I’ll admit, I’m a church lady. For most of my adult life, I ministered exclusively inside my local congregation. After decades of that focus, I felt frustrated. I didn’t see much fruit from my efforts, and I longed to touch my community more effectively.
So I started looking for a justice/mercy ministry outside the four walls of the church—preferably something the whole world applauds, like providing clean water in Africa or fighting the sex slave trade.
Instead, God called me to volunteer at a pregnancy center. At first, I resisted. I didn’t see pro-life work as a cutting edge ministry.
I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
I can think of at least seven ways that PRC work has helped me minister the gospel more effectively both inside and outside the church.
1. I am more courageous.
Growing up in a conservative Christian environment, I was taught to steer clear of folks who did worldly stuff like smoking, drinking and cussing. Unbelievers intimidated me. I wanted to reach out, but instead of simply befriending others, I was the Jesus freak who handed out tracts instead of having normal conversations.
After a decade of talking to lots of unchurched folks about unplanned pregnancies, the awkwardness I once felt when relating to unbelievers has melted away. It’s no longer about self-preservation for me; it’s about real, raw needs that Christ has called me to meet in his name.
2. I am less prone to judge.
I’ve come to know lots of folks who lack things I take for granted, like education, good nutrition, and a healthy family life. I’m more grateful for what I have than ever before, and I have more compassion for those who have less.
I’m less likely to draw conclusions based on the externals.
One day, a severely obese woman came in for a pregnancy test. She could barely navigate our stairs. By the time she walked back downstairs, she was breathless and could hardly talk, but she looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank you.”
She wasn’t just thanking me for services rendered; she was thanking me for preserving her dignity. I was able to see her as a broken-but-beautiful image-bearer of God, precious in His sight—and she sensed it.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Again and again, God has given me his love for those we serve, regardless of outward appearance or circumstances.
3. I am a better listener.
One day, I called my sister to catch up with her. She ended up telling me a couple of things which were deeper and more personal than she intended to share.
“You sure have a way of getting things out of me!” she said as we both laughed.
I realized later why this happened: I’ve been trained to listen. I’ve learned to ask open-ended questions. This makes me a more effective minister of the gospel, no matter who I’m listening to.
4. I am more respectful.
Church culture can be a little goofy. In our efforts to be friendly, we tend to accidentally transgress personal boundaries. We assume everyone loves a boisterous greeting and a hug, even from a stranger. We think it’s normal to grab someone’s hand to pray with them.
But if people aren’t used to church culture, such actions might freak them out.
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I’ve learned to ask permission for things I once took for granted. I’ve learned that terms like sweetheart can feel condescending, even to young teens. PRC work has trained me to respect those I serve, give them a voice, and provide a truly safe place for them—not a weird, Christiany atmosphere they can’t relate to.
5. I am wiser about our culture.
Postmodern worldview, sexual brokenness and confusion, the effects of abortion on our culture as a whole … Working at a pregnancy center connects me to ongoing educational resources and keeps me in tune with our culture.
Instead of gasping and saying, “Oh, how awful!” I’m able to roll up my sleeves and help those who are swept up in the chaos and confusion. How cool is that?
6. I am more appreciative of the whole Body of Christ
Go to any PRC fundraising banquet, and you’ll see people from all denominations gathered under the banner of life. It’s beautiful to see how the pro-life cause unites Catholics and Protestants, men and women, young and old, and people of every race.
God is pleased when we lay aside our differences to serve Him shoulder to shoulder, and we are enriched by all of the flavors brought to the table in this work.
My peeps aren’t just the folks in my little church box – it’s the whole Body of Christ. PRC work has broadened my perspective and enlarged my heart toward my brothers and sisters.
7. I have more opportunities to extend God’s grace.
Pregnancy decision coaching can turn you into the “bad guy” for those who want a scapegoat for their poor choices. It’s easy to offend people who are in crisis and aren’t thinking straight. This work has provided me with abundant opportunities to turn the other cheek and absorb the pain of a hurting world.
Thinking back on my silly argument with God as He called me into this ministry, I shake my head.
What’s not to love about a para-church ministry that makes the average church lady (or church guy) more courageous, less prone to judge, better at listening, more respectful, wiser about culture, more appreciative of the whole Body of Christ, and more able to extend God’s grace to a hurting world?
I couldn’t ask for a more exciting, relevant, cutting edge ministry than the life-affirming, soul-rescuing ministry of pregnancy resource centers.