CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTERS: HOW YOU AND YOUR CHURCH CAN HELP
By: Pamela Pearson Wong
It probably happened to you: that persistent conviction that you need to do something about abortion.
Perhaps you learned that your community high school is opening a school-based clinic that refers pregnant teens for abortions. Perhaps you’ve shared the anguish of a friend following an abortion she thought was the only answer. Perhaps your study of Scripture has convinced you of the sanctity of human life, increasing the horror of 1.2 million babies aborted in this country each year.
If you feel called to act, but haven’t known exactly how, the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers offers you a compassionate way to make a difference. By getting your church excited about its involvement as a congregation, you can multiply your contribution manyfold.
Known by names such as abortion alternatives centers, problem pregnancy centers, women’s centers or pregnancy counseling centers, these organizations now number about 3,000 nationwide.
A common goal unites the centers: to help women through the problem that leads them to consider abortion. The facilities recognize that abortion is a two-fold problem, affecting the baby and the mother. Their staff inform women on abortion and its alternatives, while offering practical assistance to encourage them to carry their babies to term.
The primary purpose of each center is to help women choose alternatives to abortion, but their services go beyond that. For women who do choose abortion, many provide post-abortion counseling to help them deal with the potentially debilitating guilt, loss and depression.
Crisis pregnancy centers are significantly impacting our country. Research indicates that as many as eight out of 10 clients in many centers choose to carry their pregnancies to term. In addition, CPCs enable Christians to compassionately and practically affect the reality of abortion. For above all else, the centers’ purpose is ministry: to the woman in crisis and to her unborn child.
The abortion alternatives movement needs you. As an individual member of the Body of Christ, and as a member of a church congregation, you are critical to the effectiveness of the ministry. Lack of funds and volunteer personnel are crippling many centers.
The typical CPC employs a small paid staff of one to three persons. Without volunteers to counsel clients, donate funds, maintain the facilities and everything else in between – your local center will simply have to close its doors. This is where the local church becomes an indispensable partner with the CPC.
How should the church join forces with the crisis pregnancy center?
First of all, it must serve as a conduit of information that motivates Christians to give of their money, time and abilities.
Your local CPC especially needs the partnership of your church now. A calculated and well-financed plot by pro-abortion organizations is attempting to discredit crisis pregnancy centers as “bogus abortion clinics.” As a result, the broadcast and print media are advancing the unfair, blanket charge that centers use deceptive practices to manipulate and coerce women out of abortion. Such accusations may mean even less contributions of money and time for the centers.
Who can become involved in the ministry of a crisis pregnancy center?
Everyone – from homemakers to physicians, from teens to senior citizens! CPCs offer opportunities for service that are as varied as people’s interests. Whatever your profession, hobby, talent or spiritual gift, your local center will be delighted to have you join forces with them.
But let’s consider two groups that can make especially needed contributions: pastors and the men in their churches.
Through their sermons, priorities and convictions, pastors set the pace for their congregations. But your pastor faces many demands on his time. Many worthwhile causes vie for his attention. Your enthusiasm about the local center may be the starting point for his interest.
Pray for your pastor’s sensitivity to God’s leading in the church’s response to abortion. Invite him to lunch with the center’s director. Organize an informal church committee that requests an opportunity to present plans for church involvement to the pastor and the board members.
Because pastors play such a key role in their church’s involvement in the abortion alternatives ministry, this booklet contains interspersed ideas just for them. Look for suggestions to pastors marked by asterisks.
In addition to your pastor, encourage the involvement of men in your church. Women predominantly direct and staff the centers, which underscores the need for men in everything from hanging shelves to counseling boyfriends to facilitating introductions to business executives.
When a church makes a commitment to the ministry of a local center, communication becomes key. Regular sharing of the center’s needs will stimulate participation among the congregation. Consider the following suggestions for building communication.
1) Appoint someone, preferably a church board member, to liaison at least monthly with the center. This person should have authority to see that projects – whether they’re moving furniture, providing pastoral counsel or responding to financial needs – are met.
*2) Pray for the center from the pulpit.
*3) Preach on the Christian’s response to abortion, or a similar topic. This can take place on a special date such as Mother’s Day or Sanctity of Human Life Sunday – a day that is observed on the Sunday of or preceding January 22.
4) Regularly print announcements from the center in the church bulletin.
5) Invite a representative from your center to regularly share with the congregation. Twenty minutes in the Sunday morning service is essential for real impact.
6) Loan the church mailing list to the center so they can inform church members about the ministry.
Consistent communication will educate people to the varied needs facing the center, and how they can help fill them. Perhaps the first concern that pops into their minds is financial.
How can your church help a crisis pregnancy center meet its financial needs?
Your church can help by donating funds. Having enough money to cover expenses and meet the needs of clients is likely the most pressing need of most CPCs. Therefore, your church’s ladies’, mens’, youth and singles’ groups can organize and carry out fund-raising projects. Such activities aid the center not just by providing money, but by freeing staff to focus on other priorities.
Here are some ways your church can help with the financial matters on both corporate and individual levels.
1) Include the center in your home missions budget. Dependable monthly or quarterly donations are probably the most important gifts your church can make to the center.
2) Donate start-up funds to a new center. This gives the church the opportunity to become involved from the beginning, and provides the center with funds that are difficult to obtain at the outset.
*3) Collect a special offering in a service. This should include an update from a center representative.
4) Generate and execute fund-raising events. Ideas include:
* Making and auctioning a handmade quilt
* Selling tickets to a fashion show
* Holding a pie auction
* Carrying out a spring geranium sale, in cooperation with a local plant nursery
* Holding a churchwide flea market
* Organizing a read-a-thon for children in your Sunday school or community; they donate pledges per book read to your local center
5) Have volunteers from your church participate in the CPC’s fund-raising activities. These could include banquets, walk-a-thons or radio-thons.
6) Give gifts-in-kind to the center. They’re as good as cash and as plentiful as your imagination. Consider some of the following:
* Professional services such as expertise in plumbing, carpentry, personal computers, graphic design, printing, writing or advertising
* Office space: a prime location is one of the greatest factors in drawing clients
* Advertising: it’s critical in attracting clients; donate ads in a local magazine or newspaper, spots on radio or TV, billboard space in key locations
* Office equipment
* Maternity clothes, baby clothes and equipment
* Resource materials, such as books, magazines and films
* Use of church facilities for banquets and other center activities
* Hold a churchwide baby shower or scout garage sales for affordable baby clothes and equipment
7) Maintenance of facilities is another ongoing need of CPCs. Here are ways that your church groups can help:
* Designate one day per month for a cleaning bee.
* Form an on-call maintenance committee for hanging shelves, moving furniture and handling emergencies.
* Search yard sales and “for sale” ads for reasonably priced “finds” in furniture that give the center a homey, professional look.
Without the faithful support of churches and Christians who attend them, CPCs lack funds for their programs. But without committed volunteer personnel, even funded programs can’t be staffed.
The small paid staff relies on volunteers to counsel clients on the physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of abortion, and to discuss alternatives with them. The center trains its counselors, who can help most by making a regular, weekly commitment.
Centers working in inner city environments especially feel the pinch for volunteers. While suburban individuals may give money to these ministries, they’re reluctant to give time. Distance, fear associated with the inner city, and hesitancy to volunteer in a cross-cultural setting discourage them.
Additional areas of volunteer involvement:
* Office workers
* Babysitters at the CPC for children of counselors
* Personnel to man the center’s booth at community fairs
* Men: to counsel boyfriends and, in some centers, female clients
** Pastors: to provide spiritual counsel to clients
* Professional counselors: to provide their expertise in particularly difficult situations, such as rape and incest
Most centers focus their efforts on crisis counseling for the woman considering abortion. For the woman who decides to carry her baby to term, a variety of challenges may occur. A place to live, medical expenses, choosing adoption or single parenthood and finding employment or completing school. The church can meet a vital need in following up clients facing these hurdles.
It has been said that many clients of alternatives CPCs need families, but few need homes. For women who decide to carry their babies to term, the typical center dearly needs families willing to befriend them. Some families need to be willing to take these young women into their homes, called support, shepherding or extended family homes.
The model of a healthy, loving, godly family is invaluable to young women who have never known one. Families receive training before making this major commitment of time, emotions and finances.
Opportunities also exist for those who want to assist the support home ministry in other ways:
* Serve as the church support home coordinator who oversees home studies of prospective support home families.
* Serve on the church support home selection committee.
* Give the support family a breather by inviting their “adopted daughter” for dinner, a Saturday shopping trip, or to be a weekend house guest.
* Assist with added expenses by dropping a bag of groceries at the support home or giving another gift.
* Help with financial expenses when parental and public assistance is lacking.
* Plan an annual banquet that recognizes support families and raises funds for their needs.
* Coordinate a fellowship/support group for support home couples.
* Hold a quarterly covered dish/potluck supper for support home families.
* Raise funds to provide a “welcome gift” of perfume, toiletries and books for the expectant mother just joining the home.
* Help an unwed mother feel welcome in your church congregation.
Follow-Up for the Single Mother
The expectant mother’s decision to rear her baby or to release him or her for adoption ultimately rests with her alone, with the assistance of a trained counselor.
If she decides to rear her child as a single parent, still more opportunities arise for church involvement in extending the ministry of the crisis pregnancy center. Completing the pregnancy is far easier than undertaking the role of single parent.
* Your church can provide day-care and parenting education: a church program combining these services requires single moms to help as occasional volunteers and to attend classes that teach parenting skills.
* In the above program, other moms within the church can serve as role models and pass on principles of good parenting.
* Especially as youngsters of single moms become older, the church can organize a “big brother” program that provides them with regular male interaction.
The Adoption Option
Some unwed mothers decide that the best choice for their babies and themselves is adoption. This is an emotionally-wrenching commitment, but often a wise one for the single woman. The church can provide invaluable support in this often lonely decision.
* Conduct a support group for young women seriously considering adoption.
* Arrange one-on-one meetings between the expectant mother and adoptive parents in the congregation; these interactions can help the mother understand the kind of couples that will likely adopt her baby.
* Enlist adult adoptees to present informal programs to clients of the center; they can share insights and feeling for their biological mothers.
* In the biological mother’s time with the baby before the adoption takes place, the pastor may be present in the hospital room to offer emotional and spiritual support. He may even conduct a brief, private dedication ceremony.
* Adoptive parents may assist the CPC in adoption matters by arranging a training session for center personnel with professionals from an adoption agency, providing brochures and other up-to-date information.
Some women who come to crisis pregnancy centers still choose to undergo abortions. But the tragic decision to end the pregnancy doesn’t end the center’s ministry. For aborted women may suffer guilt, grief and loss that, if not resolved, can become debilitating, even years in the future.
The CPC trains volunteers to work with victims of post-abortion stress. The church can extend and reinforce this ministry.
* The pastor should receive training in post-abortion counseling (the center can help).
** National statistics indicate that one out of four women has had an abortion; some of those are suffering silently in the church. God’s forgiveness and healing in the aftermath of abortion must be preached from the pulpit.
** The church can initiate a support group for women with post-abortion
stress and for their loved ones.
The crisis pregnancy ministry responds, as well, to the spiritual needs of clients caught in crisis. Many counselors sensitively and respectfully share with them the new life available in Jesus Christ. The church can share the load on the center staff by, appropriately, continuing spiritual input in the lives of interested clients:
* Launch an “adopt-a-client” program, which enables a church member to befriend and continue to impart spiritual truth to a client.
* Begin and coordinate an inner-city youth program that can teach biblical values generally alien in this environment.
* Educate the youth in your church of the needs of pregnant teens, and enlist their aid in helping young clients feel welcome in the congregation.
In addition to the clients, the volunteers and paid staff of CPCs depend on the church for prayer and spiritual encouragement. Why not show your concern and support in the following ways:
* Invite the center’s director for lunch or dinner-and offer a listening ear, as well.
* Send a note or card that assures of your prayers.
* Hold a breakfast or luncheon to recognize volunteers and paid staff.
** If you’re a pastor, offer to serve in the role of counselor and advisor to director of the center.
Another important service to your crisis pregnancy center may be a behind-the-scenes one.
As a quiet emissary, you can give referrals and introductions to individuals, corporations, civic organizations and churches that may join as active partners in the ministry to women in crisis pregnancies.
A key way to influence your community is to serve on the center’s advisory board or board of directors; CPCs are often looking for board members. But you can be just as successful in an unofficial role. By recommending the center to professional and business associates, you may open the door to new contacts for center staff. Ideas follow.
* Give referrals or arrange appointments with key individuals in business; they’re likely able to provide gifts-in-kind ranging from paint for the walls to valuable office space.
* Conduct a faithful campaign of writing thank you letters to businessmen and corporations for their involvement. Indicate a specific way that you decided to deal with the business because of its commitment to the center. But first, be certain that the business’ involvement with the center is public knowledge!
** If you’re a pastor, you can be invaluable in encouraging your colleagues to become familiar with the local CPC. Why not arrange a lunch between them and the center’s director, or arrange for him or her to speak to the ministerial association?
* Encourage your local civic club to schedule a speaker from the center; getting the information out is the first step toward the potential of further involvement.
* Offer to represent the center as a speaker at various functions. Male speakers are especially needed to open doors that are closed to women, such as Sunday morning services in some churches.
* Promote the abortions alternatives ministry at your denomination’s state and national conferences.
Thanks to the growing abortion alternatives movement, Christians and churches no longer have an excuse for inactivity. Your local crisis pregnancy center needs you, your pastor and your church to practically, compassionately reach out to the women and babies who are victims of abortion. If your community lacks a center, why not be the person that motivates your church to begin one?
You can help. You’ll find the experience not only life-saving, but life-changing.
(The above material was published by Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO.)
Christian Information Network