Categories: Community, Faith, Holiday



Dear Pastor,

Here we are a year after the infamous  letter I wrote to you and the two follow-up posts: wondering what had just happened (clearly a nerve was struck) and learned lessons from all the folks commenting.  You might be wondering what’s up when you hear from me, and you wouldn’t be the only one! I, inadvertently, have become a go-to person to share ideas for Mother’s Day and wanted to pass on what I’ve learned.

Before we get to the ideas, let me preface it with the reminder that you are the expert on your flock, I’m not! Not all of these ideas will work in your context, they are merely suggestions (can you see I’m a bit gun shy on what might show up in the comment section :)). Take, use, discard. I am for you and this list is intended as a resource.

10 ideas for pastors

In the service you could:

1. Focus on scripture. If you’ve been preaching a series, keep going. If your church is one that follows the liturgical calendar, follow that. We’ve come to hear from and worship God.

2. Preach/teach on what it means to honor our mothers and fathers.  Honoring parents was a common theme, but what does that mean when your mom isn’t in church with you? Or when your parent isn’t easy to honor? Or they have now passed? You’ve been given a rich opportunity to teach on this subject!

3. Preach/teach on the Imago Dei and the ways that mothering reflects God. As Sarah Ruden says, “love is manically verb centered.” So is mothering. Active verbs show the heart of an active God.  Nurturing, instructing, protecting, disciplining, nursing, serving, calming, enjoying, challenging, teaching, cleaning, entertaining, worrying over, singing over, playing with and the list could go on.

4. Mention mothers and mothering in the pastoral prayer. Here is a sample Mother’s Day prayer.

5. Have a special prayer time or time of blessing for moms. Resources include: The wide spectrum of mothering and A prayer for parents and those who want to be.

6. Have a woman speak. One example comes from Linda Crites. When asked to speak at her church, she spoke about four kinds of mothers: “(1) people like me who became a birth mother quite young, not a life goal, just happened (2) my sister, who dreamed all of her life of having children (3) my friend Melissa who married a man who already had children and chose to not have children with him but help him raise his (4) a dear older woman who had no biological children but spent her life mentoring others.”

(Bonus: here are free video resources)

Ideas for Sunday School Teachers

7. (from Carolyn Barnetta) Not all children live with or even know their mothers. Perhaps they are being raised by a single dad or grandparents. Talk personally with the custodial parent or guardian before next Sunday, and ask them how they want you to handle the situation with their child. If you are making a gift for mothers in class, ask the parent/guardian if they would like to have their child make the gift for a grandmother, step-mother, friend, aunt, etc. Then, the custodial parent will have an opportunity to talk with their child during the week. It will keep you from having to deal with an awkward situation that might embarrass the child.

Three “avoids”

8. No standing, please. Either for mothers or women. It’s kind of a no-win situation. Some moms want special recognition and not to have the standing shared, other feel very uncomfortable standing. Some women are annoyed with they are commended for “mothering” but aren’t mothers. Let’s side step this one (and by implementing the above ideas, mothers are acknowledged and honored!).

9. No baby dedication on this day. Any other day, please dedicate those precious babies and children! We love them and need them and want them dedicated to the Lord (allowing the focus to be on the child being dedicated).

10. No handing out red or white flowers depending if your mom is alive or has died. The consensus was to leave flowers or other small gifts at the back or in a narthex or gathering area and allow people to get them. Chocolate seems to be a BIG hit, just fyi :).

Again, thank you for serving and shepherding us day after day. And remember, it’s not all on you; much is in the ear of the hearer combined with the work of the Spirit. Knowing that Mother’s Day is the third most attended day of the year, I’m praying for you as are many others in your flock.

Grace and peace to you, my brother or sister,


P.S. Here’s a resource for you: 14 Tips for the Messy Middle

Photo credit: Cast a Line via flickr

Leave A Comment

  1. David Rupert May 9, 2013 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Delivered with class and grace, Amy

    May your words and the heart behind them resonate.

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      Amy May 9, 2013 at 11:09 am - Reply

      Thanks David, that was my hope! Amy

  2. […] I’ve also written 10 ideas for pastor’s on Mother’s Day. […]

  3. […] p.s. Dear Pastors, It’s me again {what a few days, eh?!} and Another open letter to pastors {lessons from the comments section}. There is also a resource called 10 ideas for pastors on Mother’s Day […]

  4. Linda Stoll May 9, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this Amy … I shared your original post this week with the people in my world

    I love the grace-filled way you speak truth and share ideas! And you light up the world with your smile, girl!

  5. Mark Allman May 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    I shared this with my pastor.

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      Amy May 10, 2013 at 6:01 am - Reply

      Mark, you don’t know how it blesses me to see your familiar face! Thanks :)

  6. Warren Johnson May 10, 2013 at 12:17 am - Reply

    Amy, I like what you have written in your “Wide Spectrum of Mothering” resource. May I have your permission to use it in our worship time this Sunday on Mothers’ Day? ~Warren

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      Amy May 10, 2013 at 5:53 am - Reply

      Yes, Warren, please do!

  7. Rhonda Fort May 10, 2013 at 2:28 am - Reply

    Thank you for the Ideas for Sunday School Teachers. I am a mom, and also a foster mom and this day is always a tricky one for the kids in my home who aren’t mine biologically. They make gifts for mom at church, in schools, and preschools and many times don’t know what to do with them. It feels “wrong” to give their handmade gifts to me, but some don’t know when they will see mom again. It can be very awkward when a teacher tries to nudge (sometimes force) the child to present the gift to me at the end of a class.

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      Amy May 10, 2013 at 6:13 am - Reply

      Rhonda, thank you so much for your helpful “you got it right” comment. Do you have other suggestions for those working with foster families?

      • Rhonda Fort May 11, 2013 at 1:07 am - Reply

        It’s all about communication! Every child / case / situation is different. Sometimes we can’t answer all your questions, but I would rather someone ask than just make an assumption that puts the child in an awkward situation — especially at church where the volunteers change regularly.

  8. susan Goddard May 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips even tho I am not a pastor. When my kids were young teens, our pastor spoke on Mother’s Day , Proverbs 31 . We are not super Moms , we try to parent & look after our homes the best we can. Prov 31 woman I am NOT and the sermon mae me feel guilty. Over the years I have learned to take the parts of Prov 31 that I can use and try to work on them without guilt. Being a woman of God is very important to families, wish a few more would realize this. Thanks for listening Susan

  9. Nora May 11, 2013 at 1:38 am - Reply

    Hi there – I’m not a pastor or church leader but I run a website dealing with infertility and loss and I just wanted to let you know I’ve shared a link to this from the Balaustine Anthology blog in a list of resources for Mother’s Day. These are all great ideas!

  10. Garry May 11, 2013 at 8:30 am - Reply

    First, Amy, I was ordained 35 years ago. I can’t remember every Second Sunday In May, but I’m pretty sure I’ve asked moms to stand. It was one of the “Things We Do” that has now become “Things We Used To Do.” I never meant any harm, only good.

    Second, I have read many of the comments, so of the 57,000 + hits, quite a few are mine as I’ve had to come back to it time and again to digest it all.

    Through that experience, though, I’ve noticed a recurring theme in your responses. When people offer additions to your litany, you often say, “sorry I missed that.”

    You know, that’s what I’d like to say about my past experience on the S.S.I.M. Sorry to all of you that felt left out. I missed that. I hope your readers will be as gracious to me as they have been with you for leaving them out.

    Third, I’ve read your litany. It is sad. The grief in that prayer is immense, palpable even. My heart goes out to you all.

    That said, did you mean that before we may give a cheerful greeting to moms on the S.S.I.M. we must read that heart-breaking list? As a worship leader I must say that it will not be an upbeat service. It is not that I think every service should be happy-go-lucky. There must be time for reflection, certainly for prayers.

    It’s just that I cannot imagine reading that litany, then saying, “by the way, Happy Mother’s Day!”

    Fourth, my wife died 13 years ago, leaving not only me but 7 children at home, some with multiple disabilities since we adopted special needs children. I left the pastoral ministry to stay at home with them. Since then I’ve received on the S.S.I.M. more Mr. Mom awards then I ever wanted. So, okay, I can kind of relate, though it’s more goofy than grief.

    I only bring that up to say that I don’t get upset about it because the S.S.I.M. is not about me. It’s about the moms in my life. So, here’s what I’ve decided to say this coming S.S.I.M

    “On the Second Sunday In May, we pause to honor our mothers. If you had a good relationship with your mom and she’s living, tell her thanks. If you had a bad relationship with your mom, say a prayer for her. If your mom has passed away, for good or ill, try to think a kindly thought about her. If others stood in for your mom, breathe a prayer of thanks for them, too. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, may we all say: ‘To our moms: God bless them, every one.'”

    Last, I’ve been discouraged by a lack of good hymns for the Second Sunday In May. I wrote one several years ago which I think fits the idea of Imago Dei.

    Title: How Like A Mother God hath shown
    Tune: For The Beauty of the Earth

    How like a mother God hath shown
    Care and comfort for us all,
    Food and clothing, hearth and home,
    Watching o’er us lest we fall.
    We Your children rise to bless
    And to praise Your faithfulness.

    Just as children thoughtlessly
    Pay no mind to mothers’ love
    We forget God’s charity
    Shower’d upon us from above.
    We Your children rise to bless
    And confess our waywardness.

    Tenderly God meets our needs
    As we go through daily life,
    Just as mothers’ careful deeds
    Oft protect from harmful strife.
    We Your children rise to bless
    And extol Your thoughtfulness

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      Amy May 12, 2013 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Hi Gary, wow, I loved reading through this! SSIM — that might need to be a blog all in itself :). I”m mostly OK that I (or anyone) misses things — we’re all going to miss things, it’s more about, I think, how we respond when we do. :). Folks are coming over and I need to run. I’ll comment more later!

  11. Rachael May 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your words. I feel weird on Mother’s Day in church. I’m a woman who never has desired to be a mom. It’s simply not part of my makeup. If I were to meet a partner with kids or who wanted kids, that would be great, I’d happily take on the role of mom. I’ve come to the point of being okay with myself as a woman who doesn’t feel a need to have kids (but evidently, I still feel a need to state that I don’t hate children). Several years ago, I was encouraged to stand up in church …because I could be a mom someday. You’re right about the standing thing: awkward all around.

  12. Laurie Tucker May 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Hi Amy,
    I just discovered your blog and read the wide spectrum of mothering-my heart was so stirred! I was the guest preacher at my church yesterday and I included it in my sermon- I knew one young woman in the congregation who I hoped would feel some special healing from your beautiful writing- wow! So many comments and feelings as folks left the service- from the old to the young. One grandma was especially suffering after the stillbirth of a grandchild just 2 days before- so I know her heart was particularly in need.
    Anyhow, thank you so much for your wisdom. You have a great gift.

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      Amy May 14, 2013 at 7:54 am - Reply

      Laurie, thanks for coming back to share how this has been used! If folks can experience healing and are brought closer to one another as we share our burdens and joys … that to me is the body coming to life. And thanks to you for your work in this glorious (albeit) broken body :)

  13. Andreas M. Hofmann (Andy) May 14, 2013 at 5:44 am - Reply

    I agree. Nay, on the standing. Yay, on the “The Wide Spectrum of Mothering”. A tight-rope to walk for a church and preaching pastors, but a sensitive, skilled, thoughtful pastor can walk this holiday well, serving and honoring women and families in the process.

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      Amy May 14, 2013 at 7:40 am - Reply

      love the nay and yay — I think I just like the sounds of those words :)

  14. Beth May 14, 2013 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Amy – I am so grateful for your words, both here and in The Wide Continuum piece. We used that one yesterday in our service and people were profoundly moved. It was, in the words of our pastor, the best Mother’s Day service we’d put together in years.

    Your inspired words made the difference. We offered them as a blessing, a prayer, a gift over all as a transitional part of the service.

    It was profound.

    I could not find your last name anywhere on your blog (maybe just looked in the wrong places!) and so we gave credit to “Amy, from The Messy Middle blog…” Hope that’s okay!

    Thanks, and blessings to you. I enjoy your writing immensely!


    • Avatar photo
      Amy May 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      My favorite line was …. “it was profound.” To God be the glory :).

      It’s fine :) (my last name is Young, but just saying Amy and Messy Middle is cool!)

  15. Touching May 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Thought you might like to see:!/photo.php?v=10201082064963604

    I had read your site and then saw this on Facebook Sunday.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy May 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      LOVED seeing it! Thanks for being sure I saw it … Amy

  16. Alexandra Lowe May 15, 2013 at 10:42 am - Reply

    “Hey, thanks for the article post.Much thanks again. Awesome.”

  17. Pete May 30, 2013 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Hi Amy,

    I was blessed by what you wrote for Mother’s day and I did share it with the congregation. I was wondering, are you going to right something similar for Father’s day?

  18. Peter Times at August 6, 2013 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    I like this post and the suggestion for a mother’s day pray. Also, an area where gifts to mothers can be left is a great plan instead of handing out flowers. Even allowing church members to leave notes to their mothers that had passed on is another suggestion.

  19. […] who wrote that, also has a 10 tips for pastors resource that’s worth a look, coming from an American […]

  20. […] 10 ideas for pastors on Mother’s Day – including 6 ideas for a Sunday morning services, a suggestion for those working with kids, […]

  21. Bekah May 8, 2014 at 8:56 am - Reply

    This is absolutely fantastic. Thank you, thank you!

  22. Janelle May 11, 2014 at 12:40 am - Reply

    Thank you for your awesome article. I have 2 sisters who were never able to have children biologically so I know the angst they have gone through over these issues and I appreciate you writing such a well written and compelling article. Our church doesn’t hand out gifts at Mother’s or Father’s day instead we choose a compassionate gift from World Vision (like a flock of chickens or fishing kits to those in need) and give it in Honor of Mothers & Fathers everywhere. I like that we aren’t just giving something that will be lost or used up but will go on to last and impact a family struggling to survive.

  23. Laurel May 12, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Amy, thank you for this post. I am a 30-year-old, single, childless, doctoral candidate. I love my church, but it’s days like yesterday that make me long for my heavenly home. Instead of a sermon exegeting scripture, I heard a lecture on the toll modernity has taken on the traditional role for women (motherhood). As a graduate of a liberal women’s college, pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience that I intend to apply in a career outside “the home,” much of his lecture felt like a direct attack. Why must some women be criticized to extol the choices of others? Are we not sisters in Christ? Is my adulthood and place in the church contingent on my marital status? It took a lot of self-restraint to remain in the pew. Your kind suggestions have helped me frame the letter I am writing to my pastor. Thanks again!

  24. Paul Peabody May 3, 2015 at 8:39 am - Reply


    I am a pastor and I have wrestled with all of the issues you raise. A few years ago I realized that we have Mother’s Day all backward. It’s not about BEING a Mom, it’s about honoring OUR mothers! We all have mothers – the infertile, the sad, the happy, and even the men! Mother’s Day was first designed as an honor to a mother, not to all of those who ARE mothers.

  25. Ron May 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Thank you for providing this resource! You bring up many things that I have been wrestling with, and your words of wisdom are a great help to this pastor. :-)

    • Avatar photo
      Amy May 8, 2015 at 6:24 am - Reply

      We’re in the journey together, aren’t we :)! Happy to help. Blessings to you and your congregation.

  26. Marty Baker May 9, 2017 at 11:16 am - Reply

    You are brilliant and a good writer. Keep it up. Here’s another side of the baby dedication on Mother’s Day. As a pastor, I fully understand why you would say not dedications on Mothers Day. We offer dedications several times each year. However, Mothers Day makes sense because families naturally get together on this day, so it makes a dedication very practical for people who live out of town and would like to drive in for this milestone event. Here’s a compromise: Do the baby dedication, but don’t over “over the top” with it. Be blessed today.

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