By Mary Holloman
Stephanie rapped her knuckles lightly against the front door. She shifted the bag of takeout containers to her other hip while her son juggled a bulging bag of groceries. She’d raced over as soon as she got the text.
A moment later, the door swung open. A woman with weary eyes and a proud, gentle smile waved and turned a small bundle to face the storm door. Stephanie pressed a hand against the cool glass and beamed. COVID may keep them apart, but there was no way Stephanie was missing this moment in her friend’s life.
It all started with an unplanned pregnancy.
The beautiful French words washed over her like a fresh spring rain. Cara ran her hand over the worn pages of her Bible, the slight wrinkles and indentations from scribbled notes in the margin tickling her fingers. The French words—foreign to her own ears—were spoken with a quiet reverence and strength by the woman who sat next to her.
After a few moments, the woman stopped and looked expectantly at Cara with raised brows and a slight nod. My turn. She took a breath and began reading the same scripture verses in English.
This is how they studied the Bible together every week—two women, different ethnicities, different languages, different worlds—united by a desire to know Christ more.
It all started with an unplanned pregnancy.
Lynn watched her granddaughter toddle across the yard, a dandelion clasped in one fist, the hand of her sweet friend in the other. Nearby, the thrilled squeal of a little boy shattered the afternoon silence as he began to roll down the driveway, without training wheels, for the first time. Lynn’s husband, John, jogged beside him, hands hovering protectively, while the boy’s mother cheered from behind, her hands resting lightly on her rounded belly.
Six months ago, that little boy had no male presence in his life. Six months ago, Lynn and John prayed for an open door, an opportunity.
It all started with an unplanned pregnancy.
Cara, Lynn, John, and Stephanie are among the many men and women stepping beyond the walls of their churches and into their communities in the Triad of North Carolina, where more than 4,300 abortions took place in 2020.
Churches in Greensboro and Winston-Salem are partnering with The Pregnancy Network (TPN), an organization committed to empowering women to face their unplanned pregnancies without fear. The pregnancy center, which has served the Triad area for more than 35 years, launched Connect Mentorship in 2015 as a way to connect women with long-term, healthy support networks within local churches.
“The Connect Mentorship program fills a crucial gap,” said Allison Herrington, the director of partnerships at TPN. “The overwhelming majority who come to us for our services have few, if any, positive support systems in their lives. This lack of community leaves them feeling lonely and isolated, which makes an unplanned pregnancy seem that much more impossible. This mentorship program invites women into the church where they will be welcomed, loved, and discipled.”A lack of community leaves women feeling lonely and isolated, which makes an unplanned pregnancy seem that much more impossible. Click To Tweet
For Christians in the Triad, the program was an answer to prayer. “I’d been praying for an open door,” said Cara, who wanted to provide practical support for women in her community after hearing her pastor preach a sermon on the reality of abortion. When she heard about the program, she signed up as an Ambassador for her church.
Each Ambassador serves as the liaison between the pregnancy center and her church. The Ambassador connects women who received care at TPN to mentors within the church, and then each mentor makes the first point of contact.
Now, two years later, she still meets with a beautiful, young Congolese mother. They read and study the Bible in both French and English. Their families share meals, and their husbands work together on home repairs—they do life together.
“Her family is now a part of my family,” Cara said.
Since the start of the program in 2015, more than 68 mentors (ranging in age from 20-70) from 17 churches in North Carolina have joined the movement.
Caring for men, women, and children
Claims that Christians care only about the unborn child in unplanned pregnancies and not the mother or father have been prevalent for years from the pro-choice movement, and efforts have been made to entirely force men out of conversations surrounding abortion. But pregnancy centers like The Pregnancy Network are providing churches with the opportunity to join a movement that is changing communities, one life at a time.Pregnancy centers are providing churches with the opportunity to join a movement that is changing communities, one life at a time. — @mtholloman Click To Tweet
According to a Care Net study by Lifeway Research, around half (53%) of men whose partners had abortions say they were nervous when they found out their partners were pregnant, and 42% said they were scared. Although men are often the most influential factor in decisions surrounding unplanned pregnancies, few men say they spoke with someone at church about the unplanned pregnancy even though half (51%) say they were attending a Christian church at least monthly at the time of their partners’ abortions.
Most men and women (57% and 54% respectively) say churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options. The same study found that 72% of men believe church members judge unmarried couples who are pregnant, and only 38% of women believe churches are a safe place to discuss pregnancy options.
Mentoring is a natural, yet strategic way to welcome fathers into the church in addition to mothers. Church members serving in TPN’s Connect program have found unique ways to reach new fathers and offer support during a time that can feel overwhelming.
“We’ve had men helping men with home repairs, sharing meals together, and studying the Bible as a family,” Herrington said. “These are the types of relationships that will help men facing unplanned pregnancies feel like they have a safe space to discuss the hard decisions. It’s been beautiful to see.”“What God creates, we value. And what we value is shown in what we do. Jesus died to create servants, not spectators.” Click To Tweet
Andrew Hopper, lead pastor of Mercy Hill Church, is intentional about challenging members of the church to step off the sidelines and immerse themselves into the lives of others. For the Christian, taking a stand for life is not optional. “What God creates, we value,” Hopper says. “And what we value is shown in what we do. Jesus died to create servants, not spectators.”
So we champion fathers, mothers, and children.
Opportunities for churches
“We know that abortion is symptomatic of a deeper need—the need for Jesus Christ,” says Judy Roderick, executive director of TPN. “It’s our privilege to meet these women and men during their time of crisis to offer compassionate care and practical support. We are so grateful for the churches who partner with us by praying, giving, and serving.”
The mentorship program has created beautiful opportunities for bridge building, but it is not the only way churches can build positive relationships with women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. There are more than 2,500 pregnancy resource centers across the United States, and all rely on the generosity and involvement of their communities.
“There is a place for you here,” said Luke Rosenberger, associate executive director of TPN and former pastor. “Pregnancy centers need passionate Christians to give sacrificially of their time, talent, and treasure. Every believer has a vital role to play in this mission. When we work together, we can make abortion unnecessary. And we will see more women and men enter into personal relationships with Jesus Christ.”“When women and men run to the church instead of the abortion clinic—when they feel safe enough to seek help from the body of Christ—that’s when we see lives truly transformed.” Click To Tweet
For church leaders and members who are interested in providing practical care and support for women and men walking through unplanned pregnancies, your local pregnancy resource center is the perfect place to start.
“When churches enter into strong, positive relationships with pregnancy centers, they position themselves to be the natural next step for those facing unplanned pregnancies,” Rosenberger said. “When women and men run to the church instead of the abortion clinic—when they feel safe enough to seek help from the body of Christ—that’s when we see lives truly transformed.”
Those interested in starting their own mentorship program can reach out to The Pregnancy Network via their Accelerator program, which exists to help pregnancy centers maximize their potential within their communities through customized coaching. Email director of partnerships Allison Herrington for more information.
Mary is the communications coordinator for The Pregnancy Network in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has written for numerous organizations, and is a contributing author for two books. Her debut picture book, The Anxious Lily (End Game Press) releases in 2023.