Here are seven practical things your church can do to save babies from abortion in your congregation!
This is the final post in a four-part series on preventing abortion in the church. You can read last week's post here. These posts are reprinted with the author's permission from blog.equalrightsinstitute.com.
If you’re in a church, you need to understand that your pastor is overwhelmed and already has dozens of congregants coming to him with things they want him to do, and some of those things are more important than others. So I’ve been interviewing pastors, priests, and even a Catholic Bishop about this topic, and have collected a list of practical tips for how to have that conversation with your pastor in a way that will be most likely to persuade him to do this.
1: Have the Conversation in Private.
If you try to make this meeting happen spontaneously after church on Sunday, it could easily look to passersby that you’re confronting him, and that will be distracting to them. Just like people who are debating on public Facebook comment threads are going to be naturally paying attention to how they come across to others, a person being confronted in public will be distracted by that, too. Ask to meet with the pastor sometime over coffee or in his office where that distraction won’t be happening. It’s a sign of respect.
2: Come to the Meeting with Humility.
I interviewed a pastor and a priest on a previous pro-life podcast once to ask them for practical tips for congregants who feel like their church leader could do more about abortion, and Pastor Jim Franklin made a great point: Most pastors are personally pro-life, but they may struggle with knowing how best to minister to the people in their flock who have had abortions. Later in the episode, Franklin added that pastors are very overwhelmed. Many of them are facing all kinds of problems, so sometimes it might not be as much apathy that is causing them to be silent but being overwhelmed and not feeling like they have the energy to fight that battle. They also may feel that they can’t make much of a difference about abortion anyway, and if they try to fight that battle it will divide some of the people in their church.
So don’t come to the meeting with a stack of books and an attitude of telling him what to do. Instead, your attitude ought to be one of humbly expressing the desire for the church to do what it can to prevent women in the church from feeling subtly pressured into having abortions because of what they imagine the negative reaction from the church may be to their pregnancy.
Make it explicit that you’re not coming to lecture them. You’ve merely been thinking about the problem of abortions happening within the church and that you’ve been wondering if maybe some churches could be more proactive in preventing that by taking this approach.
Maybe even express sympathy for the fact that many pastors have had annoying conversations with pro-life activists who come with a list of 15 things that they think the pastor ought to be doing or else he’s not “really pro-life.” Make it clear that that’s not your attitude and that you just want to get their thoughts on an idea you’ve been mulling over. You should also express openness about the best way to execute this idea at your specific church. You’re wanting his ideas.
3: Ask if There Is Already a Church Policy on What Would Happen to a Woman in the Youth Group if She Became Pregnant.
Is there already a policy that she would be kicked out? If not, does the rest of the church know this? If there is a policy that she should be kicked out, you should explain that you understand that that policy was probably created with good intentions, and gently ask the pastor to reconsider this policy, given that it likely makes pregnant women in the church more likely to kill their babies. That is a really big deal.
4: Make It Clear That You Realize That What This Pregnant Teen Is Imagining Would Happen Is Probably a Lot Worse Than What Would Actually Happen.
You’re not saying that a pregnant teen’s fears are based on reality. That’s not the point. The point is that we can proactively communicate about this in a way that makes it a lot harder for a person to expect a harsh reaction from the church leadership that wouldn’t have happened anyway.
If you can even name specific examples where the pastors had a lot of grace in the way that they dealt with outsiders or church members caught up in sin, talk about that. Talk about how you know this church has a lot of grace. You’ve been merely wondering if more churches went above and beyond to communicate about this before a pregnancy happens, if that would have a really positive effect on a woman in the church if she does become pregnant out of wedlock.
5: Tell a Story.
At the end of this article I also share a story about a woman we’re calling “Anna.” A story like hers or Monique’s might help the pastor to emotionally connect with the problem. Make it clear that you don’t think your church’s leadership would treat unwed mothers badly, but that this is a common experience in other churches, and that that uncertainty scares pregnant women into silence and abortion.
6: Present This as an Opportunity for the Pastor to Be Able to Say Something Brief about Abortion in a Way That Shows How Much He Loves His Flock.
Some pastors and parish priests are just more skittish than others about talking about this issue from the pulpit. Many of them fear that it will come across as “getting political” with their sermon. This is understandable, as abortion does come up in every election. It’s not only a political issue, it’s also a moral one, but that doesn’t mean that abortion is not a political issue either. It’s both.
However, many of these same pastors and parish priests care a lot about being a Jesus-like shepherd to their congregation. So while they may not want to preach about abortion every Sanctity of Life Sunday or host a pro-life event, they very well may be open to this idea, because it is a proactively loving and grace-filled thing to do. It will also probably make the pro-life people in the church a lot happier because they will see their pastor doing something about abortion.
7: Offer to Help with Practical Stuff like Throwing the Baby Shower.
Pastor Matt Troupe made a great point to me when we talking about this, which is that a lot of pastors have a reflexive and reasonable reaction to a congregant bringing an idea to the leadership: “Sounds great. How about you lead that?” Obviously a core part of this idea does need to come from the pastor, but are there any practical things you can take off his plate? Taking over the baby shower is an obvious part of this that the pastor doesn’t need to be personally responsible for. Offering to take pregnant women in the church to the local Pregnancy Resource Center so that they have the option of a friend walking them through the whole process is another way to be the hands and feet of Christ in this situation.
One of the women I recently interviewed for a future book made a great point about baby showers: The pregnant woman would likely be a lot more comfortable with a baby shower with only people she knows, as opposed to a church-wide version. A baby shower thrown by her small group or a specific group of her friends at the church would usually be the best way to do this, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t assist with some of the logistics from behind the scenes.
While interviewing people for this article, I ended up talking to Shannon Campbell, a Client Advocate at the Fresno Pregnancy Care Center. She told me a story about a woman she knows who we will call “Anna.” Anna was 21, involved in ministry at the church, and preparing to graduate from college. She spoke to Shannon because she had just taken a positive pregnancy test, and she wasn’t married to her boyfriend. (It turned out to be a false positive, but Anna didn’t know that at the time.) Anna was considering abortion, because she was afraid of what would happen when her parents, her friends, and her church found out. Shannon told me that she personally knew Anna’s pastor, and that he was very pro-life and would have supported Anna well in this difficult time. But Anna didn’t know that.
After Shannon told me this story, I said to her, “Imagine an alternative universe where everything else is exactly the same, except Anna’s pastor had heard this idea, and had been telling his congregation for the last two years how their church would respond to an unwed, pregnant mother. Would that have made a difference for Anna, or would she still have been too scared to choose life?”
Shannon replied, “Yes, I think that would have given Anna what she needed to choose life.”
Imagine if thousands of pastors and parish priests across the world pledged to do that very thing. I believe the Christian abortion rate would drop significantly.
So I am asking pastors and parish priests to do that very thing. I’ve embedded a pledge form here. I will also be embedding a Google Map soon with pins for all of the churches who have taken the pledge. Those pins will be known as safe places for unwed mothers in the church.
If you are excited about this idea, please forward this article to every pastor and parish priest you know, or, better yet, meet with them personally first. If your pastor is already convinced to take the pledge, you can send him to EqualRightsInstitute.com/Pastor, which has a shorter page that skips the article and gets right to the pledge.
My dream is that eventually the map will have thousands of pins on it. Would you help me make that dream a reality?
If your church is ready to take a further step for unborn children, ERI recommends joining CareNet’s wonderful Making Life Disciples program. This program has a very similar ethos to ERI’s and includes training on how a small group of pro-life advocates at your church can provide relational care to men and women facing pregnancy decisions.
 While high school students used to be the third largest age demographic having abortions, it has since become number four. Here are the latest stats from the Guttmacher Institute (opens a PDF) on the percentage of women having abortions from each age group:
- <20 years old: 11.9%
- 20-24: 33.6%
- 25-29: 26.5%
- 30-34: 15.9%