Here are three areas pastors and ministry leaders need to consider regarding the often forgotten widows in our churches.
By Adrianna Anderson
Editor’s note: Sunday, November 12 is Orphans and Widows Sunday
God in his holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.Psalm 68:5
God sees, loves, and remembers widows
Pastors and ministry leaders, do you know someone who has lost her husband due to death? Most of you reading this will remember women like Elisabeth Elliott whose husband Jim was murdered by the people he went to share Christ with. Or, perhaps you are familiar with women in Scripture like Ruth, Naomi, Anna the prophetess, and Dorcas whose stories of widowhood you may have shared with your congregation.
Whatever your knowledge of these women is, know this: Widows hold a deep place in the heart of God, and He loves and cares about them greatly. Since the beginning of time, God has spoken in His Word about widows. There are over 80 references throughout Scripture of Him speaking about the treatment and care of widows. God often associates the poor treatment and disregard of widows with a lack of fear for Him (Malachi 3:5, Jeremiah 15:8). He left specific instructions for the church regarding widows. “Support widows who are genuinely in need” (1 Timothy 5:3, CSB).“There are over 80 references throughout Scripture of God speaking about the treatment and care of widows.” — Adrianna Anderson Click To Tweet
Not all widows are the same
Widows don’t all have the same needs; they don’t all look the same. And many women are being widowed at a younger age. There are approximately 258 million widows worldwide, and on average there are 40 widows for every church in America. But do you know how many are in your church?
In biblical times a widow’s best hope for being cared for was laid upon her son. But what if she didn’t have a son? Who cared for her? Upon the death of her spouse, a widow typically loses a significant percentage of her support base and is often vulnerable to abuse or misuse. Some Christians in the early church debated over the best way to care for widows because some were being neglected in the daily distribution to meet needs (Acts 6). But the early church leaders cared so much about the widows in their midst they came up with a plan about who would care for them, how they would care for them, and what resources they would use.
My journey as a young widow
Imagine a married woman whose greatest fear—losing her husband through death—is realized. How might she feel and what might she think? Well, it happened to me. I became a widow and walked into the world of the unknown, joining the 258 million widows worldwide.
At the age of 22, I married my husband, and after almost three years of marriage, he died. During the early season of being a young widow, the Lord called me to serve Him as a missionary in a foreign country. He opened a door for me to work in a Christian school where I taught English to 5th and 6th grade students while simultaneously teaching English as a Second Language classes in the local community. After over a decade of being widowed, God in His loving kindness brought my current husband into my life. But remarriage is not always His plan for every widow.
3 ways pastors and ministry leaders can serve widows
Here are some areas for pastors and ministry leaders to consider regarding the often forgotten widows in our churches.
1. Widows need community
Widows don’t have a malady. They lost their spouses and need the church to be the hands and feet of Christ to them. They need community because many feel isolated, whether or not they have family in their lives. Some feel lost and helpless. And the body of Christ is one of the means God uses to minister love and healing to her heart. Don’t miss the immediate opportunity to serve this people group sitting in your congregation every week. “Plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17, CSB).“Widows don’t have a malady. They lost their spouses and need the church to be the hands and feet of Christ to them.” — Adrianna Anderson Click To Tweet
2. Widows need care and counseling
Grief is hard. Widows need to be nurtured and cared for when walking through their grief.
What are some effective ways you can care for the widows in your congregation? Consider these practical suggestions to nurture and care for widows:
- Partner them with other widows in the church. Each woman needs a friend who can relate to her, so prayerfully consider starting a ministry designed specifically for widows.
- Host a quarterly banquet or gathering on their behalf and let the deacons and ministerial staff serve them a meal, present them with a small gift, and pray for them.
- Create a serve day on behalf of the widows in your church. Have members sign up to do basic things for them like mowing their lawn, running errands for them, washing their vehicles, taking them to doctors’ appointments, or getting their hair cut.
- Offer faith-based counseling services for them for free or at a minimal cost.
- Here are helpful resources you, as a pastor or ministry leader, can either provide or point widows to:
3. Widows need calling
Widows who know Christ as Savior desire to be used by Him in ministry. They still want to serve and want the Lord to use them. But often the church, and sometimes their families, forget about them. Just because they lost their spouse that doesn’t mean they lost the gifts God gave them. They are here now, and God still has a plan for them even if their lives have changed due to the death of their spouse.“Just because someone lost their spouse that doesn’t mean they lost the gifts God gave them.” — Adrianna Anderson Click To Tweet
Here are some ways you and your staff can encourage them to serve the Lord with their talents:
- Plug them into the church and get them serving.
- Invite them to teach Bible studies, help meet needs through prayer, help in the children’s ministry, serve in the food ministry, and go on mission trips
- Ask them to mentor younger women and sow seeds in their lives (Titus 2).
- Plug them into ministries where they can serve—like women’s crisis pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, and Mother’s Day out programs.
Honor widows and serve them well
Pastors and ministry leaders, your widows need you. During my season of widowhood, the Lord surrounded me with a godly couple from church that helped me walk through the grieving process. The love, care, and prayers they demonstrated toward me were so needed. God has called you to support and shepherd the widows in your congregation because He loves and cares about them. Do they know you care about them? Scripture admonishes you to, remember the widows, so honor and serve them well.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.