given on Mothers Day, May 9, 2010
Moms, Maslow & Methodists
Each of us sitting here today are very fortunate. In most cases, if not all, we were born and raised in a Christian family. We had moms who knew from their moms how to instill a sense of safety, belonging, and love. These values were foundational in our homes—but not in everybody’s home.
As the decades have turned into centuries that crossed over into a new millennium, the change factor seems to be the one constant in our lives. Yet, if we consider the home and the ideals society maintains for the home, change remains constant. Regardless of what year you might select to review the social expectations and standards of any home whether here in our local community or any spot on this globe, the basic needs remain common.
Introducing the Maslow’s Hierarchy in the mini-lesson provides the groundwork for understanding human needs. Whether these human needs are socially learned or whether they are simply the life basics, which come from being born, the truth is that everybody grows up meeting these needs. The point today is that what mothers know also is what God knows and what the church must understand.
First, the physiological needs, our foundations for maintaining life: food, water, shelter, and warmth. Mothers know this. At the birth of any child, the mother—and father—instinctively begins providing for the most basic needs to sustain life. If any one of these needs is not met, a breakdown occurs. Sadly, the breakdown can lead to fatal consequences at the worst, but it can also derail the health of a child even the family unit. Another unfortunate truth is that even if those needs are met at birth and in those early days, weeks, and months, the possibility of a disruption can remove any one or all provisions for those needs.
For example, look at how nature can breakdown any individuals basic needs, regardless of location, age, income, education, or any other classification of people. Haiti destroyed the basic needs for thousands. The tsunami a few years ago wrecked the basic need foundation for others on the other side of the globe. The Chilean earthquake broke down the basic needs foundation to the south of us.
What is our role, as a Methodist, a Christian, a church, to be? It is the same as any mother’s role with their family—we must find a way to meet those basic needs of our fellow humans, regardless of their classification in the human race. John Wesley knew this. As the Methodist Church grew, the outreach of the church grew, too. As an established network, the UMCOR is one of the most immediate responders to any disaster anywhere in the world. What our moms know to do for us is a model of what God wants us to do for others. We are to step out in mission to assure that all basic needs are met for all that we can help.
Do we? I fear we do not. Each time we hear of a need, we do try our best to respond, but are we meeting the basic needs of those directly up the road? Do we know whether our next-door neighbor has a basic need which to be met or not? Have we heard of someone who lost a job and has no means of providing food and shelter for the family? The needs are there, right around the corner. As Methodists here in this sanctuary, are we following God’s call to mission?
Still, Maslow knows that even if the basic life needs are met, there are other needs to meet. Moms know this too. Remember how many times you yelled at the kids to stop because there was a risk in running out into the road? Maybe the food on the stove smelled so yummy, you just wanted to taste it and Mom yelled at you that it was hot. Maslow states that once the basic needs are met, the next need is for safety.
The job of raising children becomes more difficult when basic needs expand into the need for safety. Moms do tackle the job, but having others around to help makes the task more manageable. Dads, older siblings, grandparents, and neighbors begin joining in to make sure the children are safe and well protected. Still safety can be violated.
Sending the kids off to school can be a heart-wrenching experience for moms/dads, too; but we have social expectations that the caretakers on the buses, in the schools, and more are there to assure that our children are safe. But are they? The news is filled with too many stories of stranger danger, of too many bullies roaming the playgrounds, of drug dealers, of peer pressure, of emotional, physical and sexual abuse by those believed to be caretakers of our young people.
Any time a person has an interruption in the safety foundation, they retreat and return to the lower level of functioning. The victim must once again develop a sense of having the basic needs met before re-establishing a sense of safety. Moms who had let go and encouraged their children to move forward are now faced with the daunting task of rebuilding safety. The task is sometimes impossible and moms turn to others for help.
How can we the church make a difference? First, we love one another. Each and every one of us must consider the safety of others as essential. Wesley would tell us that we must fight for safety in the mines, we must wrap each person in a blanket of security within the community. The unsafe influences of today’s society have exploded and keeping them away from our impressionable youth is impossible.
What do we do? Methodists become active in the community. Methodists establish certain procedures to make sure that in the church, the children are safe: an example is the safe sanctuary training and the background checks that are done for all individuals in direct contact with youth. Methodists, at the organizational level, monitor the mental health of the pastors, create procedures to identify and correct problems, and prayerfully seek guidance.
Each move up Maslow’s Hierarchy gets more difficult, but look at the third level: belonging—love. Interestingly, the emphasis on radical hospitality is directly related to this need. At home, mom works to create a sense that home is where the heart is. The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking when friends are over can signal that extra effort is being made to make others feel they belong in that space. Moms who open the door after school so the kids and their friends have a safe, enjoyable, welcoming place to gather makes all the difference in the world as young people grow up knowing they belong to a network of family and friends.
When Bishop Schnase spoke a few weeks ago, he presented the idea that a real shift has occurred in society that is presenting a major challenge to our churches—Methodists as well as other denominations. The challenge is that when the communities were the center of one’s world, people felt a sense of belonging.
They grew up with their families and neighbors within a basic geographical region. They were typically born, raised, and established their own homes in that same geographical region. They were brought up in a family who knew their beliefs and lived them. They practiced their faith going to church every Sunday morning and participating in the church’s calendar of events. The daily routine included the church where they knew they belonged.
As the boundaries of the communities grew and became blurred, and communication erased the time barriers of news, the switch occurred in our society. No longer did we grow up believing in a set of beliefs, now we grow up in a global community that challenges our belief heritage. The influences are no longer screened by parents and teachers and then presented to the young people. Now the young people learn of ideas and different beliefs even before the parents.
The change in our society has led us, according to the Bishop, to switch the order from “belief, believe, belong” to “need to belong, begin to believe, and then discover the belief”. Now that indicates that Maslow’s hierarchy that the third level of needs is belonging or needs is even more essential in the continued development of self.
This shift in how a belief system is established is exemplified in the young people’s needs to develop a sense of belonging. The growth in gangs is based on this very principle. So many young people in densely populated areas are left to float around without a sense of belonging. The mobile society in which we live also contributes to a strong need for belonging. The gangs know this.
Gangs feed on those who feel alone in the world and are left stumbling around without knowing where they fit in. The methods gangs use become manipulative, fear-driven, money-focused, and territorial. As a new member, the trials are designed to create a sense of dependency on the other gang members and on belonging to a “successful” family. This can be heard even in the language, the term of ‘Bro’ and ‘Sista’ indicate the sense of relationship.
This example of belonging is important for today’s churches. Methodists have an open door policy, but what do we do to make sure that those who walk in know they belong to God’s family? Again the concept of radical hospitality is essential, but the church sits on its foundation seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Does the church open its doors to the people? Does the church provide fellowship for all? Does the church reach out to assure that others know they belong? Does the church make sure that the sense of belonging is honest and that from involvement in that family leads to understanding the beliefs we have as Christians?
Moms know how to do it. Gangs know how to do it. The church may know how to do it, but is it? Think outside of the box and let’s make sure that on this Mothers’ Day, the values we hold as Christians and as moms, can be demonstrated through the open doors of the church. As we enter into the summer months, when young people and families are running all over the place, let’s consider how we can create the sense of belonging for anybody, in any way, at any time.
Remember the sense of exponential growth: one learns, teaches five others, they learn and each teaches five more. The same thing happens when word spreads from one, then that one spreads it to two more, and so on. If we feel a sense of belonging here within the walls of our sanctuary, our family life center, even our yard, then let’s demonstrate it. Let’s show others how important they are to us and–more importantly–how important they are to God.
Moms have been doing it from the beginning of humanity. Churches have, too. Society has changed, so we must change to meet the needs of humanity, too. For the next month, start praying about how the church can demonstrate that we all belong to God’s family. For the next month, let’s brainstorm ideas that will meet the need for belonging, for love. When we reach Fathers Day, let’s be ready to go out fishing.
We seek your wisdom to help us teach others how to meet the needs in their lives. Speak to us and tell us what we can do to nurture one another just as our moms have nurtured us. Give us the strength to carry out your ideas. And, when we meet together, take our ideas, our skills, our talents, and our gifts to share with others the value of loving one another. –Amen