|When abortion hurts|
Is your church prepared for ministry to those who have experienced abortion?
Is it possible for a church to take a strong stand against abortion and still create a safe place where women and men can share their abortion stories and find grace and healing for past abortions? One PCUSA church whose stand against abortion was posted in a statement on their website also had a vital ministry to post-abortive women and men. Creating a safe place for grace began by including in their abortion statement the words: "...always seeking to convey God's pastoral forgiveness, acceptance, and healing to any who have already participated in the trauma of abortion."
It's not something you hear every day—"I had an abortion." Most women, and the men or family members that participated in their decision to have an abortion, are reluctant to talk about their abortion experience. Yet, it is estimated that one in four persons in the pews of our churches have some connection to an abortion decision. Often there are intense feelings of guilt, grief, even shame that spill over into the lives of family, friends, and future children. Some women who have aborted a child (as many as 60%) were forced or coerced by others to make an abortion decision. The baby's father may have insisted that she have an abortion or threatened to leave if she did not comply. Often those relationships do not survive the aftermath of the abortion decision.
Regret for her abortion is not always present immediately but may occur with devastating results years later at the sound of a baby's cry or when a woman becomes pregnant with a subsequent child—even when the pregnancy is planned and the child is wanted. Few women feel 'safe' in bringing the pain and grief of a past abortion to their pastor or fellow church members. It takes intentional preparation on the part of a congregation to create a safe place for women and men to share their pain about abortion experiences and connect with a God who knows, loves, and offers forgiveness and healing for all our sins.
What are the first steps if I sense God is calling me to Abortion Recovery Ministry?
One woman began to hear God's call to begin abortion recovery ministry in her church. Over a period of months, she became aware of several individuals in her congregation needing this ministry. She met with one other woman and her pastor and a plan began to form. The central piece was to offer the Bible study for women by Linda Cochrane, "Forgiven and Set Free." They also decided to offer the accompanying study, "Healing a Father's Heart," for men (Linda Cochrane & Kathy Jones). The team determined that the Bible studies would be available year round. Below are some of the details of their plan.
Communicate the opportunity for ministry
They realized the need for announcing the Bible study in a variety of ways, repeating the invitation often. They set up the Bible studies away from the church website, giving the location only to participants so that women and men could seek help privately and confidentially. The means of extending the invitation included:
• The church newsletter – a short paragraph announced the study and included a photo to draw attention to the text.
Build a network to expand your reach
The team realized that to make their abortion recovery ministry effective they needed to make connections with their community in order to reach women and men who had experienced abortion and also to share the things they learned about doing this ministry with others who needed that knowledge. They learned it helps to reach out intentionally.
• They contacted a local crisis pregnancy center about networking. CPCs know women (even some of their volunteers) who need this ministry.