At church growing up, they would always have all moms stand up and then ushers would walk around and give each mom a carnation. While I understand the heart behind this, there are several significant reasons this and other Mother’s Day observations / celebrations should not be done in church:
1. Many women have had miscarriages or are infertile.
The burden, shame, anger and envy that goes along with a woman not being able to get pregnant, or with a woman who has had a miscarriage, is something that as a man I cannot fully relate to. I do know these are very strong feelings though and things we need to be sensitive to in ministry. Having moms stand up and get flowers handed to them, or even having them be applauded, or any other type of special attention given to moms on Mother’s Day is like fiery salt in the wound to these women. Salt that they don’t need to experience at church. A reminder of what other women were given from God that they weren’t given. A reminder they don’t need rubbed in their faces.
2. People have been abused by their mothers.
A friend of mine will never attend church on Mother’s Day because they were sexually abused by their mom. Mother’s Day is the day the church tells everyone to be so thankful for their moms, as if everyone had a perfect mom given to them from God. Being reminded of a sexually abusive mom and all the scars and emotions this churns up is not something someone needs at church, let alone the theological mess it puts someone in wondering, “Why did God give other people good moms but not me?”
3. People whose mothers have died prematurely
“Why did God take my mom from me when he did and the way?”
4. Mothers whose children have died prematurely
Again, is the pain and emotional/spiritual upheaval caused by the forced reminder of their greatest loss in life worth it?
5. 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime
Picture that 1 in 3 women in your congregation have had an abortion and walk around with its shame, most of them having no one in their lives who even know about this. If you have all the moms stand, should they stand as well? Many of these women have repented of this, but still live with its reality.
6. Women who legally have had their children taken from them
How is the devastating pain inflicted to the above six individuals worth the nominal encouragement a flower will bring to a mom attending your church service?
I’m not bashing Mother’s Day or moms, I just don’t think it should be a part of a public church worship service meant to be a sanctuary for the hurt and broken. Let families honor their mothers at home and let the church take extra care of the hurting and vulnerable in their communities. The appreciation moms might feel from a carnation is not worth the devastation an infertile woman, abused child, or a woman who had her children taken away legally will feel from being reminded of motherhood on a day that is already almost unbearable. After all, a person decided to get out of bed and come into community with other followers of Christ this Sunday morning to exalt God, not motherhood. To find hope, not shame and pain. They should be able to worship the Lord without having their deepest wounds and pain rubbed in their faces. While the tradition of “honoring mothers” on Mother’s Day comes from a good place, it does much more harm than good and is a tradition that should be ended.
Lee Bergakker says
#4 and most importantly. The purpose of the gathered assembly is for corporate worship of God and testimony of who he is. Moms, Dads, Veterans, the United States, etc. should not take glory and attention that belongs to God.
I think that’s a great point.
Wendy Taylor says
AARRGGGGHHH. So the logic here is…we should never honor anyone because it will make someone somewhere uncomfortable or unhappy? I wonder if you or any of your church members post happy pictures of family members on FaceBook. I just read about a study that shows that this causes depression in others. Quit posting your kids happy pics on FaceBook! You are offending someone out there! Have you ever read the Kurt Vonnegut short story “Harrison Bergeron”? I highly recommend it to combat this kind of thinking. Where is there precedent for this way of thinking in the life of Christ? Jesus wants to save us from being offendable, not make us into people who have to have the world always conform to us to keep us from discomfort and offense. Deliver me from a mushy, self-righteously politically correct Christianity that cannot celebrate mothers at church! Seriously!
Hi Wendy, thanks for your comment. Making someone “uncomfortable” or “unhappy” is very different than bringing up the deepest and most painful emotions someone carries with them. Uncomfortable and unhappy are also different than bringing up some of the most difficult theological questions people about why God would cause suffering. The same would go with the words “discomfort” and “offense” you use. I never used any of those four words but am talking about things much deeper and more painful. I’m also not sure how someone being sexual abused by their mom or someone unable to have children has anything to do with being politically correct, mushy, or self-righteous.
I’m all for church being uncomfortable and offensive, but it has to be the gospel of Jesus and the commands of Scripture that make people uncomfortable or offended, not anything tertiary.
Posting things on Facebook is very different than doing something corporately in a corporate worship service. That’s not a helpful comparison.
Wendy Taylor says
This is Wendy Taylor again. I don’t know if you will see this since this conversation took place so long ago, and you have moved on to other pursuits possibly, but I feel I was strident and insensitive in my initial remarks, and God is leading me to follow up.
First I want to thank you for your strong, yet humble and loving reply to my knee-jerk reaction to your blog post. Kudos to you for showing God’s love to me and my unfiltered reaction.
Since posting this response, I have experienced the loss of a grandchild, and I feel God directing me to revisit this post. I am still not sure I agree that churches should unilaterally throw out honoring mothers on whatever day they choose, be it Mother’s Day or some other day, but I do feel strongly that however the honoring is done, sensitivity to the many who are suffering should also be part of the message. Maybe honoring is not quite the right word. Perhaps we should use the word “encourage” or “strengthen” instead of “honor.” Though motherhood is rewarding, it is also difficult often fraught with a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from guilt (lots of guilt) and a deep sense of failure to great joy, while our culture blissfully projects the attractive, SUV driving soccer mom who also happens to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Church culture has it’s own variation of the perfect homeschooling, children’s church director, Bible scholar mom. So the hurting and vulnerable in any church includes moms who feel their families do not measure up, who feel they are failing their children, and may wonder if they should have even had children. Probably the typical Mother’s Day Proverbs 31 message and/or carnation and gift book will not speak to any of this deeply, so that, I believe, can be chucked. But should the body of Christ take time to affirm godly motherhood and fatherhood? Yes. Even after my recent, heartbreaking loss, yes. I believe that the Church should affirm an institution that is being distorted into an unattainable caricature and at the same time vilified, mocked, and degraded. So, should we celebrate Mother’s Day in church? Maybe. Each church should discern carefully the will of God for their unique congregants. Maybe the answer is not to simply throw out Mother’s Day celebrations but to do them differently in a way that ministers to those who are suffering both in their losses and in their broken parenting.
As an added note, I want you to know that your ministry has provoked me to think and grow. Because of a mention in this blog, I have deepened my walk with God through the resources of the Transforming Center in a profound way. My church background would never have led me there. I am grateful to you for that. Thank you, Noah, for allowing God to use you. Because of your ministry, not only have I been impacted but also all of those that God has brought and will bring into my sphere of influence. On days that you may feel discouraged, know that the seeds you have planted for the Kingdom of God will continue to produce fruit long after you are gone. I appreciate you, my brother.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Wendy, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. And thank WordPress for sending me email notifications when I get a reply, even on an old post like this one! I fully accept your apology, it is very refreshing and uplifting. It’s been such a long time since I’ve written this post, I remember that the response to it (some by women in my own church) did a great work of maturing me as well. I was insensitive in how I wrote it. I wanted “shock and awe” I think, and was prideful in what I wrote, which made my point less effective. At our church, something really cool morphed from all of this. A group of women got together from all aspects of womanhood (some infertile, some had lost children to death, others had them leave their faith or were on the outs with their parents, some had the picturesq family, etc.). One of our pastors found a really powerful mother’s day prayer and this team of women adapted it. It makes me cry every year they read it! It’s a beautiful balance of the celebration and the pain that comes along with this topic, and how God is glorified throughout. So please accept my apology for not being as tactful as I should have been in my first post, and thank God that he isn’t through with any of us!
And I’m so sorry to hear about your grandchild. I can’t imagine that pain. Thank you for sharing that with me.
I’m delighted to hear that you have discovered the resources from the Transforming Center! God has used Ruth and her team in such profound ways in my life. My church background would never have led me there either, so I’m so thankful God did!
And I really appreciate the encouragement regarding my writing. It’s easy to want to give up sometimes — long story there 🙂 Just know the encouragement is really helpful and a great reminder to me. Thanks again Wendy, your comment has really blessed me.
Wendy, well said!!!
I could not agree with you more.
Lady, look, if you want to be celebrated that is for YOUR KIDS to do outside the church!
I get your points but don’t necessarily agree. What about when we honor our pastors and thank them for their work…..I am sure you could say it it too hard for some people because maybe they had an abusive pastor. I don’t think tip toeing around every issue that cause mixed feelings or pain is the way to go about it…..same could be said of any and every sermon…might make someone sad and someone else angry. Who know.
Dear Anonymous, thank you for your comment. My reply to Wendy might be helpful. I’m not opposed to making people angry in church, but that has to be from a gospel or biblical message, i.e. that person is angry because they disagree with something God says in His word. That’s different than being sensitive to people who have been abused or who have deep struggles with infertility. No one who can’t get pregnant would disagree with what I wrote, I can guarantee that. Your comparison of honoring our pastors and thanking them is not comparable to mothers because a pastor is the overseer of the congregation that is thanking them; that is something directly related to the life of that congregation thus is appropriate within a corporate worship setting. Whereas a mom is not the mother of an entire church. If the current pastor of a church was abusing people within the church and the congregation went to honor that pastor, then I would agree with your analogy.
Wendy and Anonymous, my assumption, which may be wrong, is that you have not experienced any of these 3 things. The heart of women who want to be mothers and can’t during a mothers day service is wounded, very deeply. It is a sorrow that unless you have experienced it or someone very close to you has experienced you will never get.
The day is hard enough, why would you want to wound a sister in Christ like that so the mothers can get flowers? Is it fair for the mothers to not get flowers, probably not. But it is also not fair that the woman that desperately wants to be a mother can’t/isn’t.
Thank you for sharing MVD. I assume you are a woman by what you wrote and I really appreciate your sharing and being vulnerable. To be honest, I don’t think it’s unfair for a mom to not get a flower on Mother’s Day at church. I don’t think those two things need to be paired or should be expected to be paired, especially when it can do so much damage to others in the congregation. The small niceness of one flower doesn’t even compare with the deep wounds we are talking about here.
Noah, I can see how you would get that from my post. I am actually married to a woman who’s heart gets wounded by Mother’s Day services every year. It is not worth it for us to go to church on that Sunday. Thank you for this post and your view.
I hear ya, thanks for chiming in MVD, it’s very helpful. Take care of your wife this Sunday! 🙂
This is probably another blog post in itself, and one that I should write, but Mother’s Day is also a struggle for the post abortive woman.
that is a great point. i don’t think most people grasp the depth of this connection. i know i didn’t begin to (and still don’t fully) until my wife had a miscarriage. there’s something very unique about the mother / mother’s day connection that is different than any other, i.e. father’s day is not the same depth of emotion / connection of these losses
just added that one. I had no idea of the 1 in 3 women stat, that’s powerful. http://www.1in3campaign.org/en/
My son died at 35 weeks ON MOTHER’S DAY 2011. I understand the feeling that can go along with this “holiday”, but I don’t begrudge honoring other mothers in any manner.
Wow, I can’t even imagine. You are very strong Kristy. Thank you for sharing.
Mother’s day is so hard for me personally for a few reasons but here is the main reason. Always growing up I wanted nothing more than to be a Mother. But, unfortunately due to circumstances beyond my control, God had another plan. At 24, I had to have a total hysterectomy. It’s still hard when I get invited to a friends baby shower. I’m now 35 and my only sibling my sister has 3 boys so far. I love my sister to death but, every time I go to the hospital and see her newest baby. A part of me still dies inside everytime even though I am happy as can be for her. I always have to think, why did God not let me Be able to have at least one child. My nephews will only be the closest thing I personally will ever have to a child of my own.
Thank you so much for sharing so vulnerably. Your story is exactly why I think Mother’s Day services can be so detrimental to a congregation’s purpose. Thank you for opening up like this in order to help others understand how to be better members of a community together.
I have had 2 miscarriages and have lost a baby shortly after birth. I think it is important to recognize Mother’s Day in church. Christianity champions women where most religions degrade them. Everything in the world teaches our hearts that doing the mundane, faithful work of mothering is a waste of time, but the Word teaches that that hard task is incredibly worthwhile. Primarily my concern with your article is that it is a very self centered approach. Is celebrating good for me? How will this effect me? We all have mothers. If we cannot realize that Mother’s Day is meant to honor them, and not about us at all, I am concerned for all of us. Our generation has trouble seeing beyond ourselves already. For those of us for whom Mother’s Day bring pain, it can be a time to remember and yearn with creation for Christ to come again, and complete the redemption he promised he would complete.
If people insist on celebrating publicly (instead of privately) for an impersonal, probably shallow, pat on the back at the risk of rubbing salt in deep, personal wounds, I can only assume they suffer from a deep and selfish narcissism.
I don’t doubt the good intention of churches who publicly celebrate mother’s day, but I do doubt the good intention of people who would criticize you for your sensitivity.
Ezequiel T. Garcia III, Pastor says
I just came across this. As a pastor I understand the hurts that surround mothers. But not everyone has been effected by this. If a lady has hurts and concerns that reflect the Mothers Day theme they should not participate, respectfully. Exodus 20:12 King James Version (KJV)
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Reminds me to give honor to our parents, even so this is a command, I do not dismiss God or Jesus and honor the parent at a greater elevation. We thank God for mothers to honor them simply because God gave them to us. Everyone has different relationships with their parents some good and some bad. Understandable by all means. Love is key here. Celebrate God to honor him for our parents.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Pastor, thank you for your comment. Just remember that most ladies won’t share if they have hurts on this day. Also I think it’s a little harsh to say “they should not participate” when church is meant to be a place for the hurting.
And with the Exodus 20:12, it’s telling individuals to honor their own parents, not a church not honor all parents. We should teach people to honor their parents, yes! But that doesn’t mean biblically we as a church have to give public honor to parents.
Agreed. But one reason was left out… The pain felt by the rejected mother. The mother whose daughter hates her. The mother who’s heart is shattered. Becoming a mother has been the source of my greatest joy but also of my deepest pain. I don’t celebrate it – I haven’t for years. I’m pained with every TV commercial about “mom” and every ad that comes across Facebook saying “Happy Mother’s Day”. I haven’t gone to church on Mother’s day in many years. I love Jesus, but my choice to not attend church on that Sunday is out of self preservation. This year I’m going to do something to get my mind totally off of my loss — I’ll go to a movie or take a hike. But, if I dare to start thinking about her that familiar cloud will descend on me and I cannot go there again.
Noah Filipiak says
Thank you for sharing this Joan. My heart is breaking for you. I will lift you and your daughter up in prayer. You are so right on that being a huge omission from my article.
Bring Christ to the front of your service. Invite all to bring shame, to bring hurt, to bring their hidden longings to the cross and leave them there. Celebrate and honor all,
JESUS says that we can come to Him and He will give us rest. Allow for this day, to bring all that pain and shame, and hurt and be healed by Christ. There is power in the blood of Jesus.
It is a hard day for many. Honor and have other children hand out carnations to all women who are there. As a mom, I often feel my work goes unseen, and to be among other struggling mom’s in church is important to me. It is something I grew up with, and church must become where we can lay all our burdens down.
. Mothers and children already have restaurants, malls, TV, parks, spas, and homes in which to celebrate. Do they really need another glorification in church when the effects are devastating to many? Many avoid church on Mother’s Day when they need God the most. I think it is extremely selfish to insist on a church celebration of Mother’s Day. I can’t imagine Christ inflicting this kind of pain on so many women.