Categories
Community Holidays Perspective

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day 2020! I hope all women who are moms can relate to Proverbs 31:25 today. I know women experience this holiday differently, as I have myself during different seasons of my life.

In my early twenties, married and working long hours as a cancer researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and leading a youth group at my local church as a volunteer, the holiday was a day to stand out as different in my church community. The majority of the women in my church were young mothers who did not understand a woman studying to be a scientist. Some looked for every opportunity to belittle my decision to pursue an advanced degree instead of starting a family. I knew at the time that their behavior was a means of making them feel better about themselves at my expense. However, interactions with them were never pleasant. When my mother died of cancer, Mother’s Day was a reminder of loss and a day of longing for a future when I would have children of my own.

Of course, today I enjoy celebrating Mother’s Day with my own beautiful daughters and remember my own mother, dead for more than twenty-four years, with fond memories but no lingering sadness. Thus, I encourage all women to celebrate Mother’s Day today. Celebrate the gift of life given to you by your Mother, whether she is still here to celebrate with you or has gone to her heavenly home. Celebrate the women around you who are mothers, for they give all of us the gift of new life in our society. If your own day is still one of longing or of grief, please remember that there will be different seasons of this holiday for you. For now, celebrate for others. For the women who will remain childless, celebrate how you “mother” the generation to come, either in your profession or as a volunteer. You are valuable and loved. Blessings to all!

Categories
Community Expectations Leadership Perceptions

Tailoring Ministry to the Individual

In this day of megachurches and churches spread across multiple campuses, is it really possible or even practical to care about the individual? Yet ministry is based on the model of a shepherd  willing to leave a flock of ninety-nine sheep in an open field while searching for one lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7).

In Chapter 4 of my book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith, I share a philosophy of ministry based on a sensitivity to the needs of individuals that requires we avoid assumptions while remaining pragmatic.

The basics of this philosophy:

  1. Show people respect. Ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions. Trying to force a person into a certain ministry mold may not help a person although our intentions may be admirable. A widower may prefer joining the men’s ministry on a fishing trip to taking a class that requires him to discuss his grief in a small group. Let people select the ministry resources best suited to their needs and respect their choice.
  2. Do not project your needs onto someone else. What ministered to you in a particular circumstance in your life may not minister to your friend. Listen to what your friend is communicating to you instead of planning ministry based on your own preferences. For example, not all new mothers feel depressed after childbirth, so ministry in a mom’s group should validate different responses to a similar life event.
  3. Beware false assumptions. Not all childless young couples feel called to work in the children’s ministry in your church, no matter how badly you desire to staff the nursery and toddler room. Perhaps a woman with a career in finance would rather serve on a church committee that allows her to bless the church with her professionals skills instead of a more traditional role in a woman’s ministry. Simply asking people about their passions and interests can prevent misplaced and disheartened volunteers. The church will prosper when people find fulfilling ministry roles.

Large or small, a church can be sensitive to the needs of individuals while still meeting the goals of the group as a whole. Whether in your church life or in your friendships, what approaches do you take to tailor your response to the needs of the individual?