For eleven years, I served as the executive director of a small, yet growing pregnancy center in Northern Virginia. I came to the position with little experience in administration and even less in the pro-life ministry. I left with a wealth of knowledge in both areas and discovered five foundational truths with practical implications for every pregnancy center.
1. God is sovereign
Before I spent my first day in the center, God impressed upon me the fact of His sovereignty. At times, such truths as God's sovereignty fall off our tongues with little thought; but upon deeper examination, we find that they are fundamental to our day-to-day lives. There are times when the girl who sits across from us in a counseling room cries, "I can't have this baby," and our human thoughts agree. But if we have established in our hearts and ministries that God alone is sovereign and He alone makes the decision as to when life begins and ends, then the decision is always a godly one, not a fleshly one. Although no counselor would advocate any other choice than life, it is important that our reasons for choosing life are fundamentally built on the character of God, not on our own feeble reasoning.
|OUR REASONS FOR CHOOSING LIFE
MUST BE BUILT ON GOD'S CHARACTER,
NOT OUR OWN FEEBLE REASONING.
2. Prayer is essential
Of equal magnitude is prayer. Everyone agrees that prayer is the cornerstone of any ministry, but how we practice that principle becomes essential to our operating within the parameters of God's will. In my early days as director, spontaneous prayer times were the norm. We knew staff and volunteers prayed at home before coming in, we prayed for things like diapers, computers that didn't work, and abortion-minded clients as needed. Although we saw God miraculously answer these prayers, we still felt that there was something missing. After being encouraged by others who practiced a daily prayer time at their centers, we too began the practice of starting each day with a short devotion and prayer. Those prayer times were foundational to everything accomplished at our center.
Having prayer in the mornings was an unspoken commitment that we were putting God first in our days and our lives, but we experienced even greater dividends from spending this time in prayer. The prayer room became a safe place not only to share the daily needs of the ministry, but also of each other. Hearts joined in prayer yielded hands joined in practical displays of love and caring and resulted in a unified staff that was infused with God's power to accomplish His will.
3. Here to serve
Flowing from the love and caring experienced in the prayer room is another principle for center success—servant leadership. Most executive directors have cleaned bathrooms, folded baby clothes, or filled in for other staff and volunteers. My concern is that as the movement as grown and become ever more professional (a very good thing), we may have lost sight of the need to be servants before we show ourselves as leaders. It is not a matter of qualifications or rankings on the office organizational chart. It is a matter of demonstrating the love of Jesus to all with whom you work. Very much like depositing money in a savings account, those daily deposits are building a reserve to draw upon when needed. Although there are countless ways to appreciate your staff and volunteers, Jesus demonstrated the most effective way in the Upper Room as He washed His disciples' feet. It is imperative that we not only are willing but also that we look for opportunities to wash a few feet each day.
4. Tell the truth
Although missing in much of our world today, integrity is one of God's fundamental principles. Perhaps you have cried out when watching a news report, "Why can't I just find out the truth?" Long gone is the day of the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." We are bombarded by opinions from people with little life experience and by rhetoric designed to influence people to a certain way of thinking. As God's ambassadors, we must be careful to impart the truth in the counseling room, in our correspondence, and in the presentation of our centers. God is adamant in His Word that the end does not justify the means. On the contrary, He tells us often that the journey is of utmost importance to Him.
God honors ministries that are careful to make integrity a foundational truth and work hard to protect this truth. In counseling, we must be careful in our use of terms and tactics, being sure that we speak the truth in love and leave the results to our Sovereign God. In stating our case before our donors, we must use facts and statistics, not innuendos and stilted information. In our advertising, we must honor God while we wrap our gift to the community in a package that they will want to open.
5. All praise to God
Finally, but of equal or even greater importance is a principle I learned from reading an article on the Billy Graham Ministry. It was reported that when one man applied for a position with the group, he was told: "Never, never, never, never touch the glory." This is an area where Satan loves to play. His fall in the first place was the result of lust for the glory of God. He continues to tempt us in many subtle ways to accept the praise of men for our work, to indulge in prideful thinking that we have actually accomplished something when God could have used anyone to do His bidding, and to own a ministry when it belongs to God. Pointing to God as the author and finisher of our faith and our ministry is the result of spending much time with Him and seeing Him as Isaiah did: "high and lifted up."
|HEARTS JOINED IN PRAYER
AND HANDS JOINED IN PRACTICAL DISPLAYS
OF LOVE AND CARING
RESULTED IN A UNIFIED STAFF
INFUSED WITH GOD'S POWER
TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WILL.
When you are looking for ways to increase your donor base, find and keep volunteers, and reach abortion-minded clients, these foundational truths of sovereignty, prayer, servant leadership, integrity, and protecting the glory may not seem too practical. However, I found that God was able to accomplish great things through someone with a very short list of qualifications who was "seeking first the kingdom." May He so bless you and your ministry as well.
Pat Stonestreet, wife, mother, grandmother and soon-to-be great grandmother, was Executive Director of AbbaCare, Inc. in Winchester, Virginia, for eleven years.