Including single people on Mother's Day

‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ Romans 12 v 15

Many single people say they find Mothering Sunday services a painful experience. While childless people don’t want to take anything away from mothers, this celebration of motherhood can sometimes be very hard to take – for women and men. In fact, many singles report avoiding church on Mothers' Day. Here are some suggestions on how to create an inclusive and sensitive service with something for everyone.

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Remember those who are hurting

Many single people already feel excluded in a church that is predominantly built around the nuclear family. If it’s not handled sensitively, Mother's Day can rub more salt into the wound. Singles report watching flowers being handed out to all the mothers in the congregation while they sit empty-handed.

It can also be a difficult day for women (and couples) who’ve experienced miscarriages, stillbirths or had children who have died. As many as one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage, and some couples experience recurrent miscarriage.

People whose relationships with their own mothers have been neglectful, unloving or abusive can also find the celebration of motherhood difficult, as can those who have grown up without a mother (perhaps in the care system) or whose mother has died.

It can be good to recognise the pain of Mother's Day right at the start of the service, to help those who find it difficult feel understood and reassured that this service is also for them.

Recognise this in the prayers

It is important to recognise those who are hurting in your prayer time. It can help to explicitly mention and pray for people who find Mother's Day painful in different ways (without singling out individuals) and will make them feel valued, seen and included.

You could mention those who are hurting in the sermon, if appropriate, referencing examples from the Bible of barrenness, difficult relationship with mothers, or painful experiences of motherhood (e.g. Mary watching Jesus die)

Have a moment of reflection

Consider devoting a moment in the service for those grieving for the children they’ve lost – or the ones they’ve never had. You could invite people to light a candle or have quiet moment for people to acknowledge and bring their pain to God, which can help them grieve. Prayer stations are also helpful, you could set one up during the week. Check out the Baby Loss Awareness Week website for information and resources.

You can also dedicate a moment of the service to those who’ve had a negative (or no) relationship with their mothers, and have spent a lifetime yearning for the mother they never had. And for those who have lost mothers.

“The church needs to realise that not having any children is a very painful experience for many people, and should remember this in its general focus and on such occasions as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.”

“Think about it: we have Mother’s Day, Father’s day, family services and youthwork, we celebrate and applaud those with wedding anniversaries, we celebrate Valentine’s Day... all while singles, divorcees and widows/widowers have to simply look on...”

Recognise and include all mother figures

It's important to recognise the other parenting and nurturing roles we can have in other people's lives. Single people often step into these roles, and it’s important to acknowledge the impact this has and the value they bring.

Celebrate all women who have been a mother figure in children's lives: Godparents, those who foster; who help, guide or act as mentors; who step in when parents are struggling; and those who are simply a motherly presence in the lives of young and old. You could also celebrate your Sunday school leaders, teachers, carers, hospital workers.

A note on flower posies and other gifts

If you want to give out flower posies, present them to everyone in the church. Not everyone appreciates this – we’ve heard them called ‘pity posies’! – but the majority of women like to be included. You can reframe this by acknowledging that the whole church community is involved the raising of children. Be aware that if children are giving them out, they may feel nervous approaching adults they do not know, so keep an eye out to ensure that no one is left out.

Do something to bless single parents

Being a single parent can be very challenging, with many facing financial or practical pressures to support their children by themselves. Mother's Day itself could be a difficult day, especially for those who are recently widowed or separated. You could hold a special Mother's Day event for single parents with entertainment and childcare, to give them a night off and make them feel seen and valued.

“We have done a special meal for single mums with entertainment and childcare - they aren’t made to feel special very often.”

Encourage people to think of those who care for or inspire them

One church told us that they give everyone a card and pre-stamped envelope, and encourage them to spend some time writing to someone who is like a mum to them, or who has inspired them with their mothering or care of others.

This is inclusive of both old and young, single and married, parent and childless. It's good to be reminded to encourage and celebrate people in our lives. It will also deepen some connections between families and single people.

By thinking of creative ways to embrace the wide variety of experiences of being a mother (or not), and having a mother (or not), you’re able to include every member of the Body – man, woman and child.

“On Mother’s Day, my church gives a small token, such as a fairy cake, to every woman, regardless of their status (and the equivalent to every man on Father’s Day). Being included in these things means a lot to me.”

“In my church, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the Saturday so people who aren’t mothers don’t feel excluded.”

“I have no children and my beloved mum died when I was in my 20s. But I value the opportunity to give thanks and light a candle for her on Mothering Sunday.

Explore the roots of Mothering Sunday

Traditionally Mothering Sunday had very little to do with mothers. Instead it focussed on a place - returning to your mother church where you were baptised or nurtured in faith. The day was about reconnecting with the roots of your faith and your identity in Christ.

Taking time to reflect on your spiritual roots and identity can be a useful exercise today too. You could encourage your congregation to reflect on the people and places that have nurtured their faith, and how this has changed over the years.

Accept that it’s just too much for some people’

Despite your best efforts, some people will find Mothering Sunday services too raw and painful, and will avoid church on that day. It will help them to know that you understand, and that it’s okay to avoid certain events to protect themselves from further hurt.

It's good for people to know in advance that you will be doing a Mothering Sunday service, so they can choose to come or not come. If you know members of your congregation will struggle, you may want to talk to them in advance – individually or addressing the whole church – to explain your intentions and outline what the service will involve. Bad previous experiences may have scared people off, but understanding that the service will be for everyone, whatever their circumstance, may help to reassure them. Equally if the service will have a strong focus on parenting and birth mothers - let people know that.

Consider holding an alternative service

You could consider holding an alternative service for those who find Mother’s Day too painful. This could be a simple service or Holy Communion, or even a time of prayer over Zoom with a short reflection. This could make a huge difference to those struggling with Mother's Day, and provide an opportunity for comfort and healing.

“Our church leaders try to be sensitive in the way they speak about and to singles, ensuring Mother’s Day is for all women. They’re also careful in the way they plan infant dedications and other events that could be difficult.”

“As a teenager in the 1960s, I gave up my son for adoption. I never married or had any more children. For a long time, I avoided Mothering Sunday services – it just churned up buried painful feelings. Now I’m able to find some peace in services that celebrate mothers while also acknowledging the pain many of us live with.”


For more ideas on creating a service that focuses on ‘mothering’ rather than just ‘mothers’, see Mothering Sunday by Em Coley (Grove Books, £3.95,

For suggestions for services and liturgies for people who struggle with childlessness, miscarriage, loss of a parent and other situations that make Mothering Sunday difficult, visit

Home For Good have some helpful resources for marking Mother's Day services in an inclusive way:

We also have an article for singles struggling with Mothering Sunday, which your church members may find helpful.