Pastor laments widows as being a church’s ‘untapped resource’

Pastor Keith Collier, with First Baptist Church in Groesbeck, Texas, recently wrote an article appearing on the 9 Marks website in which he lamented that churches aren’t utilizing the wisdom of widows.

He made a good point about the Bible’s instructions for widows outlined in James 1:27. The passage explains that God considers it to be faultless and pure to look after windows and orphans.

However, Keith said people generally gravitate toward thinking widows are vulnerable people in need of care, rather than exceptional women of faith with abundant wisdom and hearts for service.

Luke 2:37 mentions a widow who was in her 80s and serving at the temple night and day. She edified baby Jesus to everyone in attendance. In Mark 12:42-44, Jesus commended an older widow for placing two copper coins in the offering as an act of worship and sign of trust that God would provide for all her needs. Jesus also described the actions of a persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 as a shining example of someone who does not give up asking for what she needs.

“Widows aren’t delicate knick-knacks to put on a shelf and dust every now and then; they’re vital ministers to be deployed in the life of the church.,” Keith wrote. “They can teach the church a great deal about faith, devotion, service and prayer.”

Unfortunately, it seems to me that churches often involve older men and women in “busy work” rather than any meaningful ministry. The serve as greeters or coffee hostesses rather than tapping into their exceptional wisdom and lifelong experiences to mentor others and lead groups.

Keith wrote that he liked to involve older women as prayer warriors at his church. At a monthly lunch for older women, he would ask how he could pray for them individually. However, he would also give them a prayer card listing specific things they could pray for concerning his needs and those of the church.

He claims the monthly lunches made widows feel seen, known, loved and needed. Yet, I suspect they are capable of so much more, if only churches would stop engaging in ageism in thinking older people need to be isolated with other older people.

It has always baffled me why churches segregate groups by sex and age to create echo chambers involving people of similar life experience, backgrounds and perspectives. After all, wouldn’t it make more sense to mix younger parents with seasoned citizens who have already successfully raised children and teenagers?

Keith suggested he was aware of that problem in his church because only older people, mostly women, were attending the traditional Sunday services. As a result, they missed out on a lot.

“Sadly, because of this division, most of our members did not know these precious saints,” he wrote. “Additionally, these ladies missed out on the baptisms and presentation of new members that occurred during the second service. In a word, they were disconnected from the body.

“I’ve told them from the beginning that even if they can’t physically do everything they once did, they remain a vital part of our church and can make a spiritual difference through their prayers,” Keith added. “I truly believe a large part of the recent growth and effectiveness of our church is directly associated with these widows’ fervent prayers.”

He went on to note the widows continue to meet weekly for lunch in one their homes. They support, encourage and serve on another, just as people of faith are called to do.

If only younger women could also be involved so they could learn from those titans of faith! Men, too, need the godly advice of their grandmothers in faith.

Keith closed his column by asking what churches could do to mobile widows to strengthen its ministry. That’s a great question, and I have a few suggestions — all of which would give older widows a stronger sense of purpose. My ideas include:

  • Lead multi-generational small groups where perspective from all sexes and different ages are freely shared.
  • Teach life lessons to older high school and college students. I don’t think schools teach kids how to apply for jobs, manage a checkbook, invest or write resumes.
  • Teach people how to journal their questions, prayers, praises and new insight from the Holy Spirit.
  • Support newlyweds by helping to manage expectations for a “perfect” relationship and to make sure the marriage starts on a solid foundation.
  • Guide young mothers, especially first-time moms, in how to best care for their children. How often are parents separated from their extended families today?
  • Teach men and women how to cook. Home economics isn’t even taught in schools anymore. With inflation reducing disposable income, everyone is looking for ways to stretch a dollar.
  • Single moms in particular would welcome guidance on how to make delicious food their children will eat that can be prepared in advance or in bulk.
  • Read to preschoolers. I would rather see a Christian widow reading to kids than a sexually-confused man dressed as a woman.
  • Become pen pals with people who are incarcerated in prisons and jails. Those folks are hungry for positive attention and are often open to starting a new life.
  • Other groups who could benefit from simple notes of encouragement are foster children and military members deployed overseas. People don’t write cards anymore, yet many people save the few cards they receive.
  • Assemble puzzles with school-age tweens and teens, many of whom have little or no meaningful contact with their own grandmothers. Magic can happen in the conversations which take place as the picture comes together.
  • Teach basic skills to homeschooled children. That can include baking, sewing, knitting, gardening and a plethora of skills that were once passed down from parent to child.
  • Host a dinner or lunch for other people who live by themselves so new friendships can be developed.

Challenge older people to come out of their comfort zones by giving them meaningful things to do! Everyone will benefit!