Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Ministry of Showers

Guest post by Barbara H. from Stray Thoughts

A bridal or baby shower is a way to “shower” the honoree with gifts she might need for her upcoming wedding or baby. Expenses for setting up housekeeping or raising a child can be overwhelming, and anything the friends and family of a bride or mother-to-be can do is a big help.

It seems attendance at showers has generally declined over the last several years. At our church, people who don’t attend often leave gifts for the honoree at a designated table in the lobby, and that sometimes is overflowing. And though that is incredibly generous, it is nice to honor the bride or mother-to-be with our presence as well as our presents as a show of support and a way of ministering to them. People just feel more loved and cared for when people actually come to these things. You know how it is when you’re planning an event: one of your major concerns is whether anyone will show up. It’s sad to me when people make the effort for an event like this and for the honoree when people don’t come. Recently I heard of a baby shower where only three people came besides the young woman’s family. I dropped by another one a few months back for a young woman who had been gradually fading away from church attendance, and only one other lady from the church had come. How likely is that fading to continue when it seemed to her like no one cared? What an opportunity that would have been to show love and support and welcome to her, to show we cared and wanted her fellowship. It’s in these ministries in people’s personal lives where they feel interested in and cared for, not just during the hand-shaking time at church.

Besides ministering to the honoree, I am ministered to during the devotional time. At most Christian showers, one of the ladies has been asked ahead of time to share something from the Word as an encouragement to the person being honored, whether having to do with marriage or mothering. It almost always helps everyone listening as well as the honoree. At one bridal shower I attended, the hostess, who was a younger wife, commented that it blessed her to see many ladies of every age nodding their heads during the devotional time. The devotional time usually encourages us in our roles, cheers us on the way, or helps provide course correction.

Sometimes there is an opportunity for guests to share encouragements and advice with the honoree whether by verbal testimony or writing a note on a 4×6 card or some other creative way of sharing. At my baby shower several little notes were gathered that I was instructed to save until I was in labor, and it was nice to go through them. I felt in both marriage and motherhood that I needed all the help I could get! As an attendee I often go a little blank when asked to share something (it’s nice to be forewarned so guests can be thinking about it ahead of time), but almost always the Lord gives me something that I trust will minister to the honoree.

I also love fellowshipping with the other ladies there. If you feel you don’t really know many people at church well, attending this kind of activity can provide opportunities to get to know people better. It’s ironic that sometimes we’re reluctant to go because “I don’t know them very well” when going would help in that department (I know — having just moved to a new area and attending a new church, I’ve wrestled with these conflicting feelings myself).

Personally, I even love the silly little games when they have them. And I get to eat hors d’oeuvres and cake! I especially love brunch showers with all the neat breakfast casseroles and pastries.

Some showers are designated as “drop-in,” where guests can stop in at any time during the event and stay as long or as short a time as they want to. But even at those showers which are not drop-in, usually the games, devotional, etc. occur at the beginning, and it is perfectly acceptable for someone to drop in during the second half when everyone is just eating fellowshipping, and watching the honoree open presents if they can’t come for the whole event.

Speaking of opening presents, that reminded me of an article or post I saw somewhere saying that shower honorees should not open gifts at the shower because it is boring for the guests and puts pressure on the honoree to act pleased at every gift when she may not like every gift. But I totally disagree. Most people I know enjoy oohing and aahing over the gifts, and I don’t know many brides or mothers-to-be who have to act like they like gifts they don’t want. If that were the case, I would agree that this is all a big waste of time.

On the other hand, occasionally a gift does not suit for whatever reason, even with the advent of registries for showers (which are an immense help, in my opinion) and it is thoughtful to include a gift receipt with the card. I feel that once I give a gift, it belongs to the other person to do what they want with it and I should not get my feelings hurt if they receive three toasters and return mine. I don’t always remember to do this, but sometimes I specifically pray for guidance as I buy a gift, to avoid wasted time and frustration and inconvenience.

A shower is also not the time to criticize the choices of the honoree. There are multitudes of appliances and equipment available for both brides and babies that were not even thought of ten or twenty years ago. If you think someone doesn’t really need a particular item on their registry, simply buy them something else on their list. At one bridal shower I was horrified to hear the wedding planner carry on about brides who register at two or three stores when it was her opinion that they should only register at one. I did not think that was a big deal – who among us finds everything we need at one store? Besides, some people might be able to get to one store more easily than another, so a number of choices is probably a good thing for guests. But at any rate, this is a time for encouragement and support, not for disparagement.

My purpose in pouring out my heart on this topic is not to heap guilt on people whose lives are already piled up with a number of obligations. We all have days or even seasons of life like that when we cannot add even one more thing. But if you can possibly go, I encourage you to. It really is a blessing to the honoree and her family and the hostess. To me it is an expression of hospitality even if the event is not in your home: a hospitality of open-heartedness and welcome of other people and their cares and concerns.

6 comments:

  1. I found it helpful when planning the shower I just hosted to think of my work in preparing food, planning decorations, and addressing scores of envelopes to go to guests to think of all I was doing as not only a gift to the bride, mother, and husband-to-be but also to the guests. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about women showing up - the bride was showered with both gifts and friends - and so I focused my attention in all the work I did on making a lovely afternoon for women who were taking time out of their busy lives to celebrate together!

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  2. I enjoyed your thoughts on this! When I am strapped for cash and want to attend a shower, I remember how even the little gifts are always appreciated.

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  3. Amen to this! This is something I actually really needed to hear. I've always been wary of attending showers. Something about the girly-girl atmosphere and silly games. (I'm working on giving in to the games! I'm getting much, much better!)

    And then I got married and seeing people's faces as they came in the door to shower me with the blessing of their presence was honestly worth more to me than the presents. It was about sharing this momentous occasion with my dearest friends. It meant the world to have them there and I realized that it's important to go and show support - even if such events fall outside one's comfort zone.

    Presence over presents is what I took away from this post. (Although the presents are also extremely helpful since, as you pointed out, it costs a lot to start a household and have a baby! Every little item helps in some form or fashion!)

    I'm glad you shared with us today. Your perspective has been very helpful to hear as I continue to change my mindset on hosting and attending these events.

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  4. Thanks for posting this, Carrie. I'm glad it was a blessing.

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  5. I've never been big on playing the silly games either, but if everyone participates they can be fun. In recent years I've begun to rethink the practice Christians have of putting a devotional into everything we do. I'm not sure a devotional is always necessary. If the shower is held at a church that's one thing. But a shower held in a home when the honoree has non-Christian friends and family invited it can make the guests very uncomfortable. I'm not saying I'm against them, just that they may not always be appropriate.

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  6. My mom could've written this posting too, this is exactly what she taught us growing up! :) I once was a part of a church that did not throw any showers and I tried to explain this mentality to the Women of the Church leaders. Showers are a special and important way of reaching out to women in the church and showing them we care about them. They're also a great way to meet and get to know the fiance of a man who has grown up in that church or new member of the church. Thanks for sharing!

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