GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–It’s right there in James 1:27a: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after … widows in their distress….”
Need some fresh ideas for demonstrating pure religion by ministering to widows in your church?
SHARE A TISSUE: Small acts of Christian kindness can make a difference during grief.
— Take 12. For a new widow, make a notation on your personal calendar to remember the one-month anniversary of the death for 12 months. Personally contact her monthly with a simple phone call, a stop to visit, an encouragement note, an invitation to dinner, or an invitation for a cup of coffee.
— Notice her. Seek her out at church. Talk with her. Show love. Sit by her during worship. If she’s not there, call to check on her.
— Listen. Don’t avoid conversation about her late husband. Whether she is a recent widow or has been alone for decades, let her share memories of her husband.
— Churches can provide a grief recovery class or grief support group. Assign a deacon or a family to a new widow in your church to help her through the grief process.
— Pray. Every time God brings her to mind, pray. Take the time to voice a prayer when you visit.
OFFER FRIENDSHIP: Demonstrate God’s love through friendship (Proverbs 17:17).
— Be a friend. Laugh together. Cry together. Shop together. Carpool. Telephone. Text. Begin a new tradition with her by inviting her for a holiday, calling her each Sunday afternoon, planting flower bulbs each fall or taking her to lunch on her birthday.
— Include her. Help her meet Christians with similar interests or life circumstances. Include widows on your guest list when you entertain. Ask her along for a family adventure, such as watching fireworks, a day trip or dinner. Invite her to join your Bunco club, book club, Bible study group, computer class or community club.
— Think of the kids. When your ministry involves younger widows, be aware of her need for childcare to be provided. Consider adopting a young family that first Christmas after the death of the father and husband, helping out with the purchase of presents.
— Share ministry. Discover her interests and talents, and carefully watch for ways she might enjoy serving at your church. For example, if you teach a Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, invite her to help with records, greeting or substitute teaching.
— A church might form a group for widows. They could plan fellowships, prayer teams or Bible studies. The group could go on outings together, do ministry projects, take short trips for vacation or missions or share holiday gatherings. Find ways to include widowers in many of your gatherings. One younger widow advises avoiding the appearance of a dating service.
SHOW HONOR: 1 Timothy 5:3-10 instructs us to honor widows who are widows indeed.
— Personally deliver a holiday fruit basket, a birthday balloon or a single Gerber daisy.
— Deacons sponsored an annual banquet for widows in our church. They provided transportation, served the meal, prayed for each widow at the table, and made her feel like a queen for the evening. Or allow deacons to escort widows to be first in line at the annual church potluck dinner.
— A Christmas open house for widows could be planned at a church member’s home.
— The church youth group could sponsor a “cupcakes and coffee fellowship” for widows, serving homemade goodies. Assign teens to visit with and serve a widow, and use nametags to help them know one another.
— Some churches honor widows annually during a worship service. Mail widows a printed invitation, make them special nametags, and give them a corsage as they arrive. Create a pre-service slideshow to spotlight them. Ask them to stand, and invite church members to surround them and offer a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing.
— Assign a church group or class to Christmas carol at each widow’s door. Take a group photo with her in the middle and mail or deliver it to her with a Christmas card signed by the entire group.
— Assign a children’s or youth class a widow. They can send cards, deliver candies, help with small home projects, and get to know her.
— The young married women’s class could sponsor an annual “Hats Required Tea” just for widows in the church. Draw names to pair young women with a widow to provide transportation, serve her, and maybe even borrow one of her hats to wear. Ask ladies to be prepared to share a favorite Bible verse.
— Don’t overlook her value in ministry. A widow is a part of the church body, and her ministry is valuable. She may have more time than at other stages of life, so include her as a prayer warrior, volunteer, committee member, etc.
GET PRACTICAL: Deuteronomy 24:19 encourages practical assistance to widows.
— Some churches assign widows to a deacon and his wife or a church member for regular contact and help with physical, spiritual and social needs. Some churches have a list of widows, and encourage church groups to adopt and give special attention to one.
— Light brigade. Our church’s women’s ministry developed a team of women who lovingly accomplished small tasks for widows, such as changing light bulbs, planting a flower bed, or cleaning a freezer.
— Ramplifiers. A team of men in our church perfected the art of building a wheelchair ramp and were called many times to help widows with that task. Some churches form a maintenance team of handymen who assist widows with repairs and emergencies.
— A special fund. A church might have a special offering to assist with church widows in need for utilities, medical bills, etc. Our church collected a special benevolence offering during our quarterly Lord’s Supper service. One church youth group plans an annual garage sale for the church’s widow’s assistance fund.
— Reading material. Share current magazines or books. Take her with you to the library or offer to pick up books, audio books or videos for her. Help her set up a DVD player and share your favorites with her. Program her television to record favorite programs.
— Yard youth. A youth group might volunteer to help with her lawn or flowers. A young adult class might volunteer to trim trees or paint. A group of deacons and their wives might help with an entire room makeover for a widow in need.
— Transportation. If she’s unable to drive, consider taking her with you for a weekly or monthly grocery shopping trip or offer to take her for doctor appointments.
— Targeted assistance. Some churches may offer classes or individual assistance with legal, financial or personal needs.
— While I’m there … When scheduling a visit to her home, mention that you’d love to spend a few minutes and replace smoke alarm batteries, sew on a button, or something she can’t easily do for herself.
— Things he did. Think of routine responsibilities that husbands often handle such as car maintenance, and offer to take her car to get the oil changed or tires rotated. Even the things she might have routinely done are often forgotten in the months following a death.
The care and treatment of widows must be important to God. It’s addressed in more than 20 Scriptures. How will you demonstrate your pure religion today?
Diana Davis, author of “Deacon Wives,” is married to Stephen Davis, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN, online at texanonline.net.