Church, Holidays (Other), Worship

7 Ways to Honor Mothers During Your Mother’s Day Worship Service

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

It’s nice to have a day set aside to recognize moms, be thankful for them, and appreciate them for all their hard work and everything they’ve done for us.

And if there’s anywhere motherhood should be honored, it’s in the church. Over and over, the Bible teaches us that motherhood is a high calling. A sacred trust. A solemn responsibility. No woman should ever be made to feel that she’s “just” a wife and mother. That’s the world’s perspective, not God’s.

So, pastors and women’s ministry leaders, how can the church best honor moms during the Mother’s Day worship service? Here are seven ways…

1.
Don’t

2.
No, seriously…don’t.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t make the sermon, songs, and prayers all about motherhood, and don’t do the typical “honoring of the mothers” hoo-hah that has become traditional in many churches during the Sunday worship service that coincides with Mother’s Day:

  • “Will all of our mothers please stand?” Congregation applauds. Sometimes a flower or other small gift is handed out to all the mothers standing.
  • Honoring of the youngest mother, or mother with the youngest baby present (“newest mother”) with a flower, gift, or corsage
  • Honoring of the oldest mother (strangely, I’ve never seen the mother with the oldest child present honored) with a flower, gift, or corsage
  • Honoring of the mother with the most children (or most children present) with a flower, gift, or corsage

Why? Because, though it might not be visible on the surface, when you do this, you open a Pandora’s Box of thoughts and emotions. And not all of those are godly or happy thoughts and emotions.

When you take people’s focus off worshiping God and put it on honoring people, what they’re going to be thinking about is their feelings toward the people being honored, and their feelings about themselves:

“That woman is the meanest old biddy in the church. She shouldn’t be getting honored for anything.”

“I have more children than she does, but some of mine live out of state. It’s not fair that she gets the corsage just because she guilted all of her kids – who don’t even go to church – into showing up today.”

“Us single women never get honored for anything.”

“I’d give anything to have a baby. Why them and not me, Lord?”

“This is excruciatingly embarrassing. Thanks for reminding me and the entire congregation that the reason I’m the youngest mother here is because I sinfully gave up my virginity at 14.”

Keep people focused on Jesus during the worship service. That’s where their focus is supposed to be anyway, and as an added bonus, you’ll avoid stirring up all of those often-ungodly thoughts and feelings.

3.
And especially don’t…

…do this thing that some churches have started doing of honoring all women on Mother’s Day. You think what you’re doing is preventing anybody’s feelings from getting hurt, but in many cases, you’re just pouring salt in the wound:

“Sorry you’ve been going through the agony of infertility for ten years. Here’s a piece of Christian kitsch for a consolation prize.”

“Here’s a carnation to highlight the fact that not only do you not have children, you’re in your forties and are still waiting for Mr. Right.”

“So you’re getting puked on, and pulled at, and you’re dealing with colic and temper tantrums and potty training every day, and your family budget is decimated and you’re operating on about three hours of sleep a night and you can’t even get five minutes alone in the bathroom? We’re going to take the woman sitting next to you who put her career first, has power, prestige, and position in the world, plenty of money in the bank, and all the “me time” she wants, and we’re going to honor her the same way we’re honoring you.”

That’s not how kind and loving churches mean it to come across, of course, but that’s how it can feel to the women being “honored,” nonetheless.

About thirty or so years ago, some well meaning person in kids’ sports came up with the idea of every team – win or lose, and every kid on every team- super jock or perpetual ball-dropper, getting a trophy at the end of the season so nobody’s feelings would get hurt.

It didn’t work. Those kids knew which teams had won the most games and lost the most games. They knew who the best players were and who always got sent out into deep, deep, deep right field (like I did). They knew who had earned the trophies and who had not. And when everybody got a trophy at the end of the season, it was a meaningless prize for the winners and feelings of shame for an undeserved award for the losers.

The women in your church know it’s Mother’s Day – a day for honoring mothers. And they know whether or not they are mothers and whether or not they’ve “earned,” so to speak, or qualified, for the honor you’re giving them.

If you really don’t want to hurt the feelings of women who aren’t mothers, keep everybody’s focus on Christ and His Word instead of on Mother’s Day.

4.
And along those same lines, don’t…

…reinforce narcissistic navel-gazing – the “it’s all about me and my feelings of worth / loss / sadness / fulfillment” that they’re already being fed by the truckload by the world and by pop-women’s “Bible” study.

Many women are already living life being led around by their noses by their feelings. They wear their feelings on their sleeves. They’re easily offended. They lash out at anyone who even inadvertently hurts their feelings. They demand that the sharp corners of the world be padded so their feelings won’t be hurt.

And if you’re doing the “honor all women” thing on Mother’s Day, I know you don’t mean to, but you’re subtly reinforcing that outlook and coddling any feelings of bitterness, discontentment, resentment, entitlement, and anger that are silently flying around the room. (“Please don’t freak out because the mothers all got a flower and you didn’t. Here, you can have a flower too.”)

Yes, the pain in the heart of a woman who has lost a child, has wayward children, has lost a mother, had an abusive mother, has been unable to conceive, or desperately wants to be married is deep and real. And it is absolutely and inarguably incumbent upon us as compassionate, caring, kind, and merciful followers of Christ to weep with those who weep in the midst of suffering.

But God also requires us to draw upon His strength, look past our own pain, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Just as it is good and right to comfort a friend who’s infertile or grieve with parents who have miscarried, it is also good and right for that friend and those parents to rejoice on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with those whom God has chosen to bless with children, or to celebrate with loved ones who have just announced a pregnancy. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, just like Jesus did.1

If you really want to honor all the women in your church, counter the worldliness, fleshliness, and selfishness many of them are imbibing. Teach them – all year round – that God’s Word is their authority, not their feelings. Drill down on the golden rule. Show them how to put others first. Help them learn how to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

5.
Don’t neglect…

…the ministry of the Word. What all Christians – mothers and non-mothers alike – need during the worship service is to have God’s Word proclaimed to them.

Now I know that some pastors will immediately respond, “But I’m going to be preaching the Word. I’m preaching on Naomi and Ruth / Mary / Hannah / Proverbs 31, etc.” And if you’re rightly dividing and expositing whatever that passage is, I’m not knocking that, but you’re the exception, not the rule.

Just some food for thought between you and the Lord as you consider your sermon on the Sunday of Mother’s Day…

  • Are you really rightly handling the Word, or is this basically a Hallmark homily or a sentimental eulogizing of mothers?
  • Are all of the Mother’s Day awards, songs, videos, testimonies, and so on cutting down on the sermon time so that you don’t have time to properly proclaim the Word?
  • Are you so focused on motherhood that you’re leaving out of the proclamation of God’s Word anyone who’s not a mother – men, children, childless couples, singles?
  • If your ladies aren’t yet well schooled in not being led by their feelings, and/or you’re of a mind not to hurt anyone’s feelings, is your motherhood-focused sermon going to hurt the feelings of women who aren’t mothers (and are you going to get an earful about it on Monday morning)?
  • Are your Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons accidentally falling into the pattern many have noted in recent years: mothers can do no wrong, and fathers can do no right, mothers are “saints,” and fathers are “sinners”?
  • If you’re typically an expository preacher and a motherhood-focused sermon deviates from the book you’re currently preaching through, are you deviating because God is leading you to do so? Or is this deviation being led by the calendar? Or by the thought that the women of your church will pitch a fit if you don’t focus on motherhood during the Mother’s Day sermon?
  • Do you realize that many doctrinally sound mothers prefer that you keep right on preaching through whatever book you’re currently in because they’re enjoying it and God is using it to grow them? I’m one of them, and I’ve heard from many others like me: “I don’t want to hear how great I am. I want to hear how great Christ is.”

6.
Don’t overlook…

…the fact that there are lots of ways and times you can honor and encourage mothers besides during the Mother’s Day worship service.

  • When you’re preaching through a book and come to a passage about mothering, go ahead lift up what the Word says about mothering. (That might sound a little contradictory to what I’ve already said, but preaching about motherhood on October 9 or July 31 is a lot less emotionally triggering than it is on Mother’s Day. Plus, there’s a good chance the passage isn’t exclusively about motherhood.)
  • Have a Mother’s Day potluck or picnic – everyone invited, of course – after the service where the dads and kids do all the set up, cooking, and clean up. (And have one for Father’s Day, too, with moms and kids serving!)
  • Host a parents’ night out from time to time to give moms a break and give husbands and wives some quality time together.
  • Make sure you’ve got Titus 2:3-5 going on, in some form, in your church. Young women need spiritual moms to lean on and to train them.
  • Make a baby cry/nursing room (with sermon piped in) and a nursery available during the worship service for those who want them, and offer children’s classes or child care whenever adult classes are offered. Also, don’t make being on the nursery rotation a requirement for moms to leave their children in the nursery.

    I know these ideas won’t be popular with some churches, but hear me out: as a young, stay at home mom with lots of small children, some weeks the only time I made it out of the house and got to talk to other adults was Sundays and Wednesdays at church. The churches I belonged to that offered a nursery and the other aforementioned amenities served, honored, appreciated, and loved me well by doing so. I needed that brief time of undistracted respite in God’s Word with God’s people to rest, recharge, and keep from losing my mind.

A quick “Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!” from the pastor is no big deal, but, generally speaking, keep the focus on God during the worship service, and have fun honoring Mom some other time.

7.
And most importantly, don’t forget…

…God. A worship service isn’t (nor should it be) like any other gathering of people. At any other gathering of people, people are in charge, and people are the focus. People decide the reason for the gathering, the theme of the gathering, who or what the gathering is to center on, who’s going to run things, which materials are or aren’t appropriate for the gathering, which activities are going to take place during the gathering, and what’s going to please or displease the people who are gathering.

Not so with a worship service. God dictates all of those components and parameters in His Word, and we obediently carry them out.

The reason for the worship service is to honor God – not mothers or any others – and worship Him.

The theme of the worship service is worshiping God.

The worship service is to center on God.

The men God has appointed to the offices of pastor and elders are to run things during the worship service.

The only appropriate materials for the worship service are God’s Word and materials that focus our worship on God and His Word.

The activities that are to take place during the worship service – the proclamation of the Word, prayer, praise, singing, and giving offerings – are prescribed by God in His Word and directed to God.

And the worship service isn’t about what’s pleasing or displeasing to the people in attendance, it’s about what’s pleasing to God.

Should mothers be appreciated, even honored, by the church? Sure! But not during the time we’ve specifically set aside to honor God. And really, shouldn’t mothers and motherhood be appreciated and honored much more than one hour a year?

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

Let’s hear from you, readers.
What’s a great way to honor moms and motherhood that keeps the
focus of the worship service on God, where it’s supposed to be?


1Excerpted from my article Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt

Sermons, Worship

Sermon: Biblical Worship

It’s not often you get to hear a great sermon out of Leviticus, so I wanted to share this one with you, preached by my friend Laramie Minga, Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Woodlawn Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

If you’re a new Christian or maybe you’re just coming out of an unbiblical “church” and you’re not quite sure what biblical worship in a doctrinally sound church is supposed to look like, this sermon will help. And even if you are in a solid church with biblical worship, Laramie’s sermon will be an encouragement to you. The worship pastor at your own church might even enjoy giving it a listen.

The text for the sermon is Leviticus 10:1-11.

Here’s the visual for the elements of worship around the 37:34 mark:

I hope you’ll enjoy this great teaching from God’s Word as much as I did!

Worship

Tuneful Tuesday

Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Enjoy!

That’s What the Bible Says by The Collingsworth Family
“I don’t need no signs and wonders to know that God is real..” Gotta love it!

Send the Light by Acapeldridge
This is a little different version than I’ve always heard, but I like it!

He Giveth More Grace by The Living Stones Quartet
Like a lullaby for a grownup. Just try to listen without a Kleenex. I dare ya!

I Know that My Redeemer Liveth by George Frideric Handel
Yes, Virginia, there are other songs in The Messiah besides the Hallelujah Chorus, and this is a lovely one.
Step of Faith by First Call
Yes, I was a First Call fan in the 80’s. Don’t judge. :0)

I do not necessarily endorse all of the songwriters or performers listed here, the churches/organizations they represent, any other songs they may have written or performed, or their theology. If you decide to follow any of these people or groups, check out their theology first to make sure it’s biblical.


What are you listening to lately?

Church, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Rolling Out the Welcome Wagon

Originally published August 25, 2010

The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. I Kings 9:3

As Golden Girl Sophia would say, “Picture it:”

After church one Sunday, a friend says, “Why don’t you come over to my house tomorrow night for dinner?”

So, the appropriate time comes on Monday evening, and you drive over to her house. The door is standing open because she is expecting you, and you’re familiar enough with each other that you feel comfortable just walking on in.

As you’re walking in, you see your friend standing there, and you say to her, “I invite you into this house! You are welcome here!”

Anything seem a little off about that?

Well, of course that seems strange. It’s her house.

But that’s what is taking place in churches all over America every Sunday morning. I saw it in a televised local church service last week. The worship leader stood up to lead the first song and said, “God we welcome you into this place!” I’ve heard others say things like, “Lord, we invite you into this house this morning!” We sing songs like Holy Spirit, Thou art Welcome and Lord, we Invite You.

‘Scuse me? Isn’t the church God’s house?

Of course, it isn’t God’s house in the same way the temple was God’s house, in that there isn’t a holy of holies where the actual presence of God resides. On the other hand, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s only a building, like the post office or a doughnut shop.

At some point, way back when, or maybe even recently, a body of Believers got together and asked God to give them a place where they could worship Him. God saw fit to answer that prayer. He provided the land, the permits, and every brick, nail, and piece of sheetrock. He allowed His name to be placed there when we decided to call it “Grace Fellowship”, “St. Luke’s”, or “First Baptist”. He protects that building and allows it to stand as a testimony to the community: God, and God’s people, can be found here.

It’s not your church. It’s not my church. It’s God’s church. And it exists for His glory.

But somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that. Somewhere along the way, we gave God an eviction notice and became squatters on His property. How arrogant have we become that we strut into church as though we own the place, and dare to invite Him, to welcome Him into His own house as though He were a guest? How dare we?

Maybe it’s partly because we no longer have a holy of holies that we don’t see God’s house as sacred. “Ah,” you may say, “but that’s Old Testament thinking. Now we understand that when we gather together in His name, He is with us.”

Really?

When it’s my church, my comfort, my pew, my ministry that nobody else better touch, my style of music, my opinion about how long the sermon should be, my feelings that got hurt, my idea of how things should operate, what I got out of the service, are we really gathering in His name?

Welcome, Lord. Are You sure You want to come in?

Prayer, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Great Expectations

Originally published February 6, 2014expectgreatthings-necklace (1)

Do we expect too much from God? Is that even possible?

No.

Yes.

Well, kinda.

You see, I’m not talking about expecting something and God being unable to deliver it. That’s just plain silly when talking about our omnipotent God. No, what I’m talking about is whether or not the expectations we come up with are grounded in biblical reality.

What do we mean when we talk about “praying expectantly” or coming to a time of corporate worship, study, or prayer, and “expecting God to do something”? Just what is it we are expecting God to do?

Could it be that He’s already doing something and we’re just not seeing it?

Sometimes, when we read God’s word, we expect God to do something just as “big” as He did in Moses’, Paul’s, or some other Bible hero’s life. We forget that the Bible is sort of like a “highlight reel” of the events in the lives of a handful of people that God drafted to be part of His visible activity at that moment in history.

We focus on the moments Moses had at the burning bush or walking through the Red Sea, and that’s what we want, too. r643167_4468740But we forget that Moses’ life wasn’t like that every day. We forget about the eighty years he spent wandering around the desert, half in the day to day monotony of shepherding on the back side of Midian, the other half, wandering around the wilderness with the people of Israel.

Eighty years of nothing special. Day after day of ordinary. Week after week of God not “showing up” and doing something amazing. Eighty years. That’s a lifetime for most of us.

Was God any less at work in Moses’ eighty years of desert thwandering than He was when He gave Moses the Law or spoke to him face to face or sent manna? Of course not. During those days, God was protecting Moses from the heat and wild animals, providing food and shelter for him, blessing him with a wife and children, directing his steps, teaching him obedience and trust.

Just like He does for us.

Have you read a Bible passage this week that allowed you to see more of God’s glory? God is doing something. He’s revealing Himself to you.

Are you praying for someone’s salvation? God is doing something. He’s working on the heart of that person.

Did you have a place to sleep last night and food on your table today? God is doing something. He’s providing for your needs.

Do you leave church on Sundays having been fed the truth of God’s word by your pastor? God is doing something. He’s growing you to spiritual maturity.

Is it possible that we’re expecting God to do something in our lives that isn’t in His particular plan for us? You aren’t Moses, and neither am I. Neither were the million or so other Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, and neither have the billions of other people been who have inhabited earth since Creation. Moses was Moses. You are you. God doesn’t have the same plan for your life He had for Moses’ life.

And, by the way, have you ever noticed that most of the people in the Bible through whom God did something “big” were not expecting it or asking for it? Moses wasn’t expecting God to show up in that burning bush. David wasn’t asking God to do great things in his life when Samuel dropped by to anoint him as the next king. Both of them were hanging out with the sheep when God called them. Paul thought he was already an awesome servant of God when he got knocked off his high horse. Mary wasn’t expecting to be expecting. She was just a teenage girl growing up and learning how to run a household.

1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12 says:

But we urge you, brothers to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

That’s what all of those Bible characters were doing when God chose them. Just regular people living regular lives doing regular work. Just like billions of other people through whom God has not chosen to do anything big and spectacular.

keep-calm-god-is-at-workBut that doesn’t mean God hasn’t been “doing something” in all of our lives. In fact, the vast majority of the work God does in our lives every single day goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

So, instead of setting our expectations on those very rare “wow factor” works of God that seem so appealing, maybe we should be asking Him to open our eyes to, and make us thankful for, all of the things He’s already doing in our lives. Instead of having great expectations of things that God has never promised us, maybe we should ask Him for, and expect Him to, do what He has promised:

Forgiveness for our sin

Christ-likeness

Provision for our needs

Endurance

The ability and opportunity to help others

Faithfulness

Humility

Patience

The opportunity to share the gospel

Because “all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” You can expect it.