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Every Sunday is Mothering Sunday 


Author Fiona Lloyd offers thoughts on how your church can intentionally welcome mums of young children, not just for one day, but all year round 


It’s that special time of year again, when mums up and down the country can look forward to soggy toast and a cup of lukewarm tea in bed. If they’re particularly lucky, this will later be followed by a meal out at the local carvery (where it appears that everyone else in a five-mile radius has had the same idea).
While it’s entirely appropriate to celebrate motherhood, there’s a danger that the whole day gets painted in a glossy sentimentality which fails to depict the messy reality many of us know. We labour under the misapprehension that everyone else knows what they’re doing and that – if we could just find the instruction manual – our kids would eat their vegetables, potty-train in a day and sleep through the night, too.
Being a parent can be absolutely amazing – there’s nothing quite like that first smile! – but sometimes it can be unbelievably tough. When my children were small, it often seemed like I was trying to join in with an elaborate dance where I was the only one who didn’t know the steps: I felt I was continually doing things the wrong way. By the time the third one came along, I had learned to be a little more forgiving of myself, but it still didn’t take much to tip me into a spiral of anxiety about whether I was making a complete hash of this mothering game.

Social media can compound these issues, as countless images of distant friends’ seemingly perfect children and ideal lives make mums feel inadequate and insecure. And keeping things in perspective when you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep for the last six months is hard!
There’s a real opportunity here for churches to be places where young mums, often struggling with feeling vulnerable, can be intentionally made welcome. My mother once told me that when I was a tiny baby she took me to visit my grandparents’ church. One of the first comments she heard as she pushed the pram in through the door was, ‘I hope that baby’s not going to cry.’ I suspect that the church generally has learned to be much more inclusive of children and families since then.
However, at the risk of stating the obvious, welcoming mums and their children – of whatever age – into church should be a year-round commitment, and not just a once-a-year special. A wilted daffodil handed out during the children’s time on Mother’s Day doesn’t really help if you know that the following week you’ll get disapproving glances when your child won’t sit still. Nor will the extra chocolate biscuit after the service be much comfort at three o’clock the following morning when you’re sobbing in desperation because your child won’t sleep and you have no idea why not.

So, I’d like to offer a few thoughts in the run-up to Mothers’ Day on where we might collectively improve.
Churches that are family-friendly will seek to assist parents in practical ways by having appropriate toys and books available, as well as easily accessible toilets, preferably with changing facilities. Door stewards will smile rather than frown when a harassed mum stumbles in late with a snotty child hanging from each arm, and will ensure they can find somewhere to sit (as well a space to park the pram!).
As far as possible, churches should resist putting the onus on parents to staff the crèche and Sunday school. When infants are dedicated, the whole congregation promises to support parents in teaching their children about Jesus – but it’s a promise that can easily be forgotten when it comes to staffing children’s activities. Taking responsibility for the spiritual development of children in the church can be a big commitment, but offers a much-needed break to tired mums, as well as giving them the opportunity to spend a few precious minutes with God without interruptions.
Another way to help young mums feel accepted is by setting up mid-week groups to cater specifically for their needs. Mums and Tots’ groups give mothers and other carers a chance to socialise without having to worry about whether their children will sit still or not, and can also be an evangelistic opportunity in terms of bringing in other mums from the neighbourhood. A young mums’ Bible study group can also provide essential prayer and fellowship support in an informal atmosphere.
Ideally, this ethos of supporting mums should continue outside the church as well. When my children were small, someone from our fellowship would come round once a week and take my ironing basket home with her. It was only a small gesture, but it made such a difference to me: I could see someone cared. Practical help – such as offering to cook a meal for someone, or providing a shoulder to cry on – means young mums feel less isolated, and gives them room to express their struggles and vulnerabilities.
Galatians 6: 2 says: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.

When we seek to support parents in their role, we demonstrate the love of Jesus to a watching world.

Surely this is the ultimate Mothering Sunday message?

Image | Cristian Newman | Unsplash

Fiona Lloyd The Diary of a TryFiona Lloyd is the author of Diary of a (Trying to be Holy) Mum, published by Instant Apostle (ISBN 978-1-909728-78-3,RRP £8.99), available from Christian bookshops and online.

Fiona is a long-standing member of Lister Hill Baptist Church, Horsforth, Leeds



Baptist Times, 27/02/2018
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