Churches often struggle to include childless people. They’re great at ministering to mothers and fathers and kids. But they often neglect those in the minority, those who didn’t follow the expected social and spiritual trajectory of getting married and making babies.
I have a few choice stories about the bad and the ugly of church exclusion. But those will have to wait for another time.
Because today I’m looking at the good stuff, those precious times when the church has done childlessness well. As a childless person, it makes a huge difference when I am seen and heard in church, not as a token minority person but a genuine and valued member of God’s family.
It makes a huge difference when I am seen and heard in church.
So here are a few of my favourite things churches have done to include childless people:
- Mentioned us in sermons. I once heard a pastor refer to childless and single people in her sermon on hardship. All she did was briefly acknowledge childlessness and singledom as forms of suffering. Then she moved on. But it was the most seen and heard I have ever felt in church.
- Made us part of the furniture. I love it when parents wheel their prams over to me and start chatting. They treat me as an equally valued member of the family. I feel involved. I feel included. And that is what I am.
- Asked for our input. My pastor recently asked for my honest feedback about the level of inclusivity in the church. She said, ‘Has there ever been a time when you were uncomfortable in church as a childless person?’ I loved the fact she wanted to hear about my lived experience of being in the minority. Please ask these kinds of questions. And be ready for honest answers.
- Got us involved in kids’ events. If you have an upcoming kid-centric or parent-focused event, please invite us to serve at that event. I recently got through a baby dedication service by playing the keyboard and ministering to people. This was much better than watching and ruminating. And the only way I can attend Christmas events these days is if I am serving on the worship team.
- Turned Mother’s and Father’s Days into God’s Days. The best Mother’s Day I ever attended had the pastor focusing on the motherly traits of God for her entire sermon. It was a stunning sermon, beautifully crafted, but also refreshing in its focus on God—not us. (It left me thinking: why do we harp on so much about how great mothers and fathers are, when it is so great to talk about God being our mother and father?)
It was refreshing in its focus on God—not us.
Instead of glorifying earthly mothers and fathers at church, I would much rather talk about our eternal home, our spiritual family and the spiritual children we’re going to meet in heaven. Instead of focusing on the wonders of parenthood, I would much rather fixate on how wonderful our God is.
If you are childless like me, I hope this provides some ways of giving constructive feedback to your church. They need your voice.
Instead of focusing on the wonders of parenthood, I would much rather fixate on how wonderful our God is.
I also hope this blog gives churches ideas about including childless people in their congregations. If you are a church leader, I hope you already do a great job of including your childless members. If not, I hope you are inspired by a few of my favourite things the church has done for me.
You can be the change your childless brothers and sisters in Christ so need.
If you are childless, how has the church responded to you? If you know a childless person, how can you encourage them to share their lived experience of childlessness? If you are a church leader, how can you be more inclusive of your childless members? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.