I remember celebrating Mothers Day in Church. After a mother-themed sermon which lauded the joys and blessings of motherhood, the Pastor would invariably ask all the Mothers to stand. The congregation would then clap for them and give them a round of applause. At that point, if they were lucky, the kids would go around giving roses or some other flower to all the mothers who were standing. I’ll be listening to all the podcasts of todays sermons over the course of the week, and I would imagine that many services will bear such will similarities.
What needs to be kept in mind however, is that mothers day is a painful day for many in the church. It is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. There are many situations I can think of that are painful on Mother’s Day: couples who cannot have children and wrestle and weep over their infertility, those who have lost a child, single parents, those who have lost their mother, those who had an unloving mother or a strained relationship with her, single women who desire to have a family, women who are living post-abortion, mothers whose children have rebelled, couples whose adoptions have fallen through, couples who have experienced serial miscarriages, and many others.
I would suggest a few things. First, please avoid making a distinction between mothers and non-mothers in a physical way [as previously mentioned, having all the moms stand up or giving flowers to all the moms]. This is emotionally devastating to husbands and wives who cannot bear children, and may as well be a huge neon sign over their heads advertising their infertility. Pastors who are sensitive leaders will avoid this like the plague. Instead, it would be better to acknowledge the day and proceed to pray earnestly for the full range of conflicting emotions that are being experienced on that day, giving equal time and attention to the whole gamut.
This leads to the second thing, which is the importance of recognizing that this is a time of the year when it is crucially important for the Pastor to pastor all the people through that day, not just the mothers. As it were, it would be beneficial to acknowledge all who are joyful, all who are content, all who feel blessed, who are hurting, all who are grieving, all who are experiencing great sorrow. Russel Moore says that “Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.”I think that is one way among many that may be helpful.
John Piper says ” There are millions of single women, and many will stay single. There is a grace from God for that—a very special grace and for some even a calling. There are women who are single mothers and the marriage element in the calling I just described is painfully missing. Jesus Christ has a grace for that. There are women who are married and cannot, or, with their husbands, choose not, to have children. Jesus has a grace for that.” Again, I think having that sort of mindset and speaking that over the congregation would be a warm blanket- a balm for the soul for those anxious and grieving.
Mothers day is not a singular day of joy. This can be a very, very dark day in the lives of many couples. This can be a gut-wrenching, chest-heaving, profoundly painful day. Please be pastorally sensitive when you deliver your messages, and when you consider what Mother Days emphasis you will be delivering.