The Quiet House: Ministering with the Father’s Heart to Childless Men and Women

What happens on Mother’s Day at your church? It is typical and fitting to honor the mothers who are present. In some cases moms are asked to stand, given a public blessing and a hearty applause, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication. Usually a flower or some other small gift is given to each mom. How Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are observed reveal much about the heart of a church.

The Aching Heart
One of the most painful experiences is that of women or men who desire to have children but cannot. They may be married or single, be barren, or have experienced the loss of a child (or multiple children) through miscarriage or death. It’s true that some people don’t desire to have children, but that is the exception. Most believers look forward to having little ones around, and when that can’t happen, it hurts.

The Parent Heart

Some busy parents may look at those without children and think they have it easy. Well-meaning men and women can misunderstand and even sin against those who are childless. They can be guilty of looking at them with jealousy or judgment: With jealousy a parent might think, “They have time and money to do the things they want.  They have more time to dedicate themselves to serving God.”  With judgment someone might think, “Why isn’t he married? There must be something wrong with her. Why don’t they have a baby? How strange, how selfish! Exhausted? … They don’t even know the meaning of the word!” If believers are not jealous or judgmental, they can be neglectful. Sad to say, it’s easy to get so busy that we don’t take time to think about the needs of other people.

The Single Heart

One bright Mother’s Day morning, all of the moms were invited to stand in the front of the church. The pastor spoke glowingly of how wonderful they all were and how greatly the future rests upon their shoulders. My single friend Laura felt uncomfortable, since she was about the only woman left back in the pews.  After they were dismissed to their seats, Laura breathed a sigh of relief that the ceremony was over for another year. However, the pastor had forgotten to give the women flowers, so he had some men pass them out right away. My friend was left empty-handed as she looked around at all the smiling mothers.

Laura cried all the way home from church, again asking God to help her be content in her singleness. Unfortunately the pastor had also forgotten to hand out special books, so in the evening service the deliverers were sent out again. A deacon started to hand a book to Laura, and just as she reached out to accept the gift, he quickly pulled his hand back and said, “Oops!” At that moment Laura felt as though she wanted to shrivel up and die.

On holidays honoring parents, some people without children feel uncomfortable, lonely, and even as if they are unimportant or sinful because they haven’t produced children. While they rejoice with their friends who are moms and dads, they can be grievously reminded of their sorrow. Does the church remember these dear sisters and brothers in Christ on these occasions and throughout the year? It is possible to bless everyone present in our churches on days of honor. To do this, believers need to cultivate the heart of the Father.

The Father’s Heart

In seeking to minister to others, believers can become overwhelmed with the variety of people and their needs. Knowing that someone needs encouragement is one thing – knowing how to do it is entirely another.  Believers can increase in wisdom by asking God (James 1:5), and by learning to offer comfort to the fainthearted.

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”  I Thessalonians 5:14

Christians may not understand where other people are coming from. Yet with God’s help we can try to put ourselves in their shoes. Believers have no excuse not to do their best to encourage others.

Besides first and foremost praying for them, here are some practical ideas on how church leadership and individuals can minister to people without children:

1. Be friendly.  Don’t talk too much about your kids. If someone in the group is going on and on about their children, smile and start talking about something that they are interested in.

2. Give them opportunities to minister to children.  A precious couple who lost four babies during pregnancy and have no living children are the world’s most loving and dedicated Sunday School teachers.  And what a blessing those children are to them!

3. Include them in family activities. Invite them into your home. Have your children deliver a “just because” card or cookies. Invite them to sit with you in church. Holidays can be the hardest times; if they are not able to be with loved ones, joyfully welcome them to your celebration. You may feel uncomfortable sharing news of your pregnancy with them, but they want to hear it from you. Pray, and God will direct you to the right words and timing. 

4. Remember them on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Send a note, e-mail, or card reminding them how special they are and to let them know you are praying for them. In church honor the moms and dads present, but also focus on the valuable roles of being godly men and women. If the church is going to give a gift, buy enough to give to every man or woman present. Being a parent doesn’t make folks more precious or better people. Some of the best “moms” and “dads” in our churches don’t have biological children. But, oh, the spiritual children in which they’ve invested their lives!

5. Respect their privacy. In most cases it is rude to ask them when they are going to get married/have kids/adopt. And never ask them why they can’t have children. If they choose to confide in you, make sure you are a trustworthy confidant. 

6. Be considerate regarding specific events.  Use common sense. For instance, you probably wouldn’t want to ask a childless woman to be in charge of a baby shower. It may even be too painful for childless women to attend the shower. This doesn’t mean that they are not happy for the new mother. It may be that they know they can’t handle it emotionally and don’t want to cause a scene.

7. Respect and appreciate them. That they don’t have kids or are unmarried doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from them. Single people and married people without children have so much to offer. Ask them to be your prayer partners or accountability partners. On the other hand, church leadership should not assume that childless people have a lot of extra time and should not take advantage of them, always expecting them to serve.


8. Relax and listen. Don’t worry that you won’t know what to say to them. Be a sympathetic listener and pray for God’s wisdom to know what He would have you to say. 

9. Seek them out. Look for opportunities to serve and fellowship with childless friends. This especially means a lot if it’s a difficult day, like the day their miscarried baby was due or the anniversary of their child’s death.

How can we minister to people in circumstances so different from our own? A remarkable reality is that God can use the lessons we learn from going through a trial to help someone going through an entirely different situation! In 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4 we read , “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (emphasis added). As we learn about God’s comfort, He gives us the ability to comfort others.

After my husband and I lost a child through miscarriage, some of the greatest encouragement came from our single friends and from those who had never lost a child. One friend, who spoke with such wisdom and love, told me that she had asked God to show her what I needed to hear. Another friend prayed and wept with me. What examples these are of godly compassion. Through His Word and Spirit, God can teach us how to minister to anyone.

In this era of support groups believers need to be careful that we do not exclusively mingle with those of their “type.” God marvelously designed us as Christ’s Body, and He makes it possible and necessary for the “hand” to look after the “foot,” and the “elbow” to care for the “eye” (I Corinthians 12). There is a wealth of wisdom and friendship out there among God’s children. And the value of believers’ ministering to believers in stages of life different from their own is God’s will for His children (Titus 2). God helps believers to think of others on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, every day. And may they prayerfully minister, as a church body and as individuals, with the Father’s heart.


 
(c)2009 Regular Baptist Press. Reproduced by permission.

To find out more about Regular Baptist Press or The Baptist Bulletin: http://www.baptistbulletin.org/


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2 thoughts on “The Quiet House: Ministering with the Father’s Heart to Childless Men and Women

  1. Thank you for sharing your pain with us, KS. I am so sorry for your loss of beautiful Grace. What a wonderful gesture of love to have white flowers for those who lost children! Love and prayers for you!

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  2. Mother's Day has been hard for me since I lost my little Grace. It is only worse because this time of year was her due date, but it's so hard. Before I had children of my own I visited a church that had white flowers on the piano for the women who had lost children. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now that I'm in that spot, I wish my church did that. Thankfully they do acknowledge all women and mothering examples on Mother's Day. This is a very good post Sara

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