It was a familiar scene for me as the pastor, newly married:

“So, Pastor, when are you planning on having kids?”

“You don’t feel well? (Big smile.) Oh, I can guess what that means!”

Or any time I mentioned that I had a personal announcement:

“Oh, Pastor, you’re pregnant!”

Over and over again.

Granted, I was the first young clergywoman in this congregation and the prospect of a new baby was exciting. Still, as many women will attest, questions of when you’ll get pregnant are uncomfortable at best and harmful at worst.

Church pews are full of history and stories. In every congregation you’ll find the family who isn’t interested or ready to be parents; the couple reeling from a miscarriage they aren’t ready to share with anyone; those fraught with worry over whether in vitro fertilization will work; the couple with differing views on becoming parents; those waiting to be chosen as adoptive parents; the family with the recent news of a chromosomal abnormality in their baby; the same-sex couple working through adoption paperwork; parents wondering how they’ll afford another child; and the young pregnant woman unsure of raising a child on her own.

I imagine that each of these families hopes the church will walk with them in the joy and the pain. To listen. To pray. To offer prayers and liturgies. And, most important, to be present without questions or judgment.

The church has the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of love and understanding to families; to sit with them with honest care and compassion. To ask how someone is doing and really listen to their answers. To allow someone the space to cry in the pews. To offer prayers and food.

As the church, we have a powerful role in bearing hope, sharing love and showing up.


  • Talk as a family about the ways you can support children and mothers in the world who don’t have access to the resources we do in the United States. Research different ways health care is provided, and pray together as a family for families across the world. Honor the families in your life by supporting women and children worldwide through ELCA Good Gifts.
  • If you know a family grieving the loss of a child or celebrating a birth, bring them food and coordinate with others in your congregation to provide meals. Send a card with the simple message that they are being prayed for, remembered and loved.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is

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