Beyond the Casserole Dish—Caring for the Widow: Part 3

How can a church support a widow’s wholistic needs?

According to the Administration on Aging [1]

“More than 70% of all elderly persons with incomes below the poverty level are women. But what is perhaps even more significant is that more than half of elderly widows now living in poverty were not poor before the death of their husbands.”

Becoming a widow brings significant changes, financial decisions and potential challenges. With an aging America will come growing needs by one of the nation’s vulnerable groups: widows.

In (Part I) of this series we covered the biblical basis of caring for widows, and in (Part II) of this series we looked at several ways the church can meet the general needs of widows in their midst. Now we will take a brief look at what the Bible says about meeting financial needs, and how a wholistic ministry to widows might be structured.

Providing Financial Care

Is it ok to give a widow financial support? I Timothy 5:3 states, “Honor widows who are truly widows.” (ESV) According to John MacArthur, [2] through a study of various biblical texts, including Matthew 15:3-9, we can determine that giving “honor” was known in ancient times as including financial support. Thus, to “honor” a widow included giving them a level of financial support.

The reality is that many widows find themselves with various financial pressures. There is a lot we, the church, can do to help guide and support widows prior to the giving of financial support. (see part II of this series) But in certain circumstances the need for financial assistance may arise. Biblically, a widow’s immediate family has the first responsibility to provide for her financial needs. However, if the family is unable or unwilling to meet the need, the church is mandated to share the widow’s financial burdens. Various questions such as: “What level of financial support should be given?”, “What length of time is appropriate?”, “How should the support be ministered?”, should be considered and prayed through as every circumstance is very different.  Though a great deal of caution, prayer and wisdom must be exercised, financial support towards widows should not be an excluded level of action. For a deeper study of this issue a consultation of 1 Tim 5:1-10 would be necessary.

Establishing a ministry to widows

While each church will develop and approve a ministry to widows differently, here are a few suggestions:

1.   Take the time to listen to the needs of each widow. Be sure to accurately identify their necessities in order to effectively help them.

2.   Identify a team of volunteers who are willing and able to meet various support tasks. Who are the plumbers and lawn care people? Who has experience with finances and taxes? Who might be capable of regular visitations for encouragement and sympathy?

3.   Establish a strategy for the wholistic needs of the widow to be met. Be sure that the widow is receiving physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. In particular ask the question: Is her spirit being ministered to? Be sure that an appropriate team is organized to address the widows spiritual needs and questions. The church should choose people who are called to this task, sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and committed to prayer. During visitations don’t be afraid to read Scripture, pray, listen and share with the widow to encourage her spiritual growth and interaction.

4.   Keep appropriate records. Be sure to document the various forms of support and care that the widow is given. Such documentation should provide a sense of accountability to where the money has been given and how the money has been allocated.

5.   Involve the whole church, youth, families, men and women. Since a widow’s needs go far beyond financial, there is room for many people to bless her in many ways.

6.   Work with appropriate leadership to establish a benevolence fund that can be used to financially support widows’ needs.

One of the greatest witnesses to the world is a body of believers ministering to one another and bearing each other’s burdens. The Bible states, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

If you are a widow, I would love to hear how you’ve been minister to. What was helpful? What was more difficult than it needed to be?

or

Has your church had the opportunity to minister to widows? What lessons have you learned?

May your church serve beyond the casserole dish and be a growing example of God as it ministers to the needs of the widows in your midst.

About John

John Warden, our Director of Mission Initiatives, provides oversight and training for the TCT - Local program. John has had the opportunity to work with Christians around the world in elements of worldview, poverty, outreach and wholistic ministry. Join us in this initiative to reach and love the world around us for God’s glory.

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