Christian women, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry

Originally published March 11, 2016

mary martha jesus womens ministry

You remember the story. Jesus comes to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha’s Pinteresting up the place while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him teach. Martha gripes to Jesus that Mary should help her and Jesus says no because it’s better for her to listen to Him than fold napkins into the shape of swans or whatever. Moral of the story- Martha needs to relax and not let other things distract her from Jesus.

That’s a good, true, and important takeaway from this passage, and one that we would all do well to heed.

But did you ever stop to think that Mary and Martha aren’t the main characters in this story? Jesus is. Jesus is the main character in every Bible story, so our primary focus should always be on Him: what He said and did and was like.

What was Jesus teaching that day at Mary and Martha’s house? The passage doesn’t tell us the topic He was speaking about, but we are privy to a very important lesson He imparted through the scenario with Mary and Martha. A lesson about the way God loves and values women.

Remember how women were generally regarded at that time? They didn’t have much more value than livestock, furniture, or a man’s other possessions. They were considered intellectually inferior, they weren’t formally educated, and their legal and social standing were often tenuous at best. They could not go beyond the Court of the Women at the temple for worship. There was even a traditional prayer Jewish men recited in which they thanked God for not making them a woman, a Gentile, or a slave. Women were low man on the totem pole, so to speak.

And that’s where we find Martha. She wasn’t doing anything wrong that day. In fact, in her culture, she was doing everything right. If anything, Mary would have been the one viewed as being in the wrong because the teaching was for the men, and it was the women’s job to bustle around taking care of all the hospitality duties. Martha knew this. Mary knew this. Jesus knew this. Everyone else present knew this. Martha must have wondered why someone hadn’t yet shooed Mary out of the living room and into the kitchen. So her statement to Jesus in verse 40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me,” was probably not just, “I need another pair of hands,” but also a bit of, “Mary is forgetting her place. This isn’t what proper women do.”

Oh yes it is.

Whatever else He might have been lecturing about that day, that was one of the lessons Jesus taught Mary, Martha, the rest of their guests, and Christendom at large.

Women aren’t second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. We are precious and valuable to Him. He has important, worthwhile work for us to do – His way – in the body of Christ. And He wants us trained in His word in order to carry out that work.

How did Jesus teach that lesson?

First, He allowed Mary to stay and receive His teaching (39). (We see this echoed in God’s instruction to the church in 1 Timothy 2:11: “LET a woman learn…”) It hadn’t slipped Jesus’ mind that she was sitting there. He could have told her to leave, but He had no intention of doing so. Jesus wanted Mary there. He wanted to teach her and to have her learn God’s word from Him.

Next, when someone tried to take Mary away from hearing and being trained in God’s word, Jesus – God Himself – answered with a resounding NO. This “will not be taken away from her,” Jesus said. Mary, and Martha too (41), could arrange centerpieces or turn a cookie into a work of art any time or never. But this, the teaching of God’s word, was urgent. Vital. Jesus didn’t want either of them to miss it by focusing on the trivial things they thought they should be pursuing.

And He doesn’t want us to miss it either, ladies.

Jesus pulled women out of the craft room and into the study. Is the women’s ministry at your church trying to pull them back?

Is the women’s events page on your church’s web site filled exclusively with painting parties, fashion shows, ladies’ teas, and scrapbook sessions?

Does your women’s ministry do canned “Bible” studies authored by women who offer nothing but personal stories, experiences, and false doctrine?

Are the Marys in your church who want to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His word rightly handled and taught being scolded by the Marthas for not staying in their place and embracing the banality the women’s ministry is doling out?

Is this all women are good for in the church- fluff and false doctrine? Jesus didn’t think so.

Let’s have our women’s ministries train women in the full scope of biblical womanhood. Let’s be serious students of God’s word by picking it up and studying it like mature women. Let’s get equipped to teach and disciple other women who are babes in Christ. Let’s share the gospel with the lost. Let’s learn how to train our own children in the Scriptures and be the ones to raise the bar for what the kids at our church are being taught. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty ministering to those who are ill, in prison, lonely, poor, elderly, considering abortion, experiencing crisis; who have wayward children, problems in their marriages, a parent with Alzheimer’s, or have lost a loved one.

Women are worth more and capable of more than the bill of goods they’re being sold by “Christian” retailers suggests. More than cutesy crafts and fairy tales masquerading as biblical teaching. Let’s put the “ministry” – ministry of the Word and ministry to others – back in “women’s ministry.”

Encouragement, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ 7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
Show your minister of music some appreciation by encouraging him.

Originally published November 18, 2014

7 encourage MoM

Numerous articles have been written about how you, as a church member, can be an encouragement to your pastor- how you can constructively praise his sermon, pray for him, get him a great gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, etc. These are good things. Please be sure to support your pastor. Being a pastor is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve read the statistics you know pastors need and deserve all the encouragement they can get.

But the pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music.

1. Make practice a priority.

Before you join the choir or praise team or volunteer to play an instrument, find out how much of a time commitment it will be, and consider whether or not you can diligently keep that commitment. Once you’ve joined or volunteered, attend rehearsals, worship services, and performances faithfully, and be sure to arrive on time. You have no idea how much it means to your minister of music that he can count on you.

2. Get to the church on time.

Think about how you would feel if you planned a dinner party, worked hard all week cooking and cleaning, and then one of the couples you invited carelessly showed up halfway through the meal. You’d probably think that was kind of rude and feel somewhat discouraged. That’s sort of the way a minister of music can feel when people (especially the same people every week) habitually arrive late to church for non-emergency reasons. Not only that, but it’s a distraction to others when you come in late, plus you’re missing out on praising God and getting your heart prepared to receive His word during the sermon. Being on time and ready for worship benefits everybody!

3. Sing.

If you were in a meeting at work or in a college class, would you pick up your knitting, clip your nails, walk around the room chatting with friends, or bury your nose in your phone the whole time? Probably not, yet, over the years I have seen church members do all these and more during the music portion of the worship service. It’s disrespectful to the God we’re supposed to be worshiping and to the minister of music who is trying to do the work God has called him to. On the other hand, I love it when we get in the car after church and my husband says, with a smile on his face, “Wow, they were really singing today!” We have an incredible Savior who has given us the privilege of praising Him, so let’s take Him up on it. Sing out! You can worship and be an encourager all at the same time.

4. Smile!

It’s pretty disheartening for a minister of music to stand up front, giving it all he’s got, and then look out over the congregation and see a bunch of people looking like they’d rather be at the dentist. Think about Who you’re singing to and all the reasons why you’re singing to Him, and I challenge you to keep a frown on your face! Just the simple act of smiling while you’re singing will do wonders for your minister of music (and for you!).

5. Think before you complain.

Has your minister of music said or done something that’s clearly a sin or false doctrine? If so, you have a biblical obligation  to go to him -kindly and in love- and talk to him about it directly.

Is your complaint a matter of personal preference- style of music, whether or not he wears a tie, etc.? Give it 24 hours. Does it still seem just as important? Could you possibly be a servant to him (and others in the congregation whose opinion is the opposite of yours) by overlooking an offense and not complaining?

If you do feel the need to voice your concern (and there are valid concerns that aren’t sin-related), approach your minister of music the way you would want to be approached. Instead of, “Turn that dadgum volume DOWN!” how about, “I was wondering if it would be possible to ask the sound tech to lower the volume in the house speakers a little? My baby’s ears are very sensitive and she gets fussy when it’s that loud. I hate missing worship when I have to take her out to the lobby.” Instead of, “Hymns are so boring. I don’t see why we have to sing them half the time,” how about, “I really loved those two worship songs we sang this morning! Do you think we might be able to sing more songs like that soon?” Christ wants us to be kind to one another, so show your minister of music a little “Golden Rule” love.

6. Speak encouraging words often.

It’s been our experience, and seems to be the general consensus among ministers of music, that the most common kind of feedback they get is negative feedback. People are much quicker to complain than affirm. Buck the trend. Did he choose one of your favorite songs for the service? Did a certain song help you to understand one of God’s attributes better? Did the choir do a nice job on their anthem? Are you praying for him? Tell him. He appreciates it more than you know.

7. Show tangible appreciation.

It is amazing what even the smallest gift can do to lift my husband’s spirits. A card of appreciation (I have come across cards that he has saved for years), something related to one of his hobbies, a church member buying him lunch at a fast food place. They might be small items monetarily speaking, but their message is, “I care about you, and I appreciate your hard work.” And that’s priceless.

We have been blessed over the last two decades to serve at several churches that had members who were very good at encouraging their minister of music. Their love and support made my husband’s ministry a joy. What are some ways you can think of to encourage the minister of music at your church and spread that same kind of joy?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Church, Encouragement, Ministry, Top 10

Top 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
Show your pastors some love, care, and appreciation! 

Originally published October 13, 2017

I’m so glad somebody thought up the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month and made it a thing. If you’ve never been a pastor (or been married to one), it’s difficult to adequately convey just how simultaneously challenging, joyful, devastating, frustrating, and fulfilling it can be. If you have a good pastor, who rightly divides God’s Word and is a man of godly character, you are very blessed. And that goes for your minister of music, associate pastor, youth pastor, etc., too. Be sure you show all of them (there’s nothing worse than being left out while everybody else is being appreciated) your appreciation for their hard work, and your encouragement, support, and love not just during Pastor Appreciation Month, but all year through. Here are ten ways you can do just that.

1. Pray for your pastors.
Time and again, when pastors are surveyed about what their church members can do to bless them the most, the number one answer is, “Pray for me.” Your pastors need you to pray for them personally, in their work, for their marriages and families, and for the health of your church. Pastor Appreciation Month is a perfect time to make a commitment to pray for your pastors on a regular basis. (And don’t forget to periodically tell them you’re praying for them!) Need some suggestions on how to pray? Check out my article Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor.

2. Words of encouragement
Pastors get a lot of complaints, criticism, and words of discouragement. Brighten your pastor’s day by telling him something specific you learned during the sermon. Tell your minister of music you really enjoyed the choir anthem this morning. Repeat to your youth pastor something positive your child has said about him or the youth group. Drop your pastor a note, e-mail, or social media message of support. Make a point of looking for ways – all year long – that you can offer “a word fitly spoken.”

3. Babysit
If your pastor and his wife have young children, offer to babysit so they can have a date night or go Christmas shopping for the kids. 

4. Gift cards
Perhaps along with the offer to babysit, you could give your pastor and his wife a gift card to a local restaurant. Gift cards to his favorite specialty store (outdoorsman stores, music stores, etc.), a Christian retailer, or one of his favorite online stores (or a more general site like Amazon if you’re not sure of his preferences) make great tokens of appreciation, too.

5. Honorary offerings
Is there a certain missionary or mission project that’s near and dear to your pastor’s heart? A crisis pregnancy center? A church plant he’d like to support? What about donating Gideon Bibles? Put out the word to the congregation, take up a special offering (or simply give as an individual), and make a donation in your pastor’s name.

6. Make sure his needs are met.
Your pastors shouldn’t be living like televangelists, but they shouldn’t be struggling to survive, either. Surprisingly, many people have unbiblical opinions about pastors’ salaries, from the notion that anyone in any kind of ministry should be doing it for free, to the downright evil concept of keeping the pastor near the poverty level to make sure he stays humble (yes, really). The Bible says pastors have a right to make their living from preaching the gospel, and that a workman is worthy of his hire. Check with your church’s finance and/or personnel committee. Is your pastor making an appropriate salary? Are his housing and insurance needs being met? Is he receiving adequate vacation and sick days? If not, see what you can do to help rectify the situation.

7. Conferences
There are lots of fantabulous Christian conferences out there that your pastor would probably love to attend, but it’s not in the church budget and he can’t afford it, personally. Find out his favorite or choose a great one (make sure you vet the speakers first to make sure they’re doctrinally sound), take up a special offering, and send him there, all expenses paid (conference admission and fees, travel, meals, lodging, and some extra “walking around money” for purchasing books, gifts, souvenirs, etc.).

8. Volunteer
One of the things that can be stressful for pastors is empty positions that need godly people to fill them. Volunteer to teach that Sunday School class, play the piano at the nursing home, help chaperone the youth trip, work in the nursery, get trained and run the sound board. Find out where you’re needed at your church and jump in and serve.

9. Help out around the house.
Pastors have those “fix it” needs around the house just like everybody else does. Are you good at repairing cars, fixing roofs, mowing grass, maintaining air conditioning units, cooking meals, or another special skill? Save your pastor some time, money, and effort by putting your experience to work for him at his home. 

10. Set the example of a healthy church member.
What could be more encouraging to a pastor than biblically healthy church members? Study your Bible. Be faithful in your church attendance. Pray for your pastor and the church. Serve where you’re needed. Don’t complain or criticize your pastor and others over petty matters. Avoid controversies and personality conflicts, and be a peacemaker. Walk in humility and selflessness, and give glory to God. Show appreciation for your pastors by setting a godly example for other church members and encouraging them to do the same. 

💥Bonus!  💥 Get on social media, e-mail, or the phone and share this article around so your pastors don’t have to!

What are some other good ways we can show appreciation for,
and encourage, our pastors?

Christian women, Complementarianism, Ministry, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

Originally published August 3, 2018

When it comes to Christianity, are the specifics of what people believe important?

I think most of us would answer a resounding “yes” to that question. Of course, the various concepts we believe are important. You can’t just believe anything you like and still be a Christian. There are certain things you must believe in order to become a Christian at all, and there are certain things you will come to believe because you are a genuinely regenerated Christian. But what are those things, and how do we know which is which?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “essential doctrines” or “primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues” or “first, second, and third tier levels of doctrine”? For years, theologians have been attempting to organize beliefs of the Christian faith – all drawn from the Bible, naturally – into nice neat categories in order to make things a little simpler. As someone who thrives on organization and categories, I’m grateful for their efforts. But if you begin to study this categorization of beliefs, you’ll find that we haven’t reached an across the board consensus yet.

Generally speaking, “essential”, “primary”, or “first tier” doctrines are those which you, biblically, have to believe in order to become a Christian and/or be considered a Christian. For example:

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

✢ God exists and is the supreme authority of the universe.

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

See how this works? If you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you’re not saved. If you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, you’re not saved. Here’s how our friend, Pastor Gabe, briefly outlines essential doctrines:

 

(Gabe later tweaked the acrostic a little and added an “S”, which I think is helpful.)

The vast majority of brand new Christians have only the most basic understanding of most of these tenets at the moment of salvation. But it’s not an issue of fully understanding – or else we’d all have to be theologians in order to get saved – it’s an issue of believing. Someone who is genuinely regenerated may not completely understand how the Trinity works (honestly, no one does), but when she’s introduced to the biblical idea of the Trinity, she believes it, learns more about it, and does not reject it.

There is typically agreement among most reputable theologians regarding what constitutes first tier doctrine. Scripture is clear about these things, and several of these issues were settled long ago by the church fathers in assorted church councils (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.)

Secondary issues are routinely defined as non-salvific but still extremely biblically important, if not quite as biblically clear-cut as primary issues. Doctrines surrounding baptism (credo versus paedo, affusion versus immersion), for example, are usually cited as a secondary issue. A disagreement on a secondary issue doesn’t mean one person is saved and another isn’t, but it normally prevents close partnership in ministry activities involving these issues. For example, my Presbyterian friends and I can join together in pro-life ministry, but we would most likely not plant a church together.

Tertiary issues are non-salvific, less immediately urgent, biblical issues in which the Bible is even less clear-cut and open to wider (yet still biblical) interpretation. These are issues over which Christians can disagree and still maintain close doctrinal fellowship, even in the same church, if they’re in agreement on first and second tier doctrine. Eschatology – the order and timing of events at Jesus’ second coming – is a doctrine that’s often considered third tier. Someone can hold a different eschatological view than mine, yet it doesn’t affect our ability to worship together, work together, or participate in the ordinances together in the same church.

Some theologians add a fourth category – issues of adiaphora, conscience, or Christian liberty. Usually these are issues of much less importance that the Bible either doesn’t specifically address, or doesn’t give commands about one way or the other. Individual Christians may use biblical principles to inform their consciences and decide for themselves. These would be things like whether or not to take your child trick-or-treating or deciding whether to dress formally or casually for church.

While theologians are largely in agreement about primary doctrines, there is wider spread disagreement on which doctrines are secondary and tertiary (many consider eschatology to be a second tier doctrine, for example) and whether or not there is a need for a category of adiaphora, since such issues are normally not considered to be “doctrinal” issues. In fact, there’s enough space for disagreement that pastors and theologians often wisely refrain from making concrete lists of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

But when we’re talking about the different levels of doctrine, what you won’t find is questions like these: Is murder a first, second, or third tier doctrine? What about gossip? Rape? Adultery? Lying? Gluttony? Pride?

And it’s not because these issues aren’t important or because the Bible doesn’t address them. It’s because they’re in a different category from the other issues: the category of sin. They aren’t doctrines upon which salvation hinges, they aren’t open to interpretation, and the Bible is clear that we are absolutely not to do these things.

In 2005, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an excellent article about the different levels of doctrine entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. He carefully explains the importance of each level of doctrine and what it covers in a plea to keep each level’s urgency in its proper place of significance during discussion, debate, and decision-making.

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly (as I usually do) …except on one point:

“In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue.”

Women serving as pastors, women preaching, women teaching men Scripture in the church, and women exercising authority over men in the church is not a secondary issue. Nor is it a primary or tertiary one. It does not belong in the category of “doctrine” in the same way baptism and eschatology do. It belongs in the category of sin in the same way murder, gossip, and adultery do. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

(The preponderance of Scripture supports and affirms this concept, so to keep things simple, we’ll use this verse as an exemplar.)

✢ The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a clear command against a certain behavior. And when we behave in a way God has prohibited, that is called “sin”. All of the tenets in the three levels of doctrine are affirmative statements regarding beliefs (you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe in baptism by immersion, etc.). None of them are commands, in the negative, against sinful behavior (Thou shalt not murder, I do not permit a woman to teach… etc.)

✢ Secondary and tertiary doctrines can be open – to varying degrees – to biblical interpretation. Every stripe of non-heretical eschatological thought can provide you with chapter and verse passages that can, depending on the angle from which you approach the subject, be biblically plausible and scripturally supported. There is no biblical support for anything God prohibits. No one can cite a properly handled, in context Bible verse in which God says, “It’s OK to commit adultery,” or “Women are allowed to preach.” There can be multiple views on a secondary or tertiary issue that can all be considered biblical, but there can only be one view of sin that is biblical.

✢ Differing beliefs on true secondary and tertiary issues are not sin. My Presbyterian friends have a different view of baptism than I do. That doesn’t mean either of us is sinning. I may think their interpretations of the verses they believe support paedo baptism are incorrect, but they are not breaking any of God’s commands. Differing behavior (again, we see the distinction between doctrinal belief and sinful behavior) on issues of sin is sin. If someone behaves differently from God’s command about lying, she is sinning. If a woman behaves differently from God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12, she is sinning.

✢ Differing beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. When someone has studied a theological issue enough to hold a particular position on it, it’s usually because she is striving to please God and to be biblical in her beliefs. Differing behavior on issues of sin is born out of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Someone who steals has already decided in her heart that her desires are better than God’s command. A woman who knowingly holds improper authority over men in her church is doing so because she has already decided to defy God’s clear command against such.

✢ Because different beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of rebellion and are not sin, they do not require church discipline. Sin does require church discipline. If someone in your church is openly dishonoring her parents, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. If a woman is pursuing a career as a pastor, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. 

Since the publication of Dr. Mohler’s article (and perhaps as a result of others teaching the same thing) the idea of the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 being a “secondary doctrine” has spread in a most unhelpful way, leading many Christians to treat the issue in a c’est la vie, “We can just agree to disagree on this,” manner.

No, we cannot.

We would not say, “We can agree to disagree,” on lying or adultery or homosexuality or abortion, and we cannot say it about women preaching, teaching men, or holding unbiblical authority, either. We disciple and teach a sister in Christ who is unaware of what the Bible says on these matters, and if she is committing any of these sins, we begin the process of church discipline. But it would not be loving toward her, or honoring God, to allow her to continue in biblical ignorance or in willful sin.

Furthermore, the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 brings with it dangers to the church that true secondary and tertiary issues, and even many sins, do not.

I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching false doctrine. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches false doctrine. False doctrine and heresy are infecting the church – via female preachers – at an alarming rate.

We dare not simply “agree to disagree” on this.

The violation of God’s command that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures nor hold improper authority over men is a sin like any other. It is not a doctrinal issue in the same sense that other second and third tier doctrines are. If left undisciplined, however, it can lead to first tier doctrinal issues infiltrating a church and eventually destroying it. It is detrimental to the church to label and treat any sin as a secondary doctrinal issue.

Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ Providentially Hindered: Is Your Church Taking Care of Caretakers?

Originally published September 9, 2016

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“I desperately want to go to church, but I take care of my elderly mother who has Alzheimer’s. I can’t take her with me, I can’t leave her alone, and I can’t afford someone to sit with her while I’m at church.”

“We’d love to be faithful church members, but our child has a disability that makes him extremely sensitive to the light and sound stimuli in the worship service and he becomes uncomfortable and disruptive. Attending church is rarely an option for us.”

“I’m the sole caretaker of my husband who is a quadriplegic. It takes several hours to get him up, dressed, and ready in the morning. We’ve tried, but there’s no way we can make it to the 9:00 a.m. service of the only doctrinally sound church near us, and no other service times are offered.”

These are just a sampling of the stories I’ve heard from readers recently as I’ve written about the importance of church membership and attendance. The Bible is clear that we’re to be faithful members of a local body of believers. The entire New Testament assumes that Christians need to meet together to worship, pray, encourage and exhort each other, study and hear the preaching of God’s word, celebrate the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and serve one another. “Lone Ranger Christians” don’t exist in the New Testament. Neither do Christians who are perfectly able to attend church, but choose to skip it in favor of sleeping in, kids’ soccer games, birthday parties, frequent travel, shopping, and other non-essential activities. We aren’t to place such a low value on meeting together that we attend church only if it happens to fit into our busy schedules; we arrange our busy schedules around being faithful, active members of a local church. Yes, Scripture insists, it’s that important.

When I was a child, there was still the notion among Christians that you were to attend church unless “Providentially hindered,” meaning that God, in His providence and sovereignty placed you in a situation that made it impossible for you to go to church that day- illness, death, unavoidable imperative travel, an emergency.

But what about people who are Providentially hindered from attending church week after week – maybe for years on end, maybe even for the rest of their lives – because they’re taking care of somebody else who’s Providentially hindered by illness or disability from attending church? How are these precious brothers and sisters who are honoring their parents or laying down their lives for their children not only to obey the Scriptural admonition to meet together, but also to receive the encouragement, edification, and spiritual nourishment they desperately need and want?

It takes two, baby. Both the caretaker and the church itself bear some responsibility here.

The caretaker needs to make sure she’s put in the effort to explore all possibilities of physically attending a doctrinally sound church or meeting of believers before concluding that she can’t. Her first priority is to pray fervently that God will provide a way. God honors the prayers of believers who are looking for ways to be obedient to Him. The caretaker might have to make some sacrifices of time, money, convenience, or preferences, but God can and will make a way.

Most of the caretakers I’ve heard from are praying. They have made the effort. And that’s where the local church comes in.

It is to our shame (and I include myself in this obliviousness) that local churches often don’t even think about what it’s like to be a caretaker. To long to simply attend church for worship, fellowship, and refreshing of soul, only to realize it’s the impossible dream. Christian caretakers are often out of sight, and, thus, out of mind, but they are not out of God’s heart, His mindfulness, or His family, and we need to be ministering to them.

How? It’s a great question, and I don’t have all the answers because each situation is unique. But guess who can answer that question? God, and the caretakers your church needs to minister to.

Pray:

Does your church have a heart to reach out to caretakers, but isn’t quite sure how to go about it? Pray. Ask God for the wisdom to find caretakers who need to be ministered to and to know how best to meet their needs for fellowship and worship.

Find Them:

Go to your pastor or church secretary and ask for the names of families who are already on your church roll or who are in some way connected to your church, and start with them. Ask friends and family members for names of caretakers your church can minister to. Go to your local agencies, hospitals, organizations, schools, businesses, and other entities that provide services to people with disabilities or chronic illnesses and let them know your church wants to reach out to caretakers.

Ask Them:

Contact caretakers and ask them how your church can meet their needs both inside and outside the church. Caretakers often feel invisible to the church. They need to know Christ loves them- that they matter to Him. We can demonstrate His love by coming alongside them and making a sacrificial effort to help. And, who knows? It might be simpler than you think.

Think Outside the Box:

Put yourself in the caretaker’s shoes. What could be a creative solution to helping her attend church while still tending to her loved one? Just a few ideas…

Sitter rotation– The caretaker in the first scenario of this article could attend worship if just a handful of church members would volunteer to come over to her house and sit with her mother during church on a rotating basis. It wouldn’t even cost anything.

Transportation– Maybe the caretaker’s loved one uses a wheelchair and could attend church with her, but she doesn’t have access to wheelchair accessible transportation on Sundays. Could your church borrow or rent a van and set that up for her?

Special classes– We already provide things like nurseries and children’s church for babies and small children. What about a similar concept for ill or disabled people of any age?

Home church– Perhaps there are a few families with disabled loved ones who would like to meet together for worship in one of their homes. Could the church send a pastor or elder to lead and teach them?

Home groups– Does your church do home groups? Could one of them meet in the caretaker’s home and bring church to her?

Medical needs– Could a caretaker bring her loved one to church if there were medical help available should the need arise? Perhaps a church member who’s a doctor or nurse would agree to be “on call” if needed while the family is at church.

Service times– The caretaker in the third scenario would be helped by the church simply pushing back its service time an hour or so. Could your church adjust its Sunday morning worship time or offer additional services, Bible studies, or small groups on Sunday evenings, on Saturdays, or on a week night?

Accommodations– Could your church make structural changes such as installing wheelchair ramps, elevators, modified seating, or other adjustments to the physical property that would make it possible for the caretaker’s loved one to attend with her? What about turning off the strobe lights and turning down the volume of the sound system for those sensitive to these stimuli? If the caretaker’s main concern is the distraction (noises, etc.) her loved one might create, would it be possible to simply educate the church body about the disability and train them to make loving allowance for these distractions during the worship service?

In home help– Perhaps it would be helpful to the caretaker for a church member to volunteer to come to the caretaker’s home and help get the disabled person ready for church on Sunday mornings while the caretaker gets herself ready.

Professional help– Are there members of your church who are special education teachers, doctors, nurses, home health care aides, contractors? Enlist their help for suggestions on how to make your church accessible to the ill and disabled and how to help caretakers both at home and inside the church.

The spiritual needs of caretakers have been overlooked by the church for far too long. Thanks to technology, transportation, and other modern conveniences God has blessed us with, it has never been easier to reach out to caretakers and meet their needs. Are you looking for a place of service in the church? Maybe you’ve been a caretaker and are all too familiar with ways the church failed to help you? Reaching out to meet the needs of caretakers is a ministry that’s practically tailor made for godly, nurturing women, especially since the majority of caretakers are also women. Could God be calling you to help bridge the gap between caretakers and the church?


Additional Resources:

Want more suggestions? Check out how these churches and ministries are assisting caretakers and their loved ones, and if you have a helpful idea or link, or if your church offers a ministry to caretakers, please share it in the comments below. Another reader could be looking for your church, resource, or idea!

Does your church have the resources to “go big” in ministry to families with disabled children both inside and outside the church? Could you partner with Jill’s House and import their respite services to your area? Could you replicate their services at a level your church could fund and staff? Check out this amazing ministry. No doubt there’s a need for it in your area.

What is the biggest mistake churches make when caring for children with special needs?

Valley Community Church, Pleasanton, California, Disability Ministry

How to Love Those Who Care for the Hurting

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly

Suggestions from a reader:

My former church was a megachurch that had a great special needs kids ministry: A special classroom for children and a classroom for teens who needed more care, pairing a special kiddo with a buddy to go to the regular kids’ program, a once a month respite night.

1) The first step is to welcome the family. Caregivers are tired and can be easily discouraged. If your church only has one service, consider adding another service.

2) Be patient. You may not see them every Sunday; medical emergencies and other stuff happens. They also may not have time to volunteer or attend Bible studies. Someone from the church will have to take the initiative to contact them: a phone call, an email, a postcard are HUGE. Also, having sermons available to stream online may help the caregivers to catch up on missed sermons.

3) Offer a once a month respite night to the whole community. If you can muster the volunteers then for 2 hours a month, you can offer parents (or spouses) the chance to drop off their special kids at your church and give them a much needed break to grocery shop or take a nap. Seriously, this is a huge ministry to parents – especially single parents. Also, I have seen teenage volunteers absolutely flourish by being a buddy to a special needs child. Another great opportunity for teens and adults is to be a buddy to a special needs child for your VBS or AWANA programs as well.

4) Joni and Friends is a Christian organization that ministers to the disabled. In California where I’m from, there are regional offices that offer to host disability ministry workshops to local churches.

5) Realize that at least with special needs children it is not all sunshine and lollipops. There are behavioral, cognitive, and physical challenges. But these kids need to hear about Jesus, and their parents need to feel loved and a part of the wider church body. They need to feel they’re not alone.