage, and The Secret Place and also writes regularly for crosswalk.com, iBelieve.com and Women's Ministry Tools. For more information, visit Motl Ministries at: www.MotlMinistries.com.
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