How to Lead New Moms in Scripture Engagement
Encouraging your staff
No matter who she talks to, no matter how many books and blogs she reads, nothing will eliminate the shock and awe that comes with being a new mom. It’s a joyful, tumultuous season that the norms of pre-parenthood rarely survive.
I work from home, which allows me to be with my seven-month-old daughter. It’s not without its challenges—she doesn’t consult my Outlook calendar when planning her nap schedule. But the flexibility makes life a lot simpler. I also took thirteen weeks off after she was born, while many women I know returned to work only six weeks after giving birth. Looking back, at six weeks I know our family wasn’t ready for me to return to work—not in terms of sleeping, nursing, or, frankly, emotional stability.
I am in a fortunate situation, but still come up short in many areas, including ways to engage Scripture. When I acknowledge this, I find myself pondering the challenges new moms face when they return to work outside the home.
Many leaders, at some point, will have women on their staff returning to work after giving birth. Leaders aren’t just leading people in their pews, they are also shepherding their ministry team. How can we come alongside these new moms, and specifically, help them engage with Scripture? During some seasons, Scripture engagement may look more like being on the receiving end of grace from someone who is living out biblical truths. Read on for some practical ideas.
Encourage and Listen
While the obvious answer may seem like giving new moms a Scripture engagement resource, start with something even more obvious: simple, heartfelt encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Most new (and experienced) moms feel like they’re failing at some point … usually within a few hours of getting home from the hospital. The feelings surge again when they return to work, but now they feel they’re failing in two roles. Give helpful feedback and encourage them frequently. Remind them they are not alone, that God is always faithful, always enough (Lamentations 3:22-23; Psalm 73:26).
If and when the new moms on your staff open up to you, just listen (Proverbs 18:13). It’s easy to want to offer advice, especially if you’re a parent yourself. But it is therapeutic, and truly a gift, for moms to just unload and be heard.
Grace, Grace, Grace
In a recent article, “Talk Less, Smile More,” Randy Petersen cites Philippians 4:5 and discusses the hard-to-define Greek word, “epieikes.” He describes this quality as being more valuable than justice and involving “a sense of fairness, a gentleness in applying standards, a willingness to understand where people [are] coming from.”
As you work with and lead new moms, I encourage you to practice epieikes with them. Caring for a baby is hard (and being away from said baby is hard). Motherhood is relentless, and a huge shift in identity for a woman. Motherhood changes her marriage, friendships, even her body.
Expect some tardiness and missed deadlines and a little absentmindedness, and prepare to extend epieikes—not forever, and not to an unreasonable point, but rigidity isn’t likely to help either of you (Psalm 112:4-5).
Help Set Priorities
We know that whatever our role or vocation, we’re instructed to work hard at it, as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Leaders expect this from their staff, new moms included. However, in thinking about how you can support them, turn the tables a bit and ask yourself, “How can I help her excel in her role as a wife and mother first?” This may be difficult—it’s certainly countercultural—but if the church won’t put the family first, who will?
If your resources permit, consider putting James 2:16 (CEV) into practice and “do something to help” by offering paid leave to new moms (and dads) on your staff. Parental leave is still a luxury in the United States— only 12 percent of private sector employees have access to paid leave. This is a chance for the church to lead in supporting new parents.
Schedule an intentional back-to-work meeting where you can answer one another’s questions and openly discuss expectations. This will help to eliminate the stress of unknowns. She may be wondering if it’s okay to leave 15 minutes early to get to the daycare on time. You may have concerns of your own. Just get it all out there.
If you’re also a parent, especially if you are a seasoned one, be real. Think back to your earlier days and be transparent about the struggles you faced raising your children while working. And if you don’t already, institute a regular staff prayer and devotion time. It might be one of the few times the new moms get to reflect on the word and pray, or be prayed for.
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