Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preaching on Mother's Day and Fathers' Day

A recent post over at John Alan Turner's place led me to start thinking about sermons.

Now, I realize that no one's personal experience counts as research. Impressions are not the same thing as statistics. But I couldn't resist the urge to identify what seem to be some trends in preaching when it comes to Mother's Day and Father's Day, especially in the group I know best, the Churches of Christ. Here's what I recall:

When I was a kid (the 1970s took me from age 7 to 17), I don't remember the preachers in my home congregation ever preaching a Mother's or Father's Day sermon. Seems like there were a few years on Mother's Day when the preacher felt compelled to acknowledge the corsages in the crowd, which led to a few remarks of appreciation. But it was never more than that.

I'm guessing that it was in the 1980s that this type of preaching became more common in the Churches of Christ, beginning with a sermon on Mothers' Day, if not one for Fathers' Day. Then, by the 1990s, both had become a bit of a fixture in this fellowship. If, like me, you're old enough to be a sort of walking history book, does my description match up with your own experience?

Here's something else I've noticed. In the Churches of Christ, the Mother's Day sermons I've heard (and, yes, preached) have typically gone something like this: You ladies are great! You certainly deserve a lot more credit than you get. We love you. Please, for our sakes, keep up the good work.

And then there's the Fathers' Day sermon, which has typically gone something like this: Some of us, maybe most of us, had fathers who were deeply flawed. Truth be told, most of you dads out there are a bunch of Homers too. If you only realized your great potential, you'd work a lot harder at being a good father (husband too). So get with it! Oh well, at least God is our father.

Again, does this sound familiar to you? Either way, I'm interested in hearing the experiences of others. A few questions:

What sorts of cultural norms and stereotypes influence this sort of preaching?

With May and June coming up quickly, what do you think preachers need to hear from the rest of us regarding how to handle these preaching occasions?

You preachers out there: Do you like or loath preaching on these two Sundays? And what are you planning to do this year?


Steve Duer said...

Frank another trend that picked up in the 90's is the realization that both MD & FD are painful for some. Some because of their own growing up experience, some because of their parenting experiences and some because of fertility issues.

These are emotionally charged days. Folks have come to expect a feel good message but with the vast experience of the people in a church, you are bound to leave some hurting.

Here is a thought - instead of focusing on Mom's & Dad's on those days what about focusing on the 143 million orphans in the world or the 130,000 kids in the U.S. foster care system free for adoption who don't have either. And God's expectation towards his people to care for them.

It might help us to get out of our own self centered view of the day.

john alan turner said...

Many churches I know take that six week period to do a series on the family. You're right, though. Far too often, it's to build up moms and tear down dads (even if the tearing down is mostly just humorous).

Personally, I loathe the idea that I'm expected to preach on mothers and fathers those two days of the year.


What I've seen is that preachers praise the mothers and beat up on the fathers.

I haven't read John Alan's post, but I'm headed that way now.


c hand said...

What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything that's nice,

Single mothers on welfare are waging a heroic struggle?
Single men who hooked up with them, are much less heroic.

brntwdprchr said...

I try to only preach well developed, not overly used themes no matter what day I am preaching. As your post notes, it's easy to use trite, shallow thinking when dedicating yourself to the theme of a special day.

Wade Tannehill said...

I'm commenting a little late here, but here goes. I didn't grow up in the churches of Christ and most of my years in it, I have been the preacher. I don't feel obligated to do a mother or father's day sermon. But when I do, it's usually just an expository passage highlighting a notable mother or father in Scripture: Hannah, Lois and Eunice, Mary, Moses' mother, Abraham, Jacob, Caleb--something of that nature.

Frank Bellizzi said...

I appreciate all of the feedback on this one. Thank you, all.

Shauna said...

I was pleasantly surprised that you summerization was very on the point. I am a pastor and don't relish the thought of having to preach on either subject. I was very pleased with the answer about changing the focus from the fathers to the fatherless. I think what I plan to do is prepare the message I am led to, and perhaps on the back page of our church bulletin, writing a short devotional on the subject. Whie I think that everyone needs their kudos once in a while, I think we need exercise caution when looking at adding another "tradition." We need to realize that the power to make a difference, the power to change lies in our hands. If things continue to follow the modern current, what do we do about those that walk into the house of the Lord that are hungry, or those that are anxiously awaiting their salvation? Are we to postpone their spiritual well being to give way to tradition? What is our job anyway?

Anonymous said...

Went to church on Mother's day - Mothers were praised. Went to church on Father's day - fathers were beat up on. Same thing last years, the year before, before that........... Then they want to know why men don't come to church.