the shape of leadership

A Place for Moms

Attract families by creating a welcoming environment for mothers

Jill McDaniel on May 8, 2018

Next Sunday morning across America, moms will glow. They’ll glow with the joy of hugs and breakfast in bed, or literally glow with glitter from scribbled love notes pushed in their faces at 5 a.m.

These women sitting across your congregation hold deep wells of potential for outreach and leadership. How can you help moms see that their purpose in your church goes way beyond bringing crackers for snack time?

Invest in Opportunities for Friendship

Allow me to share a snapshot of my 51 non-Mother’s Day Sundays. I stand in the kitchen applying mascara with one hand while pounding a can of biscuits on the counter. At some point, one or more children come sobbing about lost or scratchy clothing. My youngest walks in with an extra-sweet smile showing modifications to the outfit I laid out the night before.

When both of my eyes have mascara, my oldest sighs and asks why he needs to brush his teeth. I attempt to douse the flames shooting from my eyes before I turn and say it’s the same answer I’ve been giving for the past 11 years of his existence.

Regardless of how easy a Sunday morning might be compared to other families, if I dwell on the sighing and the crying, I set my feet on a path to resentment and discontent. But God has a gift for me in my church lobby even before He refreshes me in the sanctuary: the welcoming smile of a good friend who opens her hands to accept words of frustration and offers back the capacity to laugh about answering the same question 5,000 times.

Your church can’t create friendships between women, but you can create opportunities to develop friendships. The specifics of a small group or moms’ group can look different, weekday or Sunday, daytime or evening. But two pieces are non-negotiable: concurrent children’s ministries and a healthy culture.

Moms need unstructured time to talk. Kids’ activities can take planning and effort from your church, but it’s an investment that pays dividends for years. Here’s why:

A healthy moms’ group is a magnet for families. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “We stayed at this church because I have friends here.” Those same women invite their unchurched and not-really-landed-at-a-church friends to fill the seat next to them at our moms’ group.

We need reminders that the God who leads people across the Red Sea also strengthens people to cook spaghetti for the 937th time.

In the past 11 years, I’ve met and invited moms at Walmart, gymnastics, and the library, and they came! Their eyes lit up at the idea of talking with other women while their children are loved and taken care of ... somewhere else. We always brought food, which is a fantastic pull to a mom who spends a lot of time in the fishy-cracker aisle or watches teen boys devour food like hyenas.

The word “healthy” is paramount here. A healthy culture connects rather than divides. Your moms’ group has no place for judgment of working/stay-at-home, homeschool/public or organic/Golden Arch drive-thru moms. The enemy tries to use our insecurities to push away those who make different choices.

Our Creator delights that we aren’t copies of one another; yet He designs us to connect with one another.

The most important characteristic of the leader you establish for your group is the culture she models. The leader you want is a gatherer of women. She brings together different personalities and life choices. She ponders the needs of moms in various life situations.

If you don’t have a healthy leader, wait to start your group until you have one. If you have an unhealthy group going, let it die, and start a new one. The damage of an unhealthy group on your church lasts as long as the fruit of a good one. But once you have that healthy leader, empower her to multiply herself through a team that will perpetuate her priorities.

Invest in Moms as Complete Individuals

We need reminders that the God who leads people across the Red Sea also strengthens people to cook spaghetti for the 937th time. Visit your moms’ group and affirm the ministry they do in their families, whether that’s in combination with working outside the home or inside the home.

Your voice holds power to reveal moms’ significance when they’re obeying God’s voice to sit at a desk analyzing spreadsheets or on a rug playing games. 

Let’s be vocal about moms serving a holy purpose when they stroke the hair of a tween living in the chaotic tension between childhood and adolescence. Treat moms like the brave missionaries they are, being Jesus’ hands and feet to a vulnerable people group. And most importantly, fill them with God’s truth so they can rise up against the powers that are working to steal, kill and destroy our next generation.

Moms need to feel they are seen as individuals, separate from the duties they perform. This need is met differently in the first-time mom of a newborn versus the mom of a 10-year-old. The mom of little ones needs to know she is still the woman God created her to be, even though she may not have energy to do the things that make her unique.

I love writing, but I didn’t write when I was raising kids 19 months apart. I needed someone to say that I hadn’t lost who I was and that writing would be part of my life again. As kids get older, moms are ready to pick things back up or start something new. They need topics about following God’s leading into the unknown and trusting Him with opportunities.

Moms’ groups, children’s activities and being intentional require investment. But the moms who grow in the healthy culture today will be the leaders you call on tomorrow, and the families who find friendship will pull in more to be included. As you scan the glowing faces of your congregation this Sunday, remember the potential they hold for your church.

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