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An Appeal to Ecclesial Elders

We appeal to the elders of ecclesias to prayerfully consider how your ecclesia might create opportunities for spiritual nourishment for moms, separate from the activities for their children.
Read Time: 6 minutes

Esther appealed to her king. Abigail appealed to David. Paul appealed to Caesar. However, Paul also appealed to many individuals and ecclesias to whom he wrote letters. We make an “earnest request” for things we can’t control or the authority to demand. And when it comes to matters in the ecclesia, none of us is in a position of power over others. We can only “entreat, petition or plea” for others to consider what we say. That is exactly what we would like to do here.

In early 2024, the Tidings magazine commissioned a survey of mothers raising their children in the Christadelphian community. Over 200 moms shared their opinions, concerns and struggles, some candidly and poignantly. We heard from working moms and full-time homemakers. Mothers in large ecclesias and mothers in small groups or in isolation. Moms of preschoolers and teenagers, moms with special needs children, moms with happy marriages and moms raising their children alone. 

And what did all of these women want us to know?

Unsurprisingly, there was a wide variety of answers to this question. As noted in an earlier article, many sisters felt supported by their families and communities and appreciated what their ecclesias provided. But others were frustrated, depleted, and lonely, some quite distressingly so. Raising children is exhausting, often thankless work, and likely always has been. But a handful of common themes stood out, and these are the subjects of this appeal.

Spiritual Growth for Moms

First, the moms in your ecclesia are looking for spiritual nourishment. When asked if they believed their children were growing spiritually, around 86% of respondents agreed (or somewhat agreed). Our ecclesias provide Sunday Schools, CYCs, and other activities for young people. And, according to parents, they are working!

the moms in your ecclesia are looking for spiritual nourishment

But, when asked the same question about their own spiritual growth, only about half of moms could say the same (59%). Young children are endlessly demanding, leaving little time in a busy week for personal Bible reading, reflection and prayer. And, rightly or wrongly, the pressure many parents feel to keep their children quiet during ecclesial events makes it difficult for them to benefit from memorial services or classes. These moms need support for their spiritual growth, both for their own sake and to better influence the spiritual development of the next generation.

Recognizing this need, the survey asked mothers what other activities might help them grow spiritually through the parenting years. Virtual or in-person meetings with other moms? More Bible classes focused on parenting, marriage or family issues? How about offers to visit during the week for babysitting or help with chores? Would any of these ecclesial plans be welcomed or helpful?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes and no. Every idea proposed in the survey was liked by some moms and disliked by others. The full data set is included at the end of this article, but the bottom line is that different moms will find various activities helpful. Needs will vary, likely based on where these sisters are in motherhood, the support they get from family, and other factors. However, the vital need for support in their spiritual growth is consistent.

the vital need for support in their spiritual growth is consistent

So, first, the appeal is to consider activities specifically for parents to grow their own faith, not just educate their children. The mothers in your ecclesia need your support. Many of them cannot participate in or benefit from the excellent activities your ecclesia is already doing.

Could some Bible class nights be focused on parenting issues, such as having non-parents volunteer to work with the children on those nights so parents could attend? Could classes for moms be worked into existing sisters’ classes? Could a retired sister host a weekly Zoom call during preschoolers’ nap times? The Tidings plans to begin highlighting parenting resources that are already available and in use in our community, so ecclesias do not have to start from nothing. We just have to start!

But remember, the survey data indicates that 25-50% of the ideas you produce won’t work. So don’t get discouraged. Twenty-first century ecclesias include a wider variety of families and needs than ever before. This variety calls for wisdom, creativity, and persistence on the part of ecclesial leadership. And so, included in the appeal is an earnest request not to give up, not to be offended if the first idea gets no response, and to keep patiently and prayerfully trying until you find ways to help the unique families God put in your unique ecclesia.

And that leads directly to the second half of the appeal.

Listening to Moms

Over 200 moms, busy, overwhelmed women with too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it, took time to answer the survey questions. When asked, many of them went into great detail about their challenges. It was clear that, in many cases, no one is asking for these sisters’ opinions and perspectives. In fact, a surprising number of sisters included in their survey responses a “thank-you” for even asking the questions.

Asking questions might seem like an easy thing to do. A typical Sunday morning includes dozens of “How are you?” conversations. And this is definitely a good start. Older sisters, especially, may fill this vital role of making the time for discussions that can solicit feedback from the moms in your ecclesia. 

However, it is the ecclesial elders who truly foster a climate of taking members’ opinions seriously, both the brothers and the sisters. There are environments where people feel safe sharing their concerns and environments where people know they will be ignored, shut down, or criticized. It is the group leadership that creates one of these two situations.

The Tidings survey asked moms a series of open-ended questions: “What are your biggest challenges as a Christadelphian mom? What is your ecclesia doing well in supporting moms and families, and how could it improve? What else would you like us to know about being a Christadelphian mom right now?” You can find the answers on page 11.

But think of your own ecclesia. Do you have any idea how your sisters might respond to these questions? Would your arranging board welcome this kind of feedback? Would these answers feel like a helpful tool or a threat? Questions like these could indicate whether moms and others feel understood and supported by their ecclesial family.

We all know parents serve a vital role, as most ecclesias experience much of their growth through the Sunday School. In many families, it is moms who not only bear most of the weight of daily child-raising but also set the tone for the family’s ecclesial involvement. How does your ecclesia communicate to sisters and moms that their work is noticed and appreciated? That their feedback is desired and thoughtfully considered? Is their own spiritual growth prioritized, separate from their children? 

Our second appeal is for ecclesial leaders to become more aware of the needs of the moms in their communities by asking questions and creating a climate that welcomes the answers. These are challenging to take on. But an ecclesial arranging board willing to spend time considering them could benefit in many ways. In next month’s issue, we will address some of the opportunities for fathers to help support their wives, especially during the early childrearing years.

As noted earlier, the survey data indicated a wide range of opinions about which potential activities would be helpful. Asking this question could be a great place to start soliciting feedback in your unique ecclesial situation. Perhaps a formal survey would encourage moms to share their ideas about spiritual growth. Or perhaps specific sisters or brothers could set about gleaning this information in more casual ways. Conversations about spiritual growth opportunities for moms could lead to both improved ecclesial programs and perhaps improved ecclesial culture as well. 

In conclusion, we know ecclesias face many challenges and, with limited resources of time and energy, are pulled in too many directions. But, even with the other complex and pressing issues your ecclesia is facing, we appeal to you to consider how to support the moms in your ecclesia better. We ask you to find ways to help them grow in their own faith through the child-raising years, and we ask you to learn more about them.

This request does not mean your ecclesia has to create new programs from scratch. The Tidings plans to spotlight existing resources in the community that ecclesias could use or make available and generate some new opportunities as well. 

But we do appeal to you to listen to the moms in your ecclesia. Find out how they are doing, what their challenges are. And we appeal to you to prayerfully consider how your ecclesia might create opportunities for spiritual nourishment for moms, separate from the activities for their children. By God’s grace, we can find ways of better supporting the “mothers in Israel” who are raising the next generation of believers to His glory.

Nancy Brinkerhoff,
Denver Ecclesia, CO

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