The best way to care for those in our church who may be alone on Thanksgiving is to invite them to your family gathering, or find others in your church who would be willing to take them in. This takes some effort by the pastor, or someone else in the church who has the time and desire to ask around, find out who is in town, and put people together. Yet, I would argue this effort is worth it.
Just this morning I recieved word that a young single and a widow in our church were staying in town and had no where to go. Because I had already asked around to see who was having people over within our church, I was able to graciously impose on these folks in our church who were more than willing to set one more place setting at the table for these alone for the holidays.
I also have fond memories of my father bringing surprise guests over for Thanksgiving. Do not underestimate the impact this has on your children and other family present as they see you reach out to care for your brother or sister in Christ with no family to spend Thanksgiving with them.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but it may not be too late to connect young singles and widows to some hospitable folks in your church who desire to minister the gospel in this way. If you cannot reach anyone… take them home with you. This post was originally inspired by my father who almost every year brought some elderly widow home with him on Thanksgiving who he discovered at the last minute was alone.
A related post that also applies to this question as Christmas approaches is this previous post How can you serve widow during the holidays?
Make sure you are grateful tomorrow. There is much reason to hope in Christ regardless your circumstances!
Many of you knew I was on a trip with my 13 year-old son recently. What was the occasion? My wife and I promised each of our children when they turned 13 years old, they would get to take a special trip with one of us. My son with me and each of my daughters with my wife. The purpose of these trips is to first have fun and enjoy each other’s company, which is why they each get to pick the destination (must be within a day’s drive) and determine much of the agenda.
There is, however, another purpose for these trips: to celebrate that our son is growing up to be a man and likewise our daughters into women. Becoming a teenager can be a scary prospect (for both child and parent) and this often mutes both parent and child from obvious changes taking place. Yet we want it to be something we all would celebrate. We also want to communicate the responsibilities that come with this different life stage as well as some of the developmental aspects of it. Therefore, these trips are also designed for us to have very intentional conversations about life as men and women. Many of these conversations had been already taking place for quite a while, but it provides an atmosphere to delve into them a bit more and reaffirm what has already been said.
Since several of you asked about how I led my son through these conversations on our trip, I thought I would explain it here for others interested in some of those details. The theme of the trip revolved around this biblical manhood template: Protect, provide, and lead.
1) Protect. We read 1 Peter 3:1-7 about how I am called by God to protect my wife and children from any physical harm. Then we discussed how my son could engage in this activity in our home. We discussed the practical ways he too could protect his mom and sisters from harm from killing bugs to locking doors at night when I am out-of-town. We also read Proverbs 5 and discussed the need to protect ourselves from the adulterous woman who is after every man to steal him away from his wife. This allowed a fruitful discussion about sexual impurity and the destruction of pornography that we as men are surrounded by and how we protect our hearts and minds from it.
2) Provide. As men, we are called to provide for the needs of our families. We were made to work (Gen. 1-2) and to care for our families by providing the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that each family member needs (1 Tim. 5:8). Because of this, we discussed ways my son could accomplish this, even though he does not have to work to support a family at this time. We talked about how he needs to work hard now at school, competitive swimming, cutting grass, chores, and whatever else in his life now that will help develop a work ethic that he can later take into his job that he would use to support a wife and family one day, Lord willing.
3) Lead. We read and discussed many implications to our call as Christian husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her from Ephesians 5:22-33. One of the central ways Christ loved was through humble sacrifice. We talked about how my son could sacrificially serve his mom and sisters to develop that instinct to lead by humble service in the home. Also, we discussed the times I asked him to lead us on a family walk, or when he would pick where we go to eat, thinking of everyone in the family for the best place to go. Those are little ways for my son to lead now (and teach my daughters to follow) and think of how his decisions impact others.
Parents, I don’t think you have to take a trip as we have planned to do with each of our children. If you are able to afford it and do it, great. Regardless, I urge you to be very intentional about not waiting on these kinds of conversations that should be taking place much earlier than 13 years old. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them and wait because you anticipate them being uncomfortable. I promise you, it will be too late if you wait until the last possible moment. Our trip was a joy, very fruitful, and I am sad it will be my only one.
Parents with older kids, what have you done that has been fruitful in this preparation for your own children?
Yesterday was a special wedding anniversary. Not mine. There is a couple in our church celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. They have faithfully served our church longer than I have been alive. As I rejoice in this milestone with them, I am reminded of one more reason it is important to stay at the same church for many years. I not only get to celebrate this special day with them, but my history with this couple makes this day that much more sweet.
My first years at the church were difficult. For some different reasons, this couple and I butted heads to say the least over many things. Our relationship struggled for the first several years. If I would have left the church at the typical time a pastor leaves his church over the difficulty and strained relationships (usually around 2-4 years), that is how our relationship would have stayed.
I did not leave. I stayed to press through. More importantly, this couple also stayed to press through. It forced us to try to figure out the other; how to relate to the other; learn how to love and trust the other. By God’s grace, within the next few years our relationship took a turn for the better. I started to understand them. They started to understand me. We began to grow in love and trust for one another.
Now I can say after almost 10 years, this couple is one of the sweetest, most meaningful relationships I have in our entire church. The sweetness of this relationship comes because we both refused to take the easy way out and bail. We stayed and wrestled together through the challenges for the sake of Christ and his church.
Because of this, it makes this wedding anniversary that much more special for me. Happy Anniversary you two! I am grateful more than you know that I get to celebrate it with you. You both are an example to so many of us, and we rejoice how the Lord has blessed you both.
Therefore, I am thankful for many things today. But, in light of this couple’s momentous anniversary and getting to celebrate it with them, I am so very thankful I stayed!
There are commonly two extremes that accompany this question. The first represents a pastor who carelessly sees his role to pastor women as no different than men. This is a pastor who thinks the same blunt conversations he has with men in the church can take place with women in the same way. This mentality has led to many pastors, several I have personally known, to lose their marriages and ministries because they foolishly placed themselves in compromising positions with women in their church… in the name of caring for them.
There is, however, another side that is a growing extreme among younger pastors especially. It is the pastor who so fears the foolishness of the first extreme that he completely neglects the pastoral care of women in general in his church. Motivated by fear or unwilling to make the extra effort to understand a certain kind of woman different than his wife, some pastors deceive themselves in the name of being “above reproach” that God will not still hold them accountable for the souls of these women entrusted to their care.
Because of these two extremes, the first thing to establish in a pastor wisely thinking through caring for women in the church is the need for balance. Wise, thoughtful, discerning, and balanced parameters needs to be at the heart of every pastor’s approach. So then, here are four suggestions I have found helpful over the years in avoiding these extremes as I personally try to care for women in the church, yet being very wise and aware of the biblical call to be above reproach:
1) Old enough to be your grandmother rule.
I feel a freedom to visit an elderly widow in her home or the hospital alone if there is a sizable gap in age, versus going to visit a needy, flirtatious, recently divorced woman who is my age, which I NEVER do alone! Be wise not to compromise this rule. Remember, the rule is “grandmother” not “mother.”
2) Copy the woman’s husband and your wife in emails.
I do think it is perfectly acceptable to communicate through email with women in the church. Many email exchanges are solely administration issues (“Would you please put our women’s event in the bulletin?” type emails). However, if you intend to send any email to a woman in the church, or receive one that involves anything of a personal nature, a pastor’s wife and the woman’s husband can be copied in it. It can be in the (cc) section so all corresponding can see the spouse’s involvement. There are certain private counseling matters that would prevent someone else to be copied in on email, but this is a good practice in general. This may seem tedious, but can be helpful for accountability when appropriate.
3) Counsel with the woman’s husband or someone else present.
I NEVER counsel a woman alone. I know, that sounds extreme to some of you. Even if there is glass between us and the church secretary, I will not meet alone with another woman. I will, however, meet to counsel a woman with her husband present. This has borne good fruit, as the husband learns how to better care for his wife as he sits and listens. Besides, many times the husband is part of the problem! I’ve learned that in my own marriage.
Something else I have learned is that sometimes a wife is not comfortable sharing some things with her husband in the room, which is why another woman or even another trusted pastor can be that extra person in the room. This even becomes essential for marriage struggles where a husband is controlling and domineering and a wife is afraid to share openly. If I am trying to care for a single lady, my wife is my preferred choice of counseling companion, but I am open to allowing another leader or trusted friend of the single lady to be present. I’m flexible, but will not counsel alone.
4) Pass off long-term discipleship and counseling to other capable women.
Pastors need to deal with pastoral matters with everyone in the church. However, long-term issues that will require years of care and discipleship should be eventually handed to mature, godly, and capable women in the church who would then report to the pastors on their progress, which still allows some kind of pastoral oversight and soul care.
Alright, there is my attempt at balance.
Pastors, any wise counsel you have to add that helps capture this balance?
Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.
Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire. He has served in pastoral ministry for over fifteen years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University receiving his B.A. in Sociology. He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is also the author of Visit the sick: Ministering God’s grace in times of illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and Test, train, affirm, and send into Ministry: Recovering the local church’s responsibility to the external call (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Both of these volumes are published by Day One in their pastoral series designed to serve pastors, church leaders, and those training for local church ministry. Brian has also published Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography and Conduct Gospel-centered Funerals (co-written with Phil Newton).
A Faith That Endures: Meditations on Hebrews 11 is Brian’s newest book, released in fall of 2011. His next book on The Pastor’s Family, co-authored with his wife, is due to be released by Zondervan in Fall 2013.
To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.