Apr 5, 2011

13 questions for churches on supporting women who go back to work and women who don’t

1. Do we understand that our own church has a ‘culture’ including a set of often unspoken assumptions that shape the attitudes and opinions surrounding the question of whether women should return to work?

2. Does this culture create and enforce an expectation that there is only one godly thing a family can do in deciding if and when women return to work. Does that culture operate blindly ie without any regard for each family’s set of circumstances and situation?

3. To what extent is the culture of our church informed by biblical principles of child-rearing and to what extent by culture and tradition. Do we expect a uniform pattern of behaviour amongst women once children come along? Are women under an unfair pressure in terms of what is appropriate as a ‘Christian’ in the decision as to whether they return to work or not?

4. How do we provide practical advice and assistance for couples starting a family as they reach their  decision? How do we appropriately help them assess where they stand on that spectrum between choosing to work – having to work – choosing to stay at home.

5. Do we prepare young couples before children come along eg in marriage preparation so that the decisions that they make on for example buying a house whilst both are earning do not force a return to work for a mother in circumstances that are economic and could have been preventable with some forethought?

6. Do we teach fathers that they bear the primary responsibility for raising their children? As one author put it ‘When did it become socially acceptable for a Christian man to admit that he is incompetent as a father?’ Again, what is the church culture?

Supporting  mothers who go back to work

7. Might the wider church family help a mum who returns to work with some of the childcare? Is it possible for a stay-at-home mom to also care for the child(ren) of a couple who are both working?

8. If a mum’s group usually meets during the day is there some means of offering some training, prayer and teaching for moms who simply cannot be available then? Might there be some opportunity for moms to meet in the evening? Might that also benefit stay-at-home mums if children are with Dad or tucked up in bed? Would this not also break down the barriers between mums who work and those who don’t?

9. How often, as a church family, do we pray for them as they balance the demands of work inside and outside the home?

10. Can we be more supportive of those who feel constantly ‘guilty’ whose only reason for working is to provide for family?

Supporting mothers who stay at home

11. How do we demonstrate, as a church community, that we really do value the role of a home-maker as important in God’s eyes? Do we pray in our services for those raising a family?

12. How do we help women through the difficult and even traumatic transition from a world of work in which they feel competent and confident to the world of caring for kids in which they don’t.  Is our church quick to send gifts & cards, even cook a few meals but provide no counsel, support, pastoral advice and prayer? What system of pastoral care might be set up to ensure that at this crucial change in life they are well supported?

13. How do we encourage a culture of mutual support and fellowship amongst mums at home to help counter the isolation that many women feel at home? How do we spot the mums who might be on the margins of church life or who are less good at naturally networking with other mums and make sure they get the fellowship they may be missing?


  • I am enthused to read this post. The issue of supporting mothers who work full time is rarely addressed in Christian circles and yes, this situation is even more rare in middle class churches. In all the years i have been going to church (Uk and Australia) not once have i come across another christian mum who works full time to provide for her family and neither have i felt my circumstance has been truly understood.

    I’m not complaining simply stating a fact. It is an unmet need.

  • Thanks Neil for putting these questions up, following from your previous posts and seminars on marriage. I think it’s a great instinct to highlight the fact that we are likely to bring cultural presuppositions to the issues of marriage and family life even before we consciously bring the Bible to bear on our thinking and conduct. Which means that there is, more often than not, the temptation to either uncritically fit Biblical principles with prevailing norms, or even dismiss the Bible in preference for cultural perspectives. Some of your questions have provoked much thought on my part as to how I should conduct family life when I head back to Singapore!

  • Hi Neil
    A really interesting set of questions, so thankyou. but some of them still seem to operate out of the false assumption that the force driving women back to work is exclusively financial. The reality is in a world that highly educates its women, that they want to work, in many cases. Especially if they are forward thinking enough to realise that the years of intensive childcare are relatively few and to have a paid job of purpose in years to come requires a level of continuous input?

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