Remembering Others through Outreach and Support
Vickie Kraft and Gwynne Johnson
Many women feel isolated today, as we mentioned previously. Not only do they face the pressures of our declining culture: incest, child abuse, divorce, pornography, but they also experience the same kinds of pressures women have faced historically: the demands of small children, wisdom in discipline, balancing children’s needs with husbands’ needs, juggling work with home responsibilities and personal need. Women today face all these challenges, frequently without the support of an extended family enjoyed by prior generations. The church today has the privilege of providing that familial role with support and encouragement to women facing such formidable tasks.
This chapter describes the ministries and gives some of the history behind the groups our church formed to meet these varied needs of our women. Appendix 3 gives the instruction sheets we distribute for the various outreach and support ministries.
The purpose of this ministry is to become a Good Samaritan to those who have been hurt by abortion. One of our women conducts an abortion recovery course that helped her after eighteen years of dealing with the guilt of abortion. Through a ten-week Bible study, the women served by this ministry are shown how God sees abortion, and through the group time they learn how to experience God’s forgiveness and grace. Some of these women then give their testimonies to encourage others to find healing.
This course has been a blessing and source of healing for the women who have taken it. It goes without saying that this group is strictly confidential and that member’s names are not publicly known.
Cancer Support: “Uplifters” and “Can Support”
One day a woman suggested to me that women like herself who had undergone a mastectomy could support other women as they face that crisis. I was delighted with the idea. We met with several other women in the church with this experience, and they set up goals and guidelines. They named themselves “The Uplifters.” They come immediately to the side of any woman facing even a biopsy, and they continue to support those who actually have a mastectomy. Emphasis is placed on a one-to-one relationship where family and personal needs can be met. They serve all the women each year by arranging for the mobile unit from Baylor Medical Center to come to the church campus for mammograms at a reduced rate. The mammography mobile unit is at the church for two days (the same days that the main Women’s Ministries sessions are held), and the Uplifters handle the scheduling of appointments.
“CanSupport” was developed out of the Uplifters program and is a support group for those who are suffering from any kind of cancer or who are caring for a cancer patient. The group meets monthly. The group keeps in touch between meetings with phone calls and lunches, thereby maintaining an atmosphere of faith and caring. They provide spiritual and prayer support while ministering to one another in practical ways.
This committee was begun to utilize leftover food from our Wednesday night dinners at church. Volunteers prepare supplemental casseroles in disposable containers, which are then stored in the church freezer. This food is available for people who have an illness in the family, for new mothers, or for anyone in our church who needs help with meals.
The ministry of the support groups often surfaces situations in which personal counseling is needed. If a leader feels she is out of her depth, she refers that person to me. If I think it’s beyond my range, I refer the woman to professional Christian counselors we trust. But we developed a lay counseling group, called “Care Givers,” a core of wise, mature women, each of whom can take a troubled person under her wing and be a friend to her. We offer classes each year to increase their counseling skills. I often refer women to them, or ask one of them to step in and help someone out. They are having a very effective ministry.
Church Office or Library Assistance
These volunteers assist the staff in the church office with special projects or large mailings that require extra hands. Library volunteers sign up for specific times to hold the library open for operation.
Citizens’ Awareness Table
This table, available at each Women’s Ministries Program session, provides information about local, state, and national issues. Through it, women are encouraged to become involved in the political process by taking action that can make a difference. Such actions include contacting their elected representative by letter, phone, or in person; writing letters to the editors of newspapers; and, especially, being an informed voter.
Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC)
This Christian ministry is dedicated to assisting women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. It offers practical, constructive alternatives to abortion and helps meet the emotional, practical, and spiritual needs of the mother. We encourage the training of our women to become counselors in Crisis Pregnancy Center offices, to answer abortion hot lines, to baby-sit, or to help this ministry in any way. We also support the CPC in our area with a monthly financial gift.
Divorce Recovery Group
This group provides support and encouragement for women facing the major adjustments that follow a divorce. It may also include women whose adult children are experiencing a divorce, with the complications to family life that this entails.
Evening Bible Study for Business and Professional Women
This Bible study ministers to working women. The group meets at the church to help the women deal with the special problems women encounter in the workplace and to apply scriptural principles to them.
Hand-in-Hand (Widows’ Support Group)
This group provides a new widow with assistance in coping with her grief as well as opportunities for fellowship through regular meetings and interesting field trips. The group compiled an information packet for the new widow. When a woman is newly widowed, one of the members of this group is selected to invest personal time and interest in ministering to her during the transition period.
These women have discovered that a monthly Sunday dinner in a restaurant provides a special time of regular fellowship, in addition to other occasional trips and activities.
One year we ministered through the Dallas Life Foundation (a downtown shelter for the homeless) by collecting and delivering used clothing, household goods, toiletries, and personal items. We also furnished Bibles and hymnals, held a weekly women’s Bible study and a monthly birthday party, as well as collected grocery receipts to exchange for a computer.
Later, we supported a shelter for battered women and children in several ways: by collecting clothing and household items for their thrift store; by holding a Tuesday morning shower for baby formula, diapers, and other items needed for a newborn; and by implementing an evangelistic birthday party for Jesus.
Currently we are supplying needs (irons, ironing boards, cleaning supplies) for a new homeless shelter. We are also showing the Jesus film as an evangelistic outreach and are combining efforts with our Men’s Ministry, which is painting the outside of the building. Hospital
This group brings spiritual encouragement to women who are ill or have had surgery. Hospital or home visits are also made to women who have close family members in the hospital. Depending upon the individual situation, the committee members send cards, make telephone calls, and take food to the homes of the women served by this ministry.
This is a group of women suffering from infertility. The group meets monthly to encourage each other with prayer, support, and information, and to celebrate adoptions or births.
We frequently hold electives in marriage enrichment. This ministry of encouragement often continues to meet on its own. The Women’s Ministries Program provides an umbrella under which all of these marriage enrichment groups function. That structure gives them security, status, and accountability.
An elective called “Mom-to-Mom” became an adjunct ministry after a group of young mothers did not want to end the mutual support when the elective concluded. The group meets once a month during the school year, invites appropriate speakers, has a picnic for moms and their kids in June, maintains a prayer chain, and helps decorate the church nursery by painting bright murals. Experienced moms in our church are also invited to meet with them to share their wisdom. Many other groups have found that M.O.P.S., a program for mothers of preschoolers, can become an effective portion of their Women’s Ministries Program.
The Welcoming Newcomers Committee receives the visitors’ cards from the church office and phones the visiting women. They welcome them to the church and inform them about the Women’s Ministries Program as well as answer any questions they may have about other church activities.
This committee ministers to women in our church body who have recently welcomed new babies into their homes, either by birth or by adoption. Our purpose is to show support and encouragement by a personal visit either at the hospital or at home. We have taken such little gifts as the Golden Book Prayers for Children or a calligraphy print of Psalm 127:3. This year we are giving the new mothers a packet of verses that relate to mothering and child rearing to encourage memorization.
This outreach obtains the names of those from our church in nursing homes and visits them. They take small remembrances, such as flowers, cards, or cookies. Other times the women have presented special music, given a devotional, or led a Bible Study.
The purpose of this closet is to meet the needs of our missionaries who are home on furlough, members of our church, and other needy people. Examples of items collected are gently worn clothing, household items, and, if you have the room, furniture in good repair.
Special Missions Projects
Taping our weekly Bible lessons continues to be a popular missions project. We send them worldwide to our women missionaries. Other projects have included
* Making individual prayer cards for missionaries
* Sewing mosquito nets for missionaries in Africa
* Making wordless books and bean bags for child evangelism clubs
* Providing financial support for short-term missionaries
* Donating clothing and money for Bibles for Romania
* Giving money for materials for our men’s and high school ministries to build homes for widows in Guatemala
* Financial support for a sister church in Austria that provides Bibles and starter kits for homemaking for refugee families
Special- Needs Children
A parent who has a child with special needs volunteered to organize a Sunday school class for children of all ages who might not benefit from regular classes.
Twelve-Step Study Group
This group meets once a week to encourage and support one another in changing codependent behaviors into emotionally healthy lifestyles in order to serve the Lord more effectively. We use The Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Journey (San Diego: Recovery) as our guide.
Some of our women tutor in a program that provides personal encouragement as well as academic tutoring in an inner-city school. This program is offered as an elective in the weekly program. Volunteers carpool to the school and meet with students on a one-on-one basis. The women pray together for their students immediately after the students return to class. The program continues even when the Women’s Ministries Program is not in session. The elective provides the students with role models for character development and encouragement to pursue further educational opportunities.
The above article, “Remembering Others through Outreach and Support” was written by Vickie Kraft and Gwynne Johnson. The article was excerpted from their book, Women Mentoring Women.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”