After my husband and I decided we were going to remain childfree, I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile where I fit within the church. Where can I serve? What does it mean to be a childfree Christian woman? The biggest question I find myself asking is 'does the church do a good job in serving the childfree/childless community?' This encompasses singles, widows, married without children (by choice), couples struggling with infertility and even dating couples.
How does the church move forward supporting these often forgotten groups? Insuring that everyone feels like they belong, like they have a place in the church regardless of their place in life. Inclusive Programming - Churches do a fabulous job with programming for children and youth, I don't believe that should change. Raising up strong Christian children is important. Once you become a young adult the assumption is made you will go to bible (bridal) college to find your husband and can smoothly transition into family programming. Where does that leave the rest of us? We are no longer young adults just starting to figure out life, but grown adults building our life on a less traveled path.
The church would benefit from planning that has adults in mind as well as children. Church wide events often get planned with families in mind, specifically children, often forgetting adults will be in attendance as well. Doing a better job at planning and hosting adult only events like date nights would also help to make those without children feel as though they are truly part of the church community.
Inclusive Messages - Simple things like terminology from the pulpit can be very inclusive or very exclusive. I've often noticed women of the church are referred to as mothers and wives, contrarily, men are referred to as 'the men of the church.' My husband has felt that the messages we have heard have been educational and challenging, which further affirmed the difference in how we are perceiving what is being spoken. My ears are hearing I should be a good wife, a good mother, a woman who nurtures and raises the next generation. He hears be a good leader, not a good father, but a good leader. These things are subtle, often unnoticed by many, but can plant the seed that we as women are to nurture, care and take care of others. We need more life application within our teaching, not just family application. I understand it's easiest to teach from what we know, but even parents and grandparents have non-child experiences in life to pull from. More use sermon of illustrations that can be applied to everyone, not just the ones chasing toddlers, can add that extra layer of inclusivity and acceptance to a Sunday morning sermon.
Focus on Serving Christ not Finding a Husband - We need to teach that marriage and children are not the ultimate goal. We can always go back to good ol' Paul. Paul praises those that can remain single because we are ultimately called to serve the kingdom and anything else is a distraction from that calling. We are not called to make babies, we are not called to get married, we are not called to make a lot of money. Our highest calling is to serve God. Can we execute that call via parenting? 100% yes. Is parenting the ultimate goal though? No. Parenting is the vessel that can be used to serve, not the inherent call.
We also need to be raising our girls to be strong, independent Christian women. When I first began attending church I had the opportunity to go to a concert with a few other people my age. I vividly remember hearing one of the other girls say "This would be a great place to
find a husband!", and my heart broke a little bit. Is that the message the church is sending? Find a husband, have babies. Don't get me wrong, parenting is hard work and we need good Christian parents raising up the next generation, but as women there is so much potential outside of marriage and parenting. We need to be teaching the stories of Deborah, Priscilla and Mary of Bethany. Encouraging young women that although marriage and children are an honourable path, you don't have to take it. That even as a mom and wife, your identity should remain in Christ. You can be a fierce single Christian women going out and changing the world if you feel that call!
It's 2020 and I think it's about time we let go of the gender stereotypes and old school ways of thinking. Women are no longer forced to be in the kitchen and men are just as good at taking care of children as anyone else. Let's recognize that marriage and children aren't the path everyone is going to take and not only should we accept that, but we should be cheerleaders for those people going down a path less travelled. Let's bring the church into the present so we can see our congregation flourish and truly make a difference in this broken world.