NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Bill Graham knows how effective churches can be in ministering to military families.
As an army chaplain during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Graham helped mobilize 31 units stationed in three different states. His ministry was to the soldiers and their families before and during the war and upon the return home.
Now retired, he works as associate pastor of missions and ministry at First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., focusing on the families of the 101st Airborne amid the challenges and struggles of the current deployment to the Middle East.
LifeWay Christian Resources hopes to do the same through a recently launched site on LifeWay.com called “Nations in Conflict: Finding Hope in Troubled Times.” The website, located at www.lifeway.com/conflict, includes resources and information focused toward pastors, churches, laity, teachers and parents.
“I think this will be a tremendous resource, particularly for families who are on the verge of being deployed,” Graham said. “Military families are under a great amount of pressure and stress when a soldier is deployed — even more when they return. The more that churches can do to minister, the better.”
David E. Mullis Sr., military chaplaincy associate with the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., is a contributor to the site.
“Loneliness and fear of the expected but unexpected loss haunts most spouses at home, and the daily routine of the week is upset,” Mullis said. “The weekends are really long. Evenings are always alone, especially after the children go to bed. Chaplains will be alert to the deployed service members. But who will take up the care of the families at home?”
Mullis suggests that churches develop wholesome and fun activities along with support and care groups. Preparation for homecoming also is important to think about.
Other suggestions for churches to consider when ministering to those with deployed family members:
— Know your members. Who is affiliated with the military? What service and component of the service is the church member a part of?
— Support groups should be focused on positive, encouraging, sharing activities. Family activities planned by the church could feature games, movies, crafts, picnics, dinners or excursions to local sites.
— Repair assistance is always needed. The joking phrase among military families is that as soon as the unit deploys the car or washing machine will break. Who does the family trust to help repair these items when the budget is limited? Churches can help get them connected to members who could provide repair assistance.
— Financial assistance is needed in some cases. The answer is not always with giving them money. A financial counselor who not only helps organize the finances but can intervene with creditors can prove helpful.
— Adopt a family. Prayer support, phone calls, childcare, shared delivery of children to various activities (soccer, music lessons, band, etc.), cards, yard and house maintenance are meaningful avenues of outreach.
— Don’t forget the service members who are gone. Care packages from their home church will speak loudly to their buddies in the unit. Mailing video or audiotapes of a recent worship service or Bible study class or a Bible study quarterly could be included. Cards and drawings from a child’s classroom activities are meaningful.
For more information and resources to minister to military families in your area, visit www.lifeway.com/conflict.