Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How can a pastor and church reach out to Christian mothers

How can a pastor and church reach out to Christian mothers and help them rear their children to be Christ-followers?

1. Identify the needs. Talk to the mothers in your congregation. Find out how they specifically need help. Then bring together church staff and concerned adults, and organize programs to help meet those needs.

2. Provide biblically-based Sunday school classes. Choose spiritually mature and dedicated Sunday school teachers to teach your church's children. Train and equip them, and provide them with needed materials. Involve the parents in children's Sunday school programs by inviting them into the classrooms and organizing special events for parents and children to attend together. Put great emphasis on children and youth programs and keep them Christ-centered. A mom from Ohio writes: "I want my children to receive a strong Christian foundation at church. Mothers want theologically qualified Sunday school and Bible study teachers for their children." They want Christian teachers who are well-versed in Scripture and serious about Bible study, who love children and love teaching children, who have God-given spiritual gifts that enable and equip them to work with children, and who are both male and female. (This is especially true for the child who has no male authority/father figure in his or her everyday life.)

3. Preach family values from the pulpit. Teach moms and dads – in a practical, workable way – how to incorporate Sunday's sermon (as well as other Bible teaching materials) into the entire week so they may theologically train their children on a daily basis. "The Old Testament commands us not only to impress God's words on our hearts and souls," writes Chuck Colson in Answers to Your Kids Questions . "We're also told, 'Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.' In modern lingo, that might include when you are taking them to soccer practice, watching a video, or sharing a pizza together."

4. Be sensitive to single mothers. Make sure the single mom and her children feel included and welcomed to attend church-sponsored family activities. A mother often feels hesitant to join in activities organized for families when she is single or when her husband won't attend.

5. Teach men to be better dads. Hold church-sponsored classes and seminars to teach fathers how to provide spiritual leadership in their homes. Moms crave church-sponsored parenting classes that teach parents to become more astute Bible teachers to their children. Encourage fathers to spend time with their children. An Iowa mother writes:  "We wish our husbands would be home more, and be more emotionally present – in actions and words, not just in body – to us and the children. What else is more important than a man's wife and kids?"

6. Sponsor spiritual retreats for your church's women. Women are relational beings. Provide them church-sponsored opportunities for fellowship. When moms get together, they learn from each other. They also pray together and encourage one another in the difficult job of child-rearing.

7. Reach out to non-participating fathers in the church. Author David Murrow writes in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church that "at least one-fifth of married women regularly worship without their husbands." Women with non-believing husbands pray that someone in the church will visit him, present the Gospel, lead him to Christ, and mentor him in the faith. Women with non-participating Christian husbands pray that the pastor or church member will encourage him to become spiritually-active in the church and in his family.

A woman writes: "They call us 'church widows.' We are the women who come to church every week without husbands, and, because of a husband's interference, often without our children. Many of us, in our commonality, feel alone in our struggles.  We are often prevented, or discouraged, from teaching God's Word to our children. What should we do? Disregard our husband's desires not to teach them? Or teach the children behind his back? How can we keep from sharing our Christian beliefs with those we most love? How can we teach our children about morality, or integrity, or justice, or self-image without talking about God?"

8. Pray for and encourage mothers who must become the spiritual leaders in their homes. I received a long letter from Amanda*, a Christian mother married to Ralph*, an un-believing husband. Amanda admitted that she must single-handedly take all responsibility for her children's spiritual education and church involvement. "Not only does Ralph refuse to attend church," she writes, "but he openly (and loudly) balks at my church attendance. He also insists that I not 'indoctrinate' our children with my 'fairy tales' religion. He tells our sons that 'church is for wimps'! Pastor, I need your help!"

9. Encourage home Scripture study. Encourage church families to pray together during the week. If possible, provide them with theologically sound and "user-friendly" Bible studies they can do together at home.

10. Know that it takes a church to raise a child! The pastor can lead the entire church body to help Christian parents raise godly children by:

  • Praying regularly for the families.
  • Showing love and concern for the children.
  • Understanding, tolerating, forgiving, and accepting some normal "childish behavior" in worship services. 
  • Inviting young children into adult Sunday morning/evening worship services. (Many mothers feel that their children are often too quickly escorted out of the worship services and placed in child care during that important teaching time. They ask: "How will my children learn to function well in church if they don't have that worship opportunity at a young age?") 
  • Making worship services and sermons more "child-friendly" and welcoming to children. (Parents want their children to feel comfortable in the church, to look forward to worship and church activities, and to enjoy learning about God. "It is very important for young women and mothers to know that their children are being cared for, being taught the Word of God creatively, and are happy while at church," a Mississippi mother writes.
  • Reaching out to mothers in practical ways. Church members can provide hands-on ministry to unwed teen moms or first time, new mothers. They can organize food delivery to mothers who are ill, handicapped, or recovering from surgery, and visit/befriend those mothers who are newly divorced, abandoned by a spouse, or widowed. They can also offer to drive mothers and children to doctors' appointments if needed, teach new moms parenting skills, baby-sit children in a crisis time, or specifically help an aging grandmother who must raise her grandchildren full time. Enlist women in your church who have sensitive and compassionate hearts to reach out to your congregation's mothers and children. Mothers beg for Christian women – in "whatever role they can serve" (mother, grandmother, aunt, neighbor, church member, or teacher) to help them.

Christian mothers are begging for help with their fragile families. They want to know that their children's eternal souls will one day stand in Christ's presence for eternity. In these days of fragile families, high divorce rates, and dysfunctional homes, moms look to the pastor and church for help with the spiritual education of their children.  A Florida mother writes: "I see validating and encouraging mothers on child raising as a wide open mission field."

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