Monday, February 25, 2019

Why Don't More Churches Do Widows Ministry?

Too many widows ask me this question because there's a dreadful and shameful void in church ministry. Don't church leaders realize that widows are mentioned from Genesis to Revelation? As long as there’s been death there have been widows. Thousands of women and men become widowed every day!

Don't church leaders know that widows are the only specific group of people mentioned at the three most important, pivotal events in history? The United States has become a nation of “special interest groups,” but it seems that God has always held widows as his “special interest group.” Let’s look at those three important events. Stay with me, this is an important foundation but I'll make it brief.
1. When the Law of Israel Was Given
At the founding of Israel, God revealed The 10 Commandments plus many other laws for daily life and religion. These laws are interspersed throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy of the Old Testament. Its extensive reading—over 100 tiny-print pages in my Bible! It’s all about actions and consequences, crime and punishment. In general terms it was “an eye for an eye.” Like today, people were judged by people. When someone was found guilty the community carried out the verdict and punishment.
Keep that background in mind because when it came to harm against widows (and orphans), God didn’t leave judgment up to mere people. Exodus 22:22-24 declares that God, himself, would execute judgment on one who afflicted the widow or the fatherless! God made it clear that unlike other nations of the time, the widows and orphans of Israel were to be protected and free from harm and mistreatment. This law set God’s people apart as compassionate and responsible. It also implied that widows and orphans needed extra help. Hello! Although we can argue that we're not under Old Testament law, the principle is that God was especially concerned for widows and orphans and his concern has not changed. Churches are missing a blessing, and perhaps facing consequences for neglecting widows and orphans.

2. The Birth of Christ
At the birth of Jesus Christ widows were honored to be in the genealogy of Christ. The family tree of Jesus listed in Matthew 1 is very unusual. Most genealogies in the Bible only listed men, but Matthew 1 mentions five women, and most of them were widowed at one point or another! They mattered! Two thousand years after the birth of Christ we read and remember their names. Did they try to earn that special honor? Did they volunteer for the position? No, but there was something about them that the Lord saw and wanted to use as an example to us. They left a legacy of faithfulness, persistence and courage in spite of hardships. Widows leave the same today. Death never comes at a convenient time; seldom is one ever prepared. The courage and faith I’ve seen demonstrated by the widows I’ve met over the years is incredible.   
And who was the first woman to tell the world about Jesus? When Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple, Luke 2:36-38 (NIV) tells us, “There was also a prophet, Anna…She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Unlike some cultures which shunned and ostracized their widows, at the birth of Jesus, an elderly widow spoke up in the temple with the good news of salvation. God put her in the right place at the right time and she stepped up to the task with a thankful heart and joyous words. Oh, how she must have been ready to burst with excitement!
3. The Beginning of the Church

At the founding of the church in Acts there’s only one group of people assigned provision and watch care by the finest of the disciples—its widows, of course! (Acts 6:1-3).
The earliest book of the New Testament is the book of James, written around 45-48 A.D. One of the first commands is in James 1:27—that widows and orphans are visited in their times of distress.

From the many loving notes tucked into the book orders I receive each month it’s clear that certain individuals are caring for and visiting widows. I’m so happy to see that. But I also see churches that have their ladies Bible studies, youth groups, men’s’ groups, patriotic and veterans services, Sunday Schools and hospital visitation programs. They budget for building programs, music, landscaping, advertising, etc. I have to wonder—what do they do for widows? What does the church budget say about widows?

The Bible doesn’t leave us in the dark about what to do for widows, nor about who exactly should do it. First Timothy 5 beautifully outlines their care. Family members like children and grandchildren are the first to put their religion into practice by helping out. Other women in the family are next. Then the rest of the local church is better able step in and care for the ones left without family. But everyone visits when they are in distress. Thing is, though, people don’t usually know if a widow is in distress unless they visit so the church should somehow stay connected with her and not force her to ask for help when she's in distress. This isn't easy, I know, but I don't think we can sweep it aside and not do it if we really want to follow Scripture. 
Finally, if you look at all the books in the Bible, there are two books named after women: Ruth and Esther. Ruth was a widow and Esther was an orphan! Scripture would be incomplete without them and we as a people are incomplete without widows and orphans. Their needs are opportunities for God to be glorified. It’s wrong to overlook them or to hopefully assume that they're loaded with Social Security and life insurance benefits. Many godly widows do not have enough of either.
Death is not random or optional, it’s a part of life. Widowhood is a difficult journey, but there are gems of wisdom to gather along the way. There is joy unspeakable, and moments full of glory for both the widow walking by faith and for the people walking alongside her.  Ecclesiastes 7:4 tells us that the wise are in the house of mourning. Widows pay a high price for that wisdom and many of them would love to share it with people who will stop by and ask. Seldom will they speak out, so draw it out of your widow friends when the time is right.
God treasures widows as his “special interest group.” Shouldn’t everyone, especially the church? God doesn’t overlook them. They matter to him! They have an indisputable place in his kingdom and their influence, legacies, courage and faith testify generation after generation. They should receive special treatment in the church--or at the very least as much support and acknowledgement as the youth group or the landscaping. 


  1. This is beautiful, Ferree❣ I would like to see it printed in every church bulletin everywhere!
    Have a blessed time at the widows retreat.
    Please tell Gayle Roper hello from a reader in Washington state.

  2. What a comfort to read what you said about widows. Since my husband died I have called churches to try and find support groups for widows. So far I haven’t found any. I took care of my husband for years, the last two years we were housebound. Before that he was to ill to go to church anymore. So I’m starting all over by myself. No one from our church ever visited or called after he became ill. Then a couple years ago the church closed.

    I called a Pastor today that told me that his church was growing so fast they had groups for youth and young adults. They were trying to pay off their building and couldn’t start another group. I said isn’t most of the people going to your church older?

    Yes, he said about 70 year olds but they wanted young people to come. I said if most of your church is old then there will be a lot of widows and widowers. He said I was right he hadn’t thought of that.

    I just couldn’t believe it.

    Thank you for what you wrote.

    New widow on my own but with God by my side.

  3. Our government is in the shape it is because of Churches. Welfare if Churches provided care for Widows ,orphans ect . In the community there would be no welfare. A lot of churches gross over a Billion $ a year and who gets the $$ the masters and church leaders pocket millions of $$ a year. That's not what is in the Bible.

    1. Dear Anonymous, you're right, that's not what's in the Bible. Churches will have to answer to God on Judgment Day. Please pray for them that they repent. On the other hand, there are small churches here and there which are trying to do the right thing. Often, when they give to a widow it's kept quiet to protect her privacy. We all need to make sure that we are in a good church that helps people in need, and that we are doing the right thing too. Thank you for your comment.


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