Yesterday, I took some time towards the end of my day to do something really simple: I called every one of our widows and widowers in our church. I’m not a big romantic – but since moving from the Associate Pastor role, to the Senior Pastor role, I’ve realized more and more how lonely widow and widowers feel. Alone. Forgotten. They feel ignored.
During one of our mentoring sessions while I was Associate Pastor at First Woodway, Mike Toby told me that the greatest threat to the life of the widow/widower is this: loneliness. I see it. I see it every Sunday when I walk into our oldest female and male classes, hold their hands and greet them like they’re my own grandmother or grandfather. I see it when I visit them in their homes and they hem and haw about how their bodies are breaking down. I see it when they have to bury their own children…
And I’m reminded of why we’re the church – we’re not to be alone.
This was, in part, what takes place in the book of Acts is it not? The church was growing at an enormous rate, and the Apostles made a strategic decision to ensure that care was in place for those who were being neglected (see Acts 6:1ff). Specifically, the widows were being neglected. This is where we find the institution of, and the primary role of the deacon… but that’s a post for another day.
In general, holidays are difficult for a lot of people. For example, Christmas can be lonely because that special someone isn’t there to exchange a gift with, or to sing carols alongside, or drinking hot chocolate with. Birthdays can be tough because it’s another occasion that you pause and gather loved ones or call loved ones – but there is no phone call from your deceased spouse or child.
The point is that holidays can be particularly difficult for those who have lost a spouse – no matter what holiday it is.
Valentines, though, is an unusual holiday. It’s a day where love between couples is on high alert, from flowers, to teddy bears, to boxed chocolates (you never know what you’re going to get), and mix tapes of Conway Twitty (I think I just dated myself here). The unusual nature of the holiday of Valentines is not a terrible thing, it’s just a thing… and it can cause angst among many a jr. high student (I only speak out of experience).
Back on point: As a younger pastor, I’m always trying to find ways to connect and care for our “more mature” generations – because it isn’t always natural for me to connect and engage with them. We’re simply several generations removed! But, simply calling the widows and widowers on Valentines does amazing things for their sweet spirits, and for mine.
Pastor, there are several reasons why this is something you should consider doing every Valentines Day:
-You gain favor with a generation that often feels forgotten.
Whether you realize it, many have difficulty connecting with you as their Pastor, to a larger degree that you may have connecting with an older generation! That being said, while gaining favor isn’t the goal, it’s a reward. I’ve yet to have a widow/widower become upset that I called. It’s only extends an olive branch of care for them.
-You are able to speak personally and intentional with each person.
This singular attention allows the widow/widower an opportunity to share concerns, thoughts and prayers otherwise you may not be aware of. In fact, as I was speaking with one, she broke down in tears over a situation currently transpiring in our church. My opportunity to minister to this dear woman was due simply because I called her.
-You learn more about the people you’re called to shepherd.
Too often, we pastor a lot of churches in our head, and not the one we’re actually called to serve! As a pastor, you ought to be the resident expert on a number of things: the history of the church, the bylaws of the church, but also the people in the church. Having these conversations allows you to speak prophetically into the life of the church, not just create sermons in a vacuum.
There are more reasons, but I would encourage you to TODAY, mark in your calendar for 2018, to take the time to simply call each widow/widower on February 14th (it’s a Wednesday next year). OR, if you’re at a larger church, find a way to bless these sweet people who matter in the life of the church – so much so, the Apostles established strategic ministry to them.