Steps to Organize a Widows Ministry
How can churches respond to the widow today? The problem is complex for several reasons. First, churches today are varied ranging from small struggling bodies with limited resources both in staff and financing to mega-churches whose staffs are lean and depend on volunteers to minister to most needs other than teaching. Second, the experiences and needs of widows vary widely and there is no ‘one model fits all’ to be created. Recognizing that the following recommendations must be adapted to the individual church, here are some suggestions.
1. Form a leadership group including at least one widow.
Scripture is clear that there should be appointed leaders in the body to oversee the care of widows. (Acts 6: 1-7) The ministry arm might well be done through deacons and deaconesses following the model of I Timothy 3: 8-13. I would personally add (clearly this is my personal addition) that all leadership groups related to widow’s ministry have a leading member who is a widow. Ministry leaders are typically married men who understandably cannot fathom our circumstance. It has been my experience that lacking this leading widow, churches decisions of how to serve us often miss the mark of meeting the real needs of widows.
2. Survey widows needs.
Once the leadership team has been established, determine who are the widows, and then follow up with a survey to discover their needs. A survey is included at the top of this page as a sample. While financial needs and help with upkeep of living space are common, need for connection is typical. Remember the 75% loss factor? Most connections with the church are broken upon becoming a widow. This time period is the widow’s most painful, lonely and vulnerable part of her journey, a time when she needs believing friends near her.
3. Address the needs as expressed in the survey.
Some churches have sources of help in place. Do not assume that a new widow is aware of your household helper team or any other resources you offer. We prepared a referral list which is included at the bottom of this page. These are typical needs of widows in our area. Ideally contact will be made with new widows to inform them of your resources.
4. Provide a specific connection for widows to the church.
In our Widow to Widow ministry we study Scripture together, share our journey, and do fun things together as well. If your church has few widows, you might partner with other churches and provide a seminar day. Widow Connection is available to consult with you as you plan.
On my journey as a widow, I have learned that we all change. And much of the change is good. We become faith filled because we can not face the day any other way. We become strong because we have no other choice. We are compassionate because our heart has been broken. As I listen to other widows stories I am awestruck at what they have learned and accomplished.
One of my change points occurred in Africa. I traveled to follow in Bob’s footsteps to a place I had not been able to accompany him. I was connecting with believers whom he had assisted in broadcasting. Prior to my trip, I received an email asking me to speak to widows groups there since that was now my reality. “Of course.” In one season of my life I had taught Bible studies and my interpreter would be Bob’s friend. This would be a way for me to give back in Bob’s footsteps.
The result: I spoke to 7 groups of widows from 20 to 200. I spoke in one church service where the men were the predominant note-takers. I spoke to one assembly of 5 churches which I thought would be a group of widows. (I quickly sorted my notes from the widow and her pot of oil to the transitions in Joshua’s life.) I delivered my message with five pastors sitting behind me in large impressive chairs. After listening intently to my teaching, one pastor issued their pronouncement: “It is good.”
I can only say simply, I was changed. I remembered Bob’s encouragement to me to accept my first speaking engagement after my first book was published. I was hesitant. He said, “Honey, they want to hear the person behind the book.” So I went reluctantly. This was different. A different woman emerged in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Open Bible, hungry learners, I was energized and embraced the opportunity.
Yes, we have changed. As we get acquainted again you’ll discover that we believe Romans 8:28 with a new tenacity. We have new and relevant gifts to offer not in spite of, but rather because of our loss. We are bold because we have already faced death in a part of ourselves. We laugh at things many people fear and count blessings among the mundane events of an ordinary day. Invisible? Let’s change that. Welcoming the widows reflects the heart of God.