By / Nov 7

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Orphans and Widows Sunday. 

In the days and months following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, pro-life
organizations redoubled their efforts to care for vulnerable mothers and infants.
One of the ways that churches can step into this new post-Roe landscape is by creating a culture of adoption in their churches. Below are some ways to help minister to families considering adoption or walking through the process.

Celebrate adoption

Never stop celebrating and championing orphan care. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but for some children it is exactly right. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for.

Allow for grief and sadness in adoption

Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people the grace to experience the full range of emotions around their adoption, including pain and difficulty. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

Provide resources

Years ago, researchers did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the first place they want to go for help and resources, and the last place they are likely to turn to, is their church. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Nov 5

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the Braves World Series win, Younkin’s win in Virginia, and remembering the SBC’s Orphan and Widow Sunday. They also discuss Ethiopia’s state of emergency, lessons from election night, and churches responding in light of SB8 (Texas heartbeat bill). 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. The Braves win the World Series! 
  2. Youngkin wins Virginia; Youngkin’s platform
  3. McAuliffe’s debate mistake
  4. New Jersey Gov. Murphy prevails
  5. Lesson from election night
  6. QAnon believers gather while hoping for JFK Jr.’s resurrection 
  7. Ethiopia’s state of emergency; ERLC Explainer

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  • The Dawn of Redeeming Grace // This episode was sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of The Dawn of Redeeming Grace.Join Sinclair Ferguson as he opens up the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel in these daily devotions for Advent. Each day’s reflection is full of insight and application, and will help you to arrive at Christmas Day awed by God’s redeeming grace and refreshed by the hope of God’s promised king.Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com.
  • Outrageous Justice // God calls us to seek justice. But how should Christians respond?Outrageous Justice, a free small-group study from experts at Prison Fellowship, offers Christians a place to start. Explore the criminal justice system through a biblical lens and discover hands-on ways to pursue justice, hope, and restoration in your community. Get your free copy of Outrageous Justice, featuring a study guide, videos, and a companion book today! Visit prisonfellowship.org/outrageous-justice.
By / Nov 4

In December, 127 Worldwide will celebrate a decade of ministry. We exist to connect and equip the global body of Christ to restore hope to orphans, widows, and vulnerable communities. And we work with Christians and churches in the West and with respected, driven, and visionary local leaders in Kenya, Uganda, and Guatemala who are taking care of vulnerable people in their communities. 

God has exceeded every expectation I had for starting a nonprofit organization in 2011. This was certainly not my plan in life. I used to think this was a unique element of my story, but does anyone’s life actually turn out exactly the way that they plan? The last 10 years have been full of  the hardest and simultaneously most rewarding adventures that God has ever invited me to join. 

Recently, someone on our team suggested that I reflect on 10 lessons that God has taught me during 10 years of leading our organization. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will be encouraging and useful to you as you seek to live out true religion in the various ways God has called you (James 1:27). 

1. Trust that God will open and shut appropriate doors

As an executive director of a nonprofit organization, so many decisions wait for your input. Many times I have prayed, “God, you know me, and you know where I most need help. Please make it obvious to me what you’d have me do.” I rely on the faithfulness that God has demonstrated in the past to grow my trust that he will open and shut the correct doors in his perfect timing. I have learned to walk through open doors and not to push through shut doors. Sometimes this has not been easy to learn, but my confidence in God’s faithfulness has definitely grown in the last 3,650 days.

2. Self-awareness is key and will keep you humble. 

Vulnerability is somewhat tied to this lesson, too. I have degrees in counseling and psychology, so I have always enjoyed personality inventories to learn more about myself. I’ve learned that you have to be honest with yourself and your team as you consider what is the best use of the time you devote to your work. I know where I am strong, and (just as importantly) I know where I am weak. I make it a goal to spend 80% of my time working in areas where I am the best qualified person on staff to do the task. I want to invest my time wisely in things no one else can do as well. Likewise, I am very aware of the areas where I am not the best person for the job. 

3. Surround yourself with people who are gifted in your areas of weakness. 

This was a lesson that my dad taught me at an early age, but it has been consistently reinforced in the last 10 years. It takes self awareness and vulnerability to admit your weakness. However, this has been a huge shaper of our culture at 127. I am quick to announce my weaknesses and even recommend other people on our team who would be a better fit for some tasks. Just as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12, we are one body with many members. We need each other to accomplish our best work. Humbly embrace that you need other people to work to your full potential.

4. Trust your gut

Now this isn’t an “always rule.” We know that the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) apart from Christ. Of course, we have to examine what the Holy Spirit might be doing and walk confidently in the way that we sense God leading us. There have been times, though, when the logical solution didn’t feel like the best solution. I have learned what “trust your gut” looks like for me. It is not a card that I play very often, but I have grown in confidence when this tactic is appropriate. 

5. The (lack of) rhythm is going to get you. 

Healthy rhythms in ministry leadership are a must. It’s okay to calendar time for reading, writing, and spending time with God, family, and friends. Boundaries are healthy. Saying no is healthy. Maintaining rhythm in your life and work is crucial. The quickest way for me to spiral downward is to lose sight of the disciplines that are tethering me to a firm foundation. Solitude, prayer, and journaling are just a few habits that encourage routine. Prioritize routines as much as possible. 

6. Stop. Collaborate. And Listen

Technically, these could be three separate directives. Before executing your new and fresh ideas, wisdom and maturity requires you to pause, see who else is doing similar work, and make an attempt to work together if possible. Ask good questions, but then do less talking and more listening. Ministry should not be a competition. Find like-minded people who make you better as you spend time with them. Learning this lesson has been truly life-giving for me.

7. The leader in a group may be the quiet one. 

One might assume that the loudest voice in the room is the strongest leader. To that, I say one of the few French sayings that I know, “Au contraire mon frere!” A colleague once noticed that I direct conversations even though I am usually not the one who is doing the most talking. People love to talk about themselves, and you can learn so much if you learn to ask good questions. Also, if you are quiet until you really feel compelled to say something, then most of the time people will listen intently as you provide evidence to support that you have something worth listening to. 

8. Beware of burnout

Burning the candle at both ends will lead to a puddle of wax. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way. I hit the 7-year wall where I woke up one day realizing that I was spending most of my time doing things that I was not gifted to do and that I wasn’t passionate about doing. I was cranking out essential tasks purely out of obligation. Somewhere along the way, I lost my joy for the work. 

You will always have tasks in your job that you don’t love, but operating the majority of your time outside of your giftings greatly increases your chances of burnout. Compassion fatigue is a real struggle in this work of empowering local leaders who are serving vulnerable populations. Taking time out for rest and self-care is essential to prevent the previously mentioned puddle of wax.

9. Don’t shy away from hard conversations. 

I am markedly more comfortable with conflict and difficult conversations than I was a decade ago, and I am definitely better for it. God can use the process through difficult discussions to make both parties look more like Christ as the end result. Advance, don’t retreat. Spend time building trust and respect among your team and ministry partners. Then, when tough conversations are necessary, you have established a baseline for the message to be received on top of a firm foundation.    

10. Stay in a posture of openhandedness. 

Choose carefully the hills that you are willing to die on. These hills should be few and far between. The last few years have been years of growth and clarity for 127 Worldwide. As God has expanded our team, I’ve had to figure out my nonnegotiables for the direction of the ministry. One of my most important jobs as the executive director is to guard the mission and vision of the organization. It is okay if others are forging a path that looks very different than the one you would have taken. You should expect that. 

What is important is that the team is passionate about the work and equipped to succeed in building their path. The results are up to God. Freedom grows as open hands release people, plans, and expectations. Disappointment comes when we hold too tightly to any of these. Open hands are not capable of holding on to anything, but they can easily receive what God has for you.

I am grateful that God gives us opportunities to grow in Christlikeness through every step of obedience that we take. I look forward to seeing all of the new lessons that await me in the next decade. And I encourage you to pray about what steps of obedience God might be leading you to take. 

By / Nov 3

Our hearts are never fully prepared for a drastic change. But loss does that to you — it changes your course. Over time, the once raging grief finds a softer place to live, but when special days or holidays approach, those wounds can be reopened. As a widow, that loss and change stings every inch of your life and is certainly amplified during the holiday season. Each date on the calendar and special occasion screams the absence of your loved one. 

Even though it is painful to grieve, it’s not harmful. Grief is the process that leads to healing. We must walk through it, but as believers, our journey is accompanied with certainty and assurance. We have God’s promises to cling to as we grieve. His promises aren’t simply a wistful hope: the promise is Christ. The cross is a constant reminder that we are never forsaken or alone in our grieving. 

I would like to offer some practical advice, first to the widow or widower and then to local churches to help those who have suffered a loss not just survive the holidays, but thrive during them.

To the widow or widower

The loss of a spouse is disorienting and seems impossible to make it through. But the Lord is faithful to walk with you every step of the way. There are several things I’ve learned as I’ve navigated the loss of my husband — especially during the holidays — that have helped me grieve, heal, and grow. 

Carve out time to grieve, privately if needed. Holiday get-togethers are special, but they will be emotionally difficult. It is joy and sorrow hand in hand. It’s joyful to celebrate with family and see one another, but there will always be the backdrop of loss looming. Set aside private time in your schedule to grieve what needs to be grieved. 

Slow your pace. Slow down. Too many activities only add stress. Do whatever you need to in order to reduce extra stress by remembering the holidays are a season, not just a day. Spread out your visits and responsibilities over days.

Communicate. Talk with your family sooner rather than later about the schedule. Let them know you need your pace to be slow and easy. Tell them you may need alone time, and reassure them that your absence will only be temporary. 

God understands. Remember that although no person will truly understand the weight of the significance of your loss, God does. We serve a God who sees and knows every crevice of our hearts. He not only sees it, but his mercies are sufficient to meet our grief with strength. Lean into the grief, and take it to the Lord. You need his Word more than ever, so get into it, and meditate on it. Rediscover the joy of the Lord this holiday season!

To the local churches 

Your fellow brothers and sisters suffering from loss need you. They need the community, care, and comfort God designed you to offer. Though the holidays are busy for you, too, please don’t miss the chance to hold out the hope of Christ. Here are a few ways I was ministered to by the body of Christ.

Engage the bereaved. What an opportunity for ministry. First, know that tears are a gift from God. They help us release emotional grief. Too often, we avoid engaging the bereaved in an effort to help them avoid tears. But not acknowledging the loss of a widow or widower hurts more than crying ever will. So, engage those who are hurting. Isn’t that what Jesus did? Sit down, look that widow in the eye and say, “How are you”? Then, listen. If he or she cries, let them. Remember their loved one together, share stories, and mostly, just listen. There is nothing more Christlike than loving one another, and one of the most loving things you can do is mourn with those who are mourning. 

Encourage with the Word. Time doesn’t heal, but our God does. Send encouragement from the Word. Human words are good, but God’s Word is best. Send cards, texts, or emails of with Scripture. God grows a faith that gives new life by revealing himself in the midst of our deepest, most painful places. And we most often experience him through his Word. Be a life-giving Word-giver this holiday season. I promise it will nourish a broken soul. 

Equip widows or widowers to be ministers. As a widow, I have been entrusted with suffering toward a divine purpose: to minister to others and comfort those who need comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4). Encourage your widows to minister to one another. The goal of grief in God’s hands isn’t healing — it’s holiness. Holiness is healing plus purpose. God can use your widows and widowers to minister in your church like no one else. Remind them of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Equip them slowly and gently, as they are ready. Don’t be pushy; just watch for where God is working and help them see it too. 

Hebrews 5:8-9 is one of the most profound verses as it relates to suffering. It says this, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Christ didn’t need to learn obedience, as if he wasn’t doing something. He willingly submitted to the experience of suffering in the flesh and experienced persevering in obedience. He tasted death on our behalf and made the way for our deliverance. For those who are approaching the holidays under the cover of grief, this gives great hope. Our suffering Savior has made a way for us to hope in the midst of our hurt and minister to those around us. Cling to God’s Word this holiday season and remember the joy of your salvation. I am praying for you.