Four Tips For Connecting With the Moms in Your Church
Before I had children, I didn’t know what to make of mothers. I was a new wife in a church full of young families and students, and though I had plenty of opportunities to meet with the moms in our church body, I struggled to know how to connect with them. Just when I’d have a handle on a conversation, it would dip into foreign territory: diapers, educational philosophies, some story from their day that I only loosely understood. I stuck with those women, though, and I’m thankful for that. Now that I have children, I am one of the moms at that same church and have had the opportunity to sit on both sides of the table: I remember what it was like to listen to conversations about childbirth and cringe, and I know what it’s like now to have something to contribute—but to ask the college student, instead, how her finals went.
Spending time with those who think the way we do and who sympathize with our struggles because they’re living through them too, will always be easier than entering the lives of women whose goals and priorities seem to differ wildly from our own. But Titus 2:3-4 urges us to forge teaching relationships with those both younger and older than we are:
[Older women] are to teach what is good, and so train the younger women . . . that the word of God may not be reviled. (ESV).
As a young woman, you may wonder what common ground you could possibly share with the mom stalking her toddler around the church sanctuary, but there is, in truth, only one interest you need to share: Christ. If you are both aspiring to know Him better and to build your lives on the foundation He has laid, everything else is secondary. I have had friendships with single women that may only last for the three years or so they’re in town finishing their degree, but because those friendships are built on the gospel, I have hope that they will go on bearing fruit long after the two of us have lost touch.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from those women brave enough to spend afternoons in my kitchen, drinking tea while my children run circles around us, and from the moms who (long ago) made tea for me:
Give her grace
Children change constantly and constantly change us, so if it seems like we moms have little to talk about except our children—give us grace. If we seem disoriented by simple tasks or answer the door in the same shirt we wore yesterday (the one with dried food on the collar)—give us grace. And if it seems like we’re relearning the art of conversation each time you come over—give us grace.
Motherhood is less like wading into the pool from the shallow end than it is like being thrown off the dock by a well-meaning dad: you aren’t a mom—and then you are. Our challenge from that moment on has been learning how to care for our kids, how to speak their language (which changes daily), and how to teach them the great truths that will shape their lives into eternity. Living fully submerged like this can take most of our mental resources, and while a conversation with you can be like coming to the surface for a breath of oxygen, the actual process of surfacing may not look pretty. So, please, give us grace.
Get to know her—in person
If you only know the moms in your life through social media, then you only know half the story. Some of us post only about the sunny side of motherhood; others have a firm dedication to sharing the truth about their day, meltdowns and all. We tend to fall to one side of the happy medium or the other, so simply following a woman on Facebook or reading her blog is no substitute for meeting with her regularly in her home, where you get to know her and her children on both good days and bad days.
This applies to Sunday mornings, too: the mother you meet at church is just a tiny slice of the whole. Building a relationship with her outside of the church building will allow you to see her more completely, as will spending time with her kids. You will almost certainly learn that she isn’t as perfect as she seems, but with that knowledge might come a surprising sense of relief—it means that you don’t have to be perfect either.
“If you think you’re busy now, just wait until you have kids.” Parents sometimes say this to college students, forgetting how obnoxious it is to be told—when you’ve just stayed up late studying for an exam but only got through half the material assigned—that what you consider “busy” right now doesn’t really count and the worst is yet to come.
What they fail to mention is that parenting creates a completely different kind of busyness: I can spend eight hours cleaning up after my children and trying to make dinner, and find, at the end of the day, that the house is a mess and dinner is late (I still haven’t figured out how this happens, but there’s usually a toddler involved).
So, if you show up to a mom’s house and find the couch obliterated by the same heap of laundry that was there last week, don’t raise your eyebrows—start folding. You can have a great conversation while folding onesies, trust me. And sometimes, working together to tackle a mountain of laundry creates a sense of camaraderie between two women. You may find yourself opening up to her while your hands are busy, while the relief of seeing just a fraction of those clothes folded may help her open up to you.
Remember that your presence is a blessing
I love getting to know young women, single or newly married, because talking with them reminds me both of myself at twenty-one and of the fact that my daughters are heading toward twenty-one, too. Being with you reminds me that the moment I’m in, with the dirty dishes and the fussy baby, is not my only moment, but that it is a brief one worth cherishing.
Most importantly, meeting with a young woman like you allows me to get to know someone whose experiences differ from mine and to grow through that in unexpected ways. So please, resist the urge to think that your struggles are somehow less significant than those of the mom across the table (or across the pile of laundry). Share what’s really going on in your life. Ask for advice if you want to.
It can be tempting to assume that older women view your struggles as trivial, but we shouldn’t: your presence in our home is a blessing to us, and ministering to you is an important part of our calling as older women. When you enter into our lives and allow us to enter yours, that exchange strengthens us both, but it also strengthens our churches by creating young women who are not intimidated by motherhood or tempted to idealize it, and mothers who value both what God has already done in their lives and what he will do.
We become women bound together not by shared loves or hobbies but by the gospel—the only common ground that we can stand on for eternity.