“In today’s service, we will be giving roses to the oldest mother and the youngest mother present.”
Ever done that, Pastor? I have.
Anything wrong with honoring motherhood in church? Absolutely not.
We might need to find new ways to do so, however.
I started pastoring in late 1962, not long after graduating from college. This means I led churches through the massive cultural shifts of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and down to 2004. I continue preaching at every opportunity, and am deeply involved in our churches. .
To say the ball game has changed forever would be the understatement of the year.
–My churches quit honoring the youngest mother when unwed teenagers began winning the roses.
–We began to reassess our practice of honoring the oldest mother when one 95-year-old told me she stayed home on Mother’s Day so a 94-year-old friend could receive the roses.
–We took another look at the practice of honoring the mother with the most children when it appeared we were rewarding poor parenting skills and laziness. (I will say no more about this, if you do not mind.)
–We gave a second thought to the entire process when some childless couples confessed they stayed home since the observance caused them so much pain.
–We gave a further consideration to the observance when a few members confided that they had deep hurts and permanent scars from ungodly, unloving mothers, and preferred to skip the day altogether.
What to do?
My first thought, pastor is: “Well, do something! Don’t continue rewarding people who should not be singled out as role models and hurting people who have done nothing to deserve it.”
There are no simple answers. But if these concerns matter to you the pastor–and surely a compassionate shepherd cares about his sheep–here is what I suggest….
Rather than issuing a blanket announcement on “how we will be doing things from now on,” and risk alienating some dear people who have loved the observance, consider pulling together a dozen of your finest women and ask them to advise you.
This group should be made up of grandmothers, new mothers, and everyone in between. Consider adding someone who was never able to have children and even a single adult or two. After all, they had mothers too, and presumably are in favor of honoring them.
Have the coffee pot on. And the tea bags available.
As the pastor, I would call the meeting to order and lay the problem/issues before them. Arrange the chairs so everyone faces everyone else and no one is in charge. I would emphasize that “we are not asking you to make the decisions; We’re asking you to give us your best thinking.”
Stick around for a few minutes, then tell them you will leave them alone for 15 minutes (no one in charge) and then return.
When you return, ask them to tell you what they’re thinking. Either make notes yourself, pastor, or have a friend doing so in the background somewhere.
If the issues become too involved and no recommendations appear likely, consider splitting the group into three smaller clusters, with each one assigned a specific question. For instance…
–“Group One, your question is: Should the church give roses to the oldest mother present? If not, what should we do?
–Group Two, your question is: Should we honor the youngest mother present? If not, what (if anything) should we do?
–Group Three, your question is: Should we stop the observance altogether? Or find a better way to do it?
It may be that the group will want to return in a few days after having time to think through the issues.
I’m guessing what you come up with will be more pleasing to everyone. And the members of your little task force will forever appreciate a pastor who listens.
You do, don’t you?