For many women, Mother’s Day is a celebration of a huge blessing: Their role as mom. But for others, it’s a painful reminder of past trauma like abuse, miscarriage, loss of a child, or infertility.
Depending on how your church celebrates motherhood, it can put stepmoms in the uncomfortable position of deciding—sometimes in front of their step kids—if they do or don’t have this role. And while being a mom is something people can be proud of, we shouldn’t celebrate it in ways that make singles feel inadequate, or that force every woman in your congregation to separate themselves into mothers and not-mothers.
There’s nothing wrong with honoring motherhood. And this isn’t about making sure everyone feels included in Mother’s Day. It’s about making sure we thoughtfully approach this holiday so that we don’t say or do things that cause people additional pain, and ensure the Church continues to be a sanctuary for the broken and the hurting.
Here are four ways your church can honor moms with empathy and compassion for women who aren’t.
1. Don’t make motherhood the epitome of womanhood
Being a mom is certainly something to celebrate. It’s a powerful opportunity for women to understand and model God’s love in nuanced ways, and it’s a relationship ripe with trials that can lead them to become beautiful reflections of Christ.
But when churches use superlatives like “Motherhood is the greatest calling,” or refer to it as a woman’s greatest opportunity to reflect Christ, it doesn’t just lift up moms. It positions every other aspiration, relationship, and calling as less than—instead of just different.
To the woman who struggles with infertility, it says, “Regardless of how whole-heartedly you follow Christ, you won’t live to your full potential until you conceive.”
To the woman who has miscarried or lost a child, it says, “That was your chance. Your opportunity to experience the role God created you for has passed.”
To the single woman, being surrounded by couples can already make them feel like an outsider. To equate womanhood and motherhood can make them feel that much farther removed from God’s will for them.
Whenever we celebrate individual roles and callings, we need to be sensitive about how we honor them, and what that communicates to people who don’t fit into that role. And remember, even if your church never says things like this, women are bombarded by these kinds of sentiments in our culture, especially in the days leading up to Mother’s Day.
Your church has an opportunity to offer women a more compassionate, empathetic message—one that recognizes that their most important role is as God’s beloved daughters.
Caring for women in your community is a simple and necessary ministry. Plus, it encourages healthy development and church growth over time. Other than loving vulnerable members of our communities well, there are a number of other ways churches can stave off decline and drive sustainable growth. Download the 7 Ways To Beat Church Decline today.
2. Acknowledge the diversity of motherhood
Motherhood takes many forms. If churches aren’t careful, they can exclude some moms by painting a too-narrow picture of motherhood. In your congregation, there are step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, and moms who have been estranged from their kids.
If we only talk about some idealized version of motherhood, it can make entire families feel like “They don’t get us.” And when churches do well-intentioned things like saying, “Could we have all the moms in the room stand up?” it asks some women to navigate a complex relationship on the spot: “Do I count? Will my friends and family think it’s weird if I stand up? I am a mom, aren’t I?”
Churches that want to celebrate Mother’s Day can make it a better experience for everyone by acknowledging that motherhood takes many forms.
3. Pray for those who are hurting
We can’t pretend like Mother’s Day is a cheery holiday for everyone. It’s not. If you’ve experienced mom-related trauma like abuse, addiction, mental health issues, abandonment, or death, this is a time when people may feel like they have to secretly grieve something they lost or never had. Church should be a place where even in the midst of joy, we acknowledge and grieve with those who are in pain—instead of being one more place they have to pretend their pain doesn’t exist.
By openly praying for people who struggle with motherhood or have been hurt by this relationship, you can use Mother’s Day to open the door to healing and position your church as a community where restoration happens.
4. Support those who need healing
Miscarriage, infertility, abuse, and even estrangement are all common enough that your church is probably full of people who have experienced them. But since these are incredibly uncomfortable, private situations, people often feel isolated. And if your church never acknowledges them or provides opportunities to help people heal, you’re asking them to face those traumas and bear their pain alone.
It might be worth creating a support group for women. Or starting some sort of mentorship program. What exactly it looks like depends on your congregation and who you have that could facilitate this support.
Whether you have support in place or not, your Mother’s Day service is a good opportunity to bring it up to the congregation, especially if you’re already taking a moment to pray for those who are hurting.
Additionally, you might consider using your church app to send women a survey, asking if they’d be interested in attending or helping to facilitate support groups. You could also use your app to invite women to join the group and connect digitally.
Celebrate motherhood while loving all the women in your church
You can make moms feel special without making other women feel inadequate. You can even give a sermon that talks about motherhood. The point isn’t to pretend like moms don’t exist. The point is to honor them without making other women feel like they don’t exist. The point is to make sure your church treats all the women in your congregation with compassion—compassion they may not find anywhere else on this holiday.
It’s the Church’s Biblical mandate to care for those who are suffering, and ministries do that really well. For women within our communities, it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate them through the pain they may feel on Mother’s Day. Especially in this age, it’s easier than ever before for people to feel neglected by their church, leave, and walk away from altogether, contributing to overall church decline. Love your women well. And be sure to download the 7 Ways To Beat Church Decline today.