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Mothers in Israel: Mentoring, Meeting and Mattering

Whether you’re a mom of young children or a sister looking to support moms of young children, reach out. Build relationships.
By RUTH HENSLEY
Read Time: 7 minutes

Motherhood is a lot of different things. It’s a lot of joy, a lot of humbling, a lot of personal and spiritual growth, a lot of exhaustion, a lot of wonder, a lot of frustration, a lot of laughter, a lot of patience, a lot of love—so much! But here’s the thing. We’re not in this alone. It’s taken me years (and a global pandemic with its isolation of long lockdowns) to realize just how crucial a point this is. 

Motherhood is a lot, but there’s a lot of support out there, too. The expression: “It takes a village to raise a child” is so cliche and yet so true. I have a favored variation: “It takes a village to raise a mother, too.” Or, in our case, it takes an ecclesia. In reflecting on the early years of my children’s lives as I adjusted to motherhood and found my place in the ecclesia in a new stage, three things stood out: mentoring, meeting, and mattering.

I write this with a very big disclaimer. All of this is solely from my own experience and reflections, and it won’t be relevant for everyone. God’s principles are universal, but applications are personal. That said, I’m hoping something in this resonates with you or provides a springboard for helping you reflect on what is helpful in your situation.

Mentoring

I distinctly remember holding our eldest child shortly after her birth and looking into her face with a mingled sense of wonder and trepidation. Who was this little person, and why in the world did everyone seem to think it was reasonable to send her home with me?

I’d worked with children for years, but motherhood was something entirely different. Fast-forward nearly twelve years, and our first baby isn’t far from her teen years, yet that same feeling of wonder and trepidation is still strong. Sisters of children older than mine have been an amazing support because they have a broader perspective that I lacked, yet they also have strong memories of the stage of parenting I’m in.

There are several sisters, some I see in person regularly and others I keep in touch with by text, whom I turn to for advice. Some have children just a few years older than mine, and some are a generation older than me. They’re the ones who have modeled to me Paul’s command for older sisters to teach younger sisters how to love their children (Titus 2:4). 

Relationships matter.

Relationships matter. Moms of young children know well that there’s a lot of advice out there in the form of parenting books, mom blogs, social media, and more. Some of them are truly excellent resources, and some really, really aren’t. Choose your information sources carefully and seek out spiritually minded sisters to connect with. This advice means reaching out, which can feel awkward initially, but it’s worth it. 

Thoughts for moms of young children:

  • Find a mentor or multiple mentors. It can be helpful to hear various perspectives. Look for sisters you respect in your ecclesia or have met at gatherings, such as Bible Schools. Ask them for advice and stay connected.
  • Keep in touch with others in the same life stage. If you’re in an ecclesia without other young families, Bible Schools are a great way to meet other parents (and start lifelong friendships for your kids!). 
  • Seek the help you need. Respect that everyone has their own lives with many demands on their time. But if you need help, ask for it. If a person you ask isn’t in a position to provide support at that time, don’t give up! Keep asking around. You’re not in this alone. It’s worth mentioning that at some point, you will undoubtedly receive parenting advice that is offensive or aggravating. Assume the best and forgive. But don’t let that dissuade you from seeking relationships within your spiritual family. It’s investing in your needs now and your family’s needs as your children grow.

Thoughts for sisters looking to reach out to moms of young children:

  • Develop relationships. Connect outside of Sunday morning. This development could mean inviting a family with young kids over for dinner, meeting up at a park, dropping off a meal, or offering to help with housekeeping/childcare/errands, etc. 
  • Be available. Advice and assistance are tricky things. Unwanted and unhelpful advice can cause unintentional offense, and assistance requires thoughtfulness on the giver’s part and humility on the receiver’s part. Those things both require a relationship. 
  • Offer practical help.
  • Make Sunday mornings welcoming and comfortable—more on that next.

Meeting

The most important point is that there’s not one perfect ecclesial model. Our ecclesia has a huge Sunday School, and our family is grateful for it every week. It’s wonderful but not the only way an ecclesia can be a good place for young families. By contrast, some friends of ours are members of a small ecclesia, and their kids make up about half of their Sunday School.

Their family loves their kids’ strong bonds with the adults in the ecclesia. A lack of peers hasn’t meant a lack of friends! Instead, they’ve got friends of all ages that they look forward to seeing on Sundays. Again, the key thing is relationships. Relationships are formed by the time spent together. Although ecclesial relationships need to extend far beyond Sunday mornings, that time spent together remembering Jesus each week is so important. 

Thoughts for moms of young children:

  • Getting out the door on Sunday mornings can be really tough. As overwhelming as it is, it is a worthwhile habit. Once the habit is established, it’s much easier to maintain as your kids grow. Eventually, it also gets easier to pay attention to classes and exhortations! 
  • It’s okay if everyone doesn’t look perfect. This is coming from someone who has shown up at Meeting only to discover that one kid has mismatched shoes, another has unbrushed hair, and another has… well, anyway, you get the idea. That happens sometimes, and it’s okay. 
  • Regarding acceptable noise levels during Meeting, there’s a lot of variation in family and ecclesial culture—whether to sit in the main hall during Memorial Service or in another room. Respect the expected volume levels wherever you are. Some kids are really good at sitting quietly in Meeting from a very young age. Some kids have absolutely no sense of volume control. (Among our four kids, we’ve experienced both extremes.) Don’t get consumed by comparing them to others. All kids are different. 
  • Sundays are different from what they used to be before kids, so give yourself some grace. It’s a transition, but again, it’s worth it.

Thoughts for sisters looking to reach out to moms of young children:

  • No matter your ecclesia’s size or age range, the key is to create a welcoming environment for families. Early years of parenting can feel lonely, especially on Sundays when the routine is so different from what it was before kids.
  • There’s something so refreshing in simple things, like being greeted by name as you walk into the hall on a Sunday morning—and this goes for both kids and parents!
  • Seek out parents of young children—feeding a baby or following around a toddler while everyone else is visiting can be so lonely.
  • Consider offering to watch young children so parents can visit without interruptions or listen to a class without distractions.
  • Find ways to incorporate the kids into the ecclesia. This situation could look like singing kid-friendly songs during Sunday School, getting kids involved in helping pass things out, etc. 
  • Be patient with kid noises during Meeting, and if there’s anything you can compliment the parents and children on after Meeting, share that compliment! Encouraging words go a long way.

Mattering

Mattering matters. Whatever stage of life we’re in, it’s important to know that what we’re doing matters—that it’s important and worthwhile. Raising children is vital work and undeniably worthwhile, but it’s hard sometimes to push through childrearing’s constant demands and exhaustion to see the big picture. Raising children to know and love God and to love others is one of the most important things we can do on this side of the Kingdom. Remind yourself that your work as a mother matters. Don’t lose heart!

With the goal of doing work that matters, there’s a lot of value in finding ways to be involved in the larger ecclesial family, even in the little kid stage. I say this with a great big disclaimer. There are some stages when doing more than just putting one foot in front of the other isn’t feasible. That’s okay. Those stages are so all-consuming. Take heart in knowing they won’t last forever.

Thoughts for moms of young children:

  • Just showing up brings a lot of joy. Fellowship matters a lot. Connecting with others of all ages, in all stages, is a crucial part of ecclesial life. 
  • If you’re at a stage where you’re ready to be more involved, find ways to serve from home or during odd hours. Ask around for ideas!
  • Don’t forget that raising kids matters. 

Thoughts for sisters looking to reach out to moms of young children:

  • Look for ways to help moms of young children feel connected and involved in the ecclesia.
  • Support others where they are. Some people thrive on taking on projects, while others are overwhelmed by it.
  • Take time to listen. 
  • Help moms remember that their work deeply matters, even on the most mundane days.

Conclusion

Motherhood is a lot, but you’re not in this alone. Whether you’re a mom of young children or a sister looking to support moms of young children, reach out. Build relationships. Connect both on Sunday mornings and outside of Sunday mornings and remember the importance of your work.

Ruth Hensley,
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA

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