Part 1 of this three part series briefly presented biblical examples of God’s wholistic care for widows. Now we turn our attention to the task of identifying need and supporting widows who find themselves in desolate and vulnerable situations.
Widows should be supported by their immediate family first (1 Tim. 5:4). By supporting the widow, the family is “honoring their father and mother” while demonstrating their faith and love towards God (James 1:27). If the family is unable or unwilling to help, the church should then be ready to step in and assist.
In this case, there seems to be two classes of assistance: those who receive ministry to their general needs and those who receive monetary support and services.
Supporting a widow’s general needs
It is commonly understood that women who have lost a spouse are in higher danger of mistreatment or being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people, than men. Estimates show that by the year 2020 women will represent close to 85% of the older population that lives alone.  An obvious ministry opportunity awaits the church in the coming years.
What are some general needs a widow may have and how can the church provide proper assistance?
House Maintenance: Though a house can be a place of lasting memories it can also be a heavy burden. Maintaining a lawn, shoveling snow, changing light bulbs, fixing leaky pipes and keeping up with broken appliances can be overwhelming. As well, hired help can often charge exorbitant rates to make simples fixes. The local church however, can easily step in and provide trustworthy (free)help with the unavoidable challenges of keeping up a dwelling.
Financial Pressures: There are several unexpected financial challenges that could come with sudden widowhood. Organizing bills, balancing checkbooks, understanding insurance policies and submitting taxes can all be extremely stressful and confusing to a new widow. As well, many seniors are often prey to special “benefits” or “discounts” on pharmaceuticals, stocks, and lotteries. Having a trustworthy church deacon or advisor in place to give opinion and oversight is invaluable.
Emotional Healing: The loss of a loved one affects every aspect of a person’s existence. Thus, being attentive to the various stages of grief and allowing time to heal is important. However, a church can be a much needed comfort and presence during this difficult time. Through pastoral counseling, programs such as griefShare and appropriate visitations, the church can wisely respond to the present needs of the grieving widow.
This list could be significantly longer. Security, loneliness, illness, safety and decision-making could each be areas of need that the church can address. As a church leadership team, take the time to prayerfully consider, monitor, ask and listen to widows while developing a format for serving them.
Young widows: The Bible also advises churches in their care of “young” widows in 1 Tim. 5:11-15. Here the Bible advocates that any young widow who is physically able to work should be encouraged in appropriate time to do so. The church can help facilitate this process by providing job skills training, job preparedness seminars, childcare assistance and various other resources. Working also allows the widow to avoid the pitfalls of idleness as presented in v. 13.
In any case, the church should consider in great detail how to properly encourage and support young widows (and any children) in her general needs as she gets back on her feet and returns to daily life.
There is no greater way to show God’s love than for a church to care for the vulnerable in their midst. While the simplest way to serve a widow may be to provide a casserole meal during her initial shock of grief, the Bible advocates much deeper involvement. Local churches should consider ministry to widows a privilege. Carefully pray, listen and craft a ministry plan for loving them as God has commanded (Psalms 146:9).
We will continue this discussion and speak more about aiding a widow’s financial needs as well as developing a ministry towards widows in part 3 of this series.Resources:
 Janet C. Kilbride, Sharon Nagy, and Robert L. Rubinstein, Elders Living Alone (New York: Aldine De Gruyter Publishers, 1992), 21