SHELTERING CHURCH HANDBOOK
Table of Contents:
Two people were especially crucial in the conception of this project and
manual--Steven Paul Wissler, founder and executive director of the
United Methodist Taskforce on Abortion and Sexuality, and John Cardinal
O'Connor. It was Cardinal O'Connor's charitable offer to all the women of the
nation to come to the New York Archdiocese if they needed assistance carrying a
child to term that set me on the search for a way that other churches, without
the resources of an archdiocese, might make a similar though modified offer. But
it was a providential meeting with Steve Wissler that showed me a plan was
already in place. Much in this manual is the direct result of Steve's foresight
and vision to give every pregnant woman a viable alternative through the local
church. Early drafts of the concept and description were faxed back and forth so
often that neither Steve nor I could possibly unravel what belongs to who. It
has been a joy to work with someone who must surely one day be recognized as one
of the "pioneers" in this movement. I have simply followed his wagon.
Handbook Section A:
Establishing a Ministry for Women in Crisis
A sheltering church is one that has made a pledge, adopted a
plan, and agreed to follow through with a proclamation.
The pledge shows the church cares for the practical and spiritual needs of women
facing unplanned pregnancies. The plan insures that churches will not be caught
unprepared when a real need arises, which is nothing less than dangerous when
abortion is the other option. The proclamation informs members and visitors of
the church's willingness to help.
Many churches have informally made the pledge. If women in their
congregations need assistance to see their crisis pregnancies through to their
end, they will help. But they may not have made a proclamation to that effect,
missing many opportunities to minister. Others may have made the pledge and have
even regularly proclaimed their intentions, but they have no plan, leading to a
haphazard response when a need does arise. A sheltering church will exhibit all
three--a pledge, a plan, and a proclamation.
In the many situations a pastor faces, ministering to a woman considering
abortion is surely one of the most challenging. Few counseling situations are so
urgent; hesitancy or incomplete information can result in a fatality. This is
true for several reasons.
First, supporters of life offer what sounds like an unbelievably hard
solution, short-term, compared with what the abortionist offers. We are asking
the woman to choose a route that may provide embarrassment. If the pregnant
woman is single, for instance, there may be some embarrassment when her family
and friends realize that she is sexually active. Furthermore, the woman's body
will be radically changed, often during a period of her life when physical
attractiveness is most important. She may also be concerned over her future at
school, at work, or with her relationship with the father. A pregnancy can
complicate all these areas. The discovery of life within the womb can seem like
a "threat" to a woman in certain difficult circumstances.
Enter the abortionist, who is able to financially profit off the woman's
perceived threat. The woman is told that her problem can be taken care of on her
lunch hour. Her body won't be changed. Nobody will know. The entire problem will
go away. In the short term, this sounds so easy, so unbelievably simple, that it
becomes a very tempting "alternative."
The long-tern reality, however, presents a much different picture. Long-term,
the abortionist offers only death and regret. Long-term, the church offers life
and personal growth. But many people find it difficult to think "long-term" in
the midst of a crisis. The tendency in a crisis is to act in ways that promote
self-preservation. Crisis thinking doesn't lend itself to the leisurely ideals
of sacrifice, selflessness, and Christian commitment and obedience. Crisis
thinking is usually centered around, "How can I get out of this mess?"
Women who approach the church after learning of an unplanned pregnancy need
more than hope. They need assurance that the church is willing and able to help.
If the church does not address the many fears and concerns a woman has, the life
of the unborn child is clearly threatened. When one considers the woman's
inevitable guilt over the abortion and the eventual regret, it is clear that
during a crisis pregnancy the potential for evil to flourish is immense and
Such an urgent and potentially tragic problem requires comprehensive answers
rather than "on the spot" treatment. If a church begins to think about how it
will respond to a crisis pregnancy only after the pregnancy is brought to its
attention, it is really playing a form of Russian roulette. The sacrifices
called for on behalf of life are so great that it is vitally important to inform
women of their options and reasons for choosing those options before
they become pregnant. If the church waits until a woman is pregnant, it is
already a step behind, as the woman and/or couple will have slipped into a
"crisis mode" form of thinking, seeking a quick solution to an unwanted
To make matters even more difficult for the pastor, the abortion problem
rarely occurs in a vacuum. It is often a symptom of other, underlying needs.
Crisis pregnancies are frequently accompanied by troubled or improper
relationships, family tensions, sexual immorality, and the like. The woman is
sometimes abandoned by the father of the child, whose willingness to address the
problem may be limited to paying for half of an abortion. Interruption of school
and career, family upheaval, embarrassment, and financial hardship can all make
an already difficult counseling encounter perilous.
Many pastors can provide adequate spiritual counsel, but a woman facing a
crisis pregnancy needs more than spiritual counsel. In the great tradition of
historical Christianity and the full Gospel (James 1:27), the local church
should stand ready with many practical options that will enable a woman
to catty her baby to term and make appropriate decisions for her future.
If the church can't or won't provide a better option almost immediately,
another life may be lost to the violence of abortion, and another mother will
have to be healed of post-abortion trauma.
The sheltering church concept is rooted in the desire to provide a biblically
based, faith-filled approach to the abortion problem. The sheltering church
concept unites Christians as they follow the example of the early Church. Though
living in a pagan empire that casually practiced abortion and often abandoned
children (usually to slavery, prostitution, or death), the early Church provided
refuge for unwanted little ones and their parents.
Early Christian documents show not only the Church's firm opposition to the
sin of abortion in its moral teaching, but also the Christian imperative to
rescue abandoned children. Orphanages and foundling homes were established
throughout the Christian world in the fourth century, becoming visible symbols
of Christian compassion for unwanted children.
In continuity with past Christian practice, the sheltering church movement
seeks to offer life to women facing difficult pregnancies, and to make this
offer of life out of Christian hospitality and love without a price tag
attached. This is in sharp contrast to the costly choice of abortion (usually
cash only, and almost always up-front) being offered to women in our culture.
Because this help is offered through the church and not through a social
service agency, the entire situation can be addressed. The church can call the
father of the child to act responsibly; if relevant, the church can offer the
couple forgiveness, while exhorting them to live a life of sexual purity; the
church can approach the woman's employer, so that the woman need not fear losing
her livelihood; the church can bring reconciliation between a daughter and her
parents, to preserve and strengthen the familial bond; the church can advise the
woman and the father of the child as they make vital decisions about the future.
The church is uniquely gifted to address the problem of abortion in such a
comprehensive way. This is more than putting a band-aid on the problem. It goes
beyond simply putting a padlock on the abortion clinic door. The sheltering
church movement addresses people, not just the process, and thereby brings about
lasting, even eternal change.
The sheltering church movement helps individual churches cut through the
complexities presented by abortion. Pastors need not fear a difficult counseling
situation with a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy because by becoming a
sheltering church, congregations will have everything in place to provide
practical, biblical alternatives under their own oversight.
If your church has limited resources, the sheltering church movement in your
area enables you to network with agencies that can provide what you cannot. Your
church can still confidently offer practical help and comprehensive resources to
any woman in your community who needs help facing a crisis pregnancy.
By becoming a sheltering church, your congregation becomes a doorway through
which women and men may enter to find the hope of new life when death seems the
only way to resolve a crisis pregnancy. The sheltering church is evangelism at
its finest when it's needed most.
Most would agree that when a couple faces a crisis pregnancy, the local
church is the first place they and their families should turn. However, many
young people will not turn to the church since they believe the church is more
interested in saying "no" to abortion than in providing help in unintended
pregnancies. Yet the church is God's vehicle to carry the healing power and love
of Jesus Christ to a couple that has sinned or is in great need. If the
sheltering church movement is successful, the local church will be the first
place a woman or couple facing a crisis pregnancy will turn to.
In essence, a sheltering church is simply a church that has agreed to make a
pledge to its own congregation and/or the local community, has developed a plan
of action to ensure that the pledge can be fulfilled, and is willing to
proclaim, on a regular basis, the availability of its ministry. A logo and a
free offer contribute additional elements.
1. The Pledge
The sheltering church agrees to treat a crisis pregnancy as its concern, not
just the woman's or couple's problem. The sheltering church agrees to provide
counsel and provision, meeting the woman's needs so that she can carry her child
to term. This pledge does not obligate the church to remove all the consequences
from people who have made irresponsible decisions. However, with proper
oversight and tough, biblical love rooted in grace, a God-honoring solution and
response to abortion and unplanned pregnancies can be found. The church is
simply pledging to respond in a manner consistent with true, biblical love
(James 1:27). At first, this pledge may be made solely to the congregation. In
time, and possibly in cooperation with other local churches, the pledge can be
made to the entire community, testifying to the powerful message of
reconciliation and love in Jesus' name.
2. The Proclamation
A non-doctrinal proclamation from the pulpit, and in Sunday School and
confirmation classrooms, informs the congregation and community of what the
sheltering church offers and why. The following proclamation is a model
suggestion, but local congregations may choose to alter it as they see fit:
"As the family of God, we are committed to helping women in our church and
community avoid abortion. Therefore, we proclaim to all women vulnerable to this
violent experience that through our sheltering church they can receive the
resources they need to avoid the violence of abortion--Free of charge if
necessary. Where the spiritual and physical destruction of abortion has
occurred, we extend Jesus Christ's forgiveness and healing to all men and women
involved who have truly repented. We call upon men to support women in
childbearing and to be united in marriage for parenting. Likewise, we encourage
adoption. We commit our church to be a family to those without mother or father,
wife or husband, and we win support with time and money those efforts that make
it possible to extend the free offer of life."
3. The Plan
The danger of an unprepared, "we'll deal with it as it arises" approach to
abortion counseling has already been mentioned. The importance of written plans
cannot be stressed too much. Anyone answering the church phones should know
exactly what to say and what to do if a call comes in from a woman or couple
facing an unplanned pregnancy. It is one thing for the pastor to handle a crisis
call, but is the church secretary prepared? The entire ministry process,
beginning with a phone call or word of mouth referral, should be thought out
ahead of time and written down so that every participant knows his/her role.
4. The Consistent Logo
A logo is displayed (preferably on church signboards, the church building, a
prominent window, and/or the church bulletin) creating awareness of the church's
commitment to helping women face crisis pregnancies. The logo is used
nationally, creating greater awareness of the church's commitment and therefore
greater use of the church's offer.
5. The Free Offer
The free offer of life-saving resources is not only a part of the Christian
Church's historic witness to abandoned children, but it has the practical appeal
of being a better deal than that offered by abortionists. By making this free
offer, the church is signifying its willingness to sacrifice with the couple
while encouraging them to make biblically responsible choices. To provide many
of the free offers, the church will simply need to serve as a conduit, bringing
needy women to services and organizations that are already equipped and eager to
Other aspects of being a sheltering church may include the following:
6. Locally Developed Resource Flyer
The flyer identifies abortion alternative service providers (such as crisis
pregnancy centers and maternity homes) in a particular sheltering church's area.
This will aid the pastor and the lay committee as they make various referrals.
7. Nationally Maintained, Ongoing Information Links Designed to Solve
Problems and Provide New Solutions
Sheltering churches can receive a newsletter on events and developments
within the sheltering church movement by writing to the Christian Action
Council, 101 W. Broad St., Suite 500, Falls Church, VA 22646. By registering its
interest in receiving the newsletter, the church is not in any way affiliating
with the CAC. Future plans call for a national lifeline to help answer questions
and handle urgent referrals.
Step One: Develop a resource guide
(Note: This may already have been done by a church or crisis pregnancy center
in your area. you are encouraged to contact the Christian Action Council first,
or other pastors in your area, to determine if a listing is already available.)
List the resources that are already available in your community. You can
begin by first scanning the yellow pages--look under abortion alternatives,
clinics, or pregnancy counseling. Call up those centers and ministries listed,
and ask them if they know of any other organizations providing alternatives to
women facing crisis pregnancies. After scanning the yellow pages, work by
referral. Every time you get a name, ask the new party for additional names.
The Christian Action Council has a community survey that you can use
(suggested donation is $3) to make sure you ask yourself the right questions and
cover every possible resource. In general, the survey mentions parachurch
organizations, churches, clinics, childbirth classes, food banks, governmental
agencies, and many other helps. Without an exhaustive listing, you might miss
some very helpful allies.
In addition to going through the community survey, it will be helpful to
visit the local crisis pregnancy center so that you can fully understand the
extent of the resources that it offers. Interview the director and find out what
is available, and what is lacking. The CPC (Crisis Pregnancy Center) will likely
serve as the cornerstone of your sheltering church ministry. Rather than offer
identical services, the church can provide for many needs through the CPC.
After you have completed your own local search, contact other national
ministries (listed below) to determine if they have chapters in your hometown.
Follow up on these leads and again, ask for more referrals. Continue to build
your list of possible resources.
Ministries that offer help to women:
|Christian Action Council
101 W. Broad St. Suite 500
Falls Church, VA 22046
|Bethany Christian Services
901 Eastern Ave. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
686 N. Broad St.
Woodbury, NJ 08096
|The Nurturing Network
910 Main St., Suite 360
P.O. Box 2050
Boise, ID 83701
|Christian Adoption and Family Services
2121 W. Crescent Ave. Suite E
Anaheim, CA 92801
(213) 860-3766, (714) 533-4302
|Women Exploited By Abortion
Rt. 1 Box 821
Venus, IX 76084
|Loving and Caring
1817 Olde Homestead Lane Suite H
Lancaster, PA 17601
You can purchase a listing of local pro-life groups in the-United States and
Canada from International Life Services, 2606 ½ West 8th St., Los Angeles, CA
90057, (213) 382-2156.
Other national organizations that may be able to help you locate resources
|American Life League
P.O. Box 1350
Stafford, VA 22554
|National Right to Life Committee
419 7th St. NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20004 (202) 626-8800
|Center for Bio-Ethical Reform
P.O. Box 2483
Corona, CA 91718
|Please Let Me Live
3209 Colusa HWY
Yuba City, CA 95993
|Alliance for Life
B1-90 Garry St.
Winnipeg, MB R3C 4H1
P.O. Box 1180
Binghamton, NY 13902
We strongly recommend that you use the Christian Action Council's community
resource survey to divide up the task of research. Each section in the survey
can be assigned to a different individual so that no one gets overloaded trying
to do too much. If your community has a CAC-affiliated CPC or local chapter,
this survey has already been done, but it might be worth your time to update it.
Step Two: Determine what necessary resources don't exist
Your community may not have everything your church needs to provide
comprehensive services. For instance, if the community doesn't have a crisis
pregnancy center where women can get free pregnancy tests and other vital
services, you'll want to commission some individuals to contact the Christian
Action Council to get one started. You are much better off having a parachurch
organization take care of such needs than trying to provide pregnancy tests
through your congregation. Crisis pregnancy centers become the "backbone" of
alternative ministries and are absolutely vital for churches to carry out their
pledge. To start a CPC, contact the Christian Action Council.
Review the checklist
of this guide. Check off those resources that aren't available within your
community. Cooperating congregations can delegate or divide up the development
of these missing services.
Note: Sheltering churches will be much more effective if they will work
together to create a community that can actively and comprehensively care for
women and couples facing unwanted pregnancies. For instance, one church might
focus on getting a CPC started. A neighboring congregation would then be free to
focus on developing a maternity home. Yet another could specialize in
post-abortion counseling. By cooperating with other congregations, even very
small churches can offer comprehensive ministry and care.
Step Three: Recruit professionals to volunteer their services for free
Encourage Christian doctors, lawyers, counselors, business people, and
entrepreneurs to volunteer a set amount of time to service the sheltering church
network. A doctor, for instance, might be willing to take on one free
appointment every other week. A lawyer could donate three hours a month.
Carpenters may be willing to devote some time to work on women's houses. Store
owners could donate needed goods and food. If you can sign up several doctors
and lawyers, for instance, each one may be called on no more (or even less) than
once a month. Almost any professional should be able to handle that.
Step Four: Visit each resource to which you may refer people
It is important to personally verify the services listed by an agency if you
intend to refer women to that agency or ministry. Send someone to interview the
director or a high-level volunteer. Make sure you can cooperate with their
philosophy of ministry. If they list a service, make sure it is offered to your
Step Five: Establish a review committee
Either within your congregation or in conjunction with other congregations,
establish a committee that will meet periodically (bimonthly or quarterly) to
review the services being offered, to address any additional needs that have
arisen, and to give general oversight to the project.
Step Six: Develop a plan of action
Now that all the pieces are together, develop a plan of action. Write out
fictional accounts of women contacting the church, either over the phone (plan
A), after church (plan B), or through another church member (plan C). Using the
real names of individuals who will be involved in the ministry aspect, describe
how the call will be handled, who will be called upon and when, what that person
should do, how and when they will approach the crisis pregnancy center, how
information will be shared with (or kept confidential from) the congregation,
and other particulars.
When the church is contacted, the pregnant woman should immediately feel
confident that the church knows what it is doing. This can be accomplished only
if the church has prepared a specific plan of action ahead of time. The woman
should leave with more than hope--she needs assurance that her problem has been
prepared for and that there is nothing the church can't handle. This will keep
her from seeking counsel at an abortion clinic that has a financial interest in
this woman's problem.
Step Seven: Adopt a proclamation and use the logo
Using the proclamation on page four as a beginning point, develop a statement
that will be read from the pulpit and carried in the church bulletin at least
four times a year (the church may decide to print it in the bulletin every
week). You will need to decide whether your pledge is to your entire community,
or simply your local congregation.
After your pledge is prepared, determine where you will place the logo--on
the church signboard (if making the pledge to the community, this is important,
especially if several churches are involved), a church window, newspaper or
yellow page ads, bumper stickers, and/or the church bulletin.
Step Eight: Educate your congregation (and possibly the community) on what
is about to take place
Explain the logo and proclamation to your church members. Take a few moments
and explain how your church is ready and equipped to meet this important need.
Explain why your church is offering this ministry, and what you hope to
accomplish. Encourage them to use this as an outreach, but also as a ministry to
those within the church.
In addition to advertising the offer through church members, you may want to
place an ad in a local paper, or even solicit an interview from a sympathetic
reporter. The type of advertisement you do will depend in part upon whether you
want to emphasize this as an outreach, making the offer to all women in your
community, or whether you would prefer to work just through church members.
It is recommended that once you make the pledge, the proclamation should be
repeated at least four times a year. The reason for this is to remind church
members and inform newcomers that your congregation stands ready to help with
practical and spiritual needs. Also, repetition increases the opportunity of
making this offer directly to a woman who has just discovered, or is about to
discover, that she is pregnant. Anticipating pregnancies is part of the
proactive agenda of the sheltering church movement.
Step Nine: Register as a Sheltering Church
A form (also in the back of
this manual) can be completed and returned to the Sheltering Church Program. In
time, you will receive regular newsletters keeping you up to date on sheltering
church ministries. By registering, you are also enabling the SCM to serve as a
network conduit, bringing together Christians and churches who are working for
the same ends in the same community.
Step Ten: Give back
The local CPC will soon become a crucial ally in your ministry to pregnant
women. These local centers often work on extremely tight budgets. Consider
adopting a "3 percent pledge." That is, 3 percent of your church members will
volunteer with the local CPC, or in a direct role as a liaison between the CPC
and your church. Also consider increasing your monthly financial support so that
the CPC can continue to minister with you to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
Ideally, the Sheltering Churches in your area will have access to the
1. Effective Counseling
Either the pastor or a trained layperson within the congregation should be
specially equipped to handle a crisis pregnancy. A crisis pregnancy is urgent
and has specific problems not found in other counseling situations. Because of
this it is necessary to have at least one or two individuals (and preferably
three or four) who are qualified and trained to counsel in this specific
situation. If your area has a CPC, much of the counseling can take place there,
but you will still need to train some individuals who will first talk with the
woman and then bring her to the CPC. Every person who will have direct contact
with the pregnant women should go through CPC volunteer training.
In addition to basic counseling, the woman may require help in approaching
- The boyfriend and/or father of the child
- The youth group/congregation
The woman should not be left alone in these cases of difficult communication.
2. Pregnancy Testing
If a woman just suspects that she is pregnant, a pregnancy test is called
for. This type of work is best handled through a local CPC. Again, a lay person
from the church should accompany the woman to the CPC and await the results with
her, provided this is what the woman wants.
3. Maternity Homes/Sheltering Homes
Some women may require short-term or long-term housing. The two options are
maternity homes and sheltering homes. A maternity home houses several pregnant
women with one couple in~charge. A sheltering home is a home in which a family
or married couple invites one pregnant woman to live with them. Both options
service different needs, but both require training. (Loving and Caring provides
excellent information on maternity homes and sheltering homes. Their address is
listed on page 9.)
4. Practical Needs
The woman may also require help with food, maternity clothing, and baby
items. These can be provided on an as-needed basis. It is usually preferable for
churches to support the local CPC's clothing bank rather than set up separate
banks of their own (but if a church uses a CPC's services regularly, it should
make sure it does not deplete the CPC resources without replenishing them).
Helpful instruction will include childbirth classes, parenting classes, and
Bible training. Women will need help getting through the birth and then need
practical parenting skills if they choose to keep their babies. Of course,
practical Bible training will become essential as they begin new families and,
hopefully, new lives of faith. Bible training may be done through existing adult
Sunday School programs; parenting and childbirth classes are often sponsored by
local CPCs. (Incentive programs have been developed to encourage women to
receive Bible training and lifestyle counseling, which becomes essential to
parenting a child and living a new life of faith. Contact the CAC for more
6. Professional Resources
Certain needs may, in some instances, require the attention of volunteer
professionals. Physicians can be urged to volunteer one free appointment every
other week, or perhaps one hour per week Lawyers and other professionals can
contribute as well. Professional opportunities may include physical
examinations, psychological care, and vocational counseling. If the child -was
conceived out of wedlock, an obvious need for pastoral care exists. Lawyers can
help with adoption or foster placement. If enough doctors cannot volunteer their
time, even after being personally approached by their pastor, the church may
want to consider reimbursing a doctor (perhaps on a cost-reduced basis) out of
(Note: The free offer is important, but it should not be understood as
unconditional welfare. In many cases, perhaps most, the parents of the pregnant
woman will want to help out and/or pay for the entire cost. Other single women,
no longer living with their parents, may simply need care and concern, not free
resources. But for those who are truly in need, the free offer is important.)
Handbook Section B:
Ministry for Women After Crisis
A potential criticism of the sheltering church movement is that churches are
concerned with children only from conception until birth. This is certainly not
true, but it is often how outsiders perceive ministers and ministries that
affirm life. The misunderstanding no doubt arises from the church's mission,
which can seem contradictory to the uninitiated. The church is charged not only
with providing ministry, but also with speaking the truth--including the truth
that God's ideal plan is for a man and woman to get married before they engage
in sexual relations and bear children. Any time this ideal plan is violated,
greater stress will result.
The church cannot remove this stress completely. People who walk outside of
God's perfect plan will bear the consequences of that behavior. However, the
church can seek to show compassion and forgiveness, as Christ showed compassion
to the woman at the well. Christ didn't wipe out the painful consequences of the
woman's sinful past, but he did, through ministry, seek to make those
consequences a little easier to bear.
Therefore, while not condoning the behavior that leads to a less than ideal
situation, a church can and should provide ministry alternatives to pregnant
women that supports mothers not only through birth, but past birth into single
parenthood. Such a ministry provides the church with the opportunity to show the
mercy and grace inherent in the Gospel, leading to repentance, forgiveness, and
eternal life. By using the skills and abilities of its members, the church can
provide comprehensive and practical care for women who have given birth and
still need some assistance.
A few may object that this ministry will increase single parenthood, but we
believe it will do so only to the extent that ministry to alcoholics would
increase alcoholism, or ministry to gossips would increase gossip--in other
words, not at all. The church serves women in two ways: By fearlessly preaching
the truth that God's word and plan, including His plan for our sexuality, should
be followed and obeyed; and by providing ministry and grace leading to
repentance and restoration when Christians among us fail and when non-Christians
come to the truth. Both aspects of care are essential to a well-rounded
It could be argued that ministry to single mothers will encourage more people
to live according to God's ideal plan. When Christians see first-hand the
struggles of raising children on one's own, they may think twice before they
engage in behavior that could place them in a similar situation.
The following ministries are offered as suggestions. If your church has used
some others, please write out a description and send it to the Christian Action
Council. We would be delighted to pass the idea along.
One of the greatest burdens for single mothers is the upkeep and maintenance
of automobiles. The automobile has become an expensive necessity in many
communities. Not only is it difficult for many single mothers to save sufficient
funds to buy an automobile, it is also difficult for them to pay for costly
repairs. Frequently, the single mother will go into debt when she buys the car,
and then into further debt when the car needs to be repaired. Indeed, automobile
repairs are often the most frequent contributor to credit card debt. A tight,
one income budget often has no room for unexpected and costly repairs.
The church can meet this need with a minimum amount of time expended and
virtually no dollar cost. The greatest expense in automobile repair is almost
always the labor. By encouraging twelve volunteers to take part in this
ministry, each one agreeing to give up just four Saturdays a year, the church
can provide a monthly "car clinic" with four mechanics where single mothers can
get their cars repaired for free, paying only for the automobile parts that need
to be replaced. These volunteers need not be professional mechanics. Nobody
should do work of which they are unsure, but many people can perform the basic
auto care that would be required in most instances, leaving the more technical
repairs to the few in~the church who are most highly trained.
How It works
Once a month, several volunteers from the church meet in the church parking
lot on a Saturday morning. Single mothers bring in their vehicles and get them
worked on for free-- all the mothers pay for is automobile parts. (Through a
deacons' or benevolence fund, the church may opt to pay for some car parts;
however, it is usually the labor that makes bills so high and inaccessible for
Some of the work may be simple maintenance, such as changing the oil,
replacing the spark plugs, or performing a tune-up. Major work should be done by
appointment, perhaps at a member's garage where the necessary tools would be
more readily available.
While the mothers have their cars worked on, the church has many
opportunities for ministry. This is an excellent time to hold a single mothers'
support group, where single mothers can pray and encourage one another while
their cars are being worked on. Old Vacation Bible School materials can be
pulled out of storage to keep the children occupied in another room. If the
church is making the offer to women outside of the church, evangelistic
Christian videos or Bible studies can be used.
A Possible "Payment" Plan
As a "payment" for this service, the church may want to require women who are
not official members to attend at least three church services. The following
pledge card can be used to convey this message. (The church may opt to use
language that encourages attendance rather than requires attendance.)
First Church Car Repair Ministry
We realize, however, that single mothers need more
than physical care. You also need; spiritual sustenance. Raising a family
requires great wisdom, encouragement, support, and advice. Our church stands
ready to provide not only physical needs, but spiritual care as well because
we believe spiritual care is as vital a need as any other.
Therefore, we ask that each woman getting her car
worked on agree to attend at least three worship services within the next
five to six week. Of course, we hope that you will decide to become a
part of our body and worship with us regularly. A three-week
introduction should be enough to acquaint you with our ministry and make you
familiar with he advantages of raising a family with the support of a
By signing below, you agree that you will attend
at least three church services in the next five to six weeks. No
financial liability for the car repairs, of course, will ever be entailed
should you break this pledge; we are simply asking you to commit to this for
your own spiritual enrichment.
If just twelve volunteers signed up for this ministry, they would need to
work just four days a year to perform a vital service to the single women in
their congregation. Twelve members, each working four Saturdays a year,
would provide four mechanics once a month-- all at little sacrifice and no
financial obligation. If only eight church members sign up, just six days a year
commitment would be required.
Those who are unable to perform mechanical work can still participate by
being available to drive to the auto-parts store to purchase parts, or to
shuttle the mothers back and forth from the church to their homes; to provide
lunches and drinks for those doing the work; and to help with general clean-up
and administration, leaving the mechanics free to work. If the church chooses to
provide the additional services mentioned earlier, group leaders and children's
teachers would be required.
A Vital Free Service
Without incurring any financial obligation, the church can provide a vital
service to single mothers. The minimal commitment of four Saturdays a year
should make it easier to recruit mechanics. It's very likely that some mechanics
will want to volunteer much more often than this. They can also train those who
are willing to work but need experience to be of much help.
The beauty of this ministry is that professional or amateur mechanics can
play a vital role in the pro-life movement without carrying a picket sign or
marching in protest. Simply by using the skills that God has given them, and for
just four Saturdays a year, they can make it easier for a woman to choose life
for her unborn baby.
This is another program that requires little or no expense, only time and
volunteers. A Mom's Night Out Outreach makes available a basic children's Sunday
School ministry format when single mothers can use it most--a workday evening.
One night a week, or perhaps one night a month (depending on church
resources), the church opens up its building to single mothers who need a night
off. The children are divided into traditional Sunday School age groupings, and
the mothers are free for two hours. If enough adults aren't available to hold
Sunday School, a Bible video or puppet show can keep large groups busy for the
two hours necessary. The church may also choose to organize activities such as
Awana, Pioneer Girls, or other youth programs that would fit within this time
The hours can be arranged according to the community, but it is usually
better to go earlier rather than later, especially if many young children
arrive. The preferred time period would be 6:00 to 8:00 PM.
One of the most frequent struggles expressed by single mothers is that their
male children lack an adult, male role model. There are two ways to meet this
need. The first is to organize a "big brother" program on a church-wide basis,
encouraging men in the church to "adopt" boys of single mothers, taking them out
once or twice a month. This is a rather informal, one to one approach that
requires little church administrative time (except for a very careful
Another option is to organize regular "Guys' Groups." These are times when
just the men of the church get together, and younger boys are welcome. The
activities could span the spectrum of church yardwork parties to group
attendance at a baseball game. The idea is to provide opportunities for young
boys to see Christian men in action. The group format allows greater
opportunities for men to bring their own sons, and to provide a collegial, group
atmosphere. Depending on the size of the church, "Guys' Groups" can be divided
into certain age categories, such as elementary school age, young adolescents,
and older teens. Youth groups and Sunday School classes can meet many of these
age needs, but Guys' Groups provide a powerful reinforcement for young males.