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Leading Our Flock

The survey results clearly indicate that younger moms would like to connect with, be mentored by and get help from older moms and sisters in the ecclesia.
Read Time: 6 minutes

Our lives are imbued with many challenges that we have preconceived notions about. Our growing-up years are filled with ideas, images and ideals about what our adult lives will look like. What will it be like to leave home to be on our own? How will it feel to fall in love? Will our first job make us happy? Will marriage be smooth and easy and filled with joy? Am I prepared for parenting?

I am sure we all felt that once the children began filling our lives—whether one or eight, it would be an easy, gentle slide down the hill to the finish line. Maybe some of us had that experience, but I bet it was more of a roller coaster ride and sometimes a really big one for most of us. 

We all know the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I believe this is true. The village looks different in our various households. Some of us had grandparents, aunts and uncles to support us as we navigated our parental roles—babysitting, making meals, running errands, and helping with extracurricular activities like sports or school events. That is not the case for everyone, however. I did not have that kind of support.

My parents were deceased at very early ages and never knew my children. My husband’s parents did not engage in a supportive way and were much older, so they didn’t have the energy to be there for us. When my mom fell asleep, my dad still had four children to raise in the home, and my role changed to be a helper to him as well as a wife to my husband.

Sunday mornings at meeting were always a challenge for me as well. We were blessed with our oldest daughter and then eleven years later with twin girls. Our experience at meeting with the oldest was much different than with the twins. Sitting in the nursery with the oldest was busy, and I wished I could have my mom take over once in a while so I could be “in person” for the exhortation. But that was a cakewalk compared to the twins. Raising multiples was and is quite a challenge. You can’t understand unless you have been there. Still, watching another mom raise triplets made me appreciate only having two at once. 

While I was in the middle of an ecclesial village, I felt alone.

The issue for me was that, while I was in the middle of an ecclesial village, I felt alone. There were very few offers to take my place in the nursery, but when it did happen, I was ecstatic and uplifted. I think most were scared of having to take on two identical children. I felt as if my spiritual needs were diminishing every week.

My husband was not baptized then, and I felt very strongly he needed to be in the hall listening to the exhortation, Sunday School, and support our oldest daughter during meeting. This decision, difficult as it was, led to his baptism as well as his involvement in CYC with her while I remained home with the twins. But it left me spiritually down for a good while, not having a partner walking with me to the Kingdom.

Many of our moms’ survey responses were very similar to my experience. The moms expressed feelings of loneliness, lack of support, a decrease in their spirituality, and exhaustion from being a single mom or, like myself, raising children without a father yet invested in God. And most of the responses asked for ways to find help in the ecclesia or elsewhere. That is where we come in now. To acknowledge their feelings and needs and to find ways to help. 

I would like to turn to the Apostle Paul and see how we older moms, those whose children are grown and have moved on in their lives, can support our younger moms. And please know that I do understand that parenting never ends. My girls are grown and married with children of their own, and while my role has changed, I am still parenting on many levels. 

That is where we come in now: to acknowledge them and find ways to help

Paul lays out the role of women in the ecclesia very beautifully in Titus and Timothy. Some feel this role is not important, but I disagree. The role of women in their households is one that God gave us, starting with Eve, and is reiterated time and again in Scripture as being one of the most important jobs any person could have.

So what does Paul encourage us to do as older sisters? To be teachers of good things, especially to the younger sisters. Such lessons as being sober or fresh (spiritually filled), how to love our husbands and our children while being discreet and as helpers to our husbands. What does all that mean? How do we apply that to helping our younger moms?

I think it is a wonderful exhortation for us to be encouraging to our younger moms. We should not be judgmental about them and how they raise their children, but supportive and share our experiences with children’s behaviors. I assumed that since my twins were being raised at the same time with the same rules, they would listen and behave the same. Nope! Their personalities were polar opposites, so what worked for one did not work for the other.

This situation happens in everyone’s home. That can be very frustrating, but we must encourage the moms to be patient and share techniques that worked for us with our children. I wish someone had shared some of that with me, but we tend to just let the parents work it out for themselves. How much easier it would be to offer suggestions gently and with love, “I remember when my child acted like that and how frustrating it was. We tried this response, and it really helped.” And then let the parent talk it out with you.

We are meant to be examples, good examples, so that God is honored in our actions. To be open ears so we can be approached for assistance and advice. To offer our services regularly for babysitting, providing meals, sitting in the nursery to let a mom be with other adults for memorial or adult Sunday School. The older sisters could all come together to find possible ways to be of service in the ecclesia for families still raising their children at home, no matter their age.

Meal trains for new moms, sick moms, or moms we know are just plain struggling. A list of who is available on Sunday morning to sit in the nursery with children when the mom arrives overwhelmed. Invitations for these families to come and share a meal and conversations with our family on a Sunday afternoon, especially those families who do not have immediate relatives in the area.

To make it our goal to interact with the children and teens in the ecclesia so they know who we are and that we are genuinely interested in them. Interest in their schooling, projects, Bible Class, Sunday school, friends, what Bible School they can’t wait to attend this year, and their friends. The list is long, but it is so important for our kids of all ages to feel loved and special, not just by their parents. And when we connect with our young people, we can be and provide examples of godly behavior and direct them on God’s paths. 

Several characters in the Bible embody these loving examples for us to follow. Think of Naomi, whose story is all about guiding Ruth spiritually. Deborah guiding a tribe from under a palm tree and helping Barak regain his faith and trust in God to lead the nation into a time of peace. Hannah built her household in faith, having a son who became one of the greatest prophets, and David and Mary used her prayer in their own praise.

The woman of Proverbs 31 gave every bit of herself for others in so many ways. Imagine the support she offered to everyone around her as she bore their burdens. Esther, Mary, Priscilla. The list is long, and these women were lovingly happy to be examples and provide Godly support to their families and communities.

These are the examples we should look to and emulate to help our ecclesial village grow and prosper for the younger moms, giving them the food they need to be filled with and able to, in turn, fill their lives and children with God’s love and grace. 

Paul teaches us in Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens” as this will “fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). We often look at Matthew 25 from the perspective of helping in the world, bearing another’s burdens, but I would suggest that these verses are meant for us ecclesially, especially as older sisters.

The survey results clearly indicate a need for improvement in our mentorship of moms and that they would very much like to connect with us. They are also looking for offers to help with babysitting and chores during the week and to occasionally take on the cry room duties. These things could help build them spiritually and, as Paul instructed, to “bear one another’s burdens.”

Our task is to feed, give drink, be inclusive, clothe with the Word, help the sick, not just physically but emotionally, and visit those who feel imprisoned. And Jesus said that when we do that for others, we are doing it for and to him. What a beautiful mandate from him that we should be striving to fulfill.

So let us go forward, as older sisters in our ecclesias, to be helpers, examples of God’s love, sharing our time, our experiences, our homes, our insights, and our love, to build up our younger moms and help them raise that most important next generation of God’s family—to lead the flock God gave us, our families both personally, and just as importantly, ecclesially.  

Linda Beckerson,
Ann Arbor Ecclesia, MI

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