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The Church and the Center: An Uneasy Marriage

October 2001
By: Patrick McLaughlin
A pregnancy resource center needs to be a ministry partner with the local churches in its area. You, as a center, can be their outreach arm to meet the pro-life needs in your city, town, or village.

As a former pastor, seminary graduate, short-term overseas missionary, and long-time church man, I believe I understand and appreciate the God-given mission of the church. I am active in a local church that I have attended since 1986. I love my pastor and appreciate our local, regional, national, and international outreach. I am deeply committed to my church. As part of our local outreach, our church supports our local pregnancy resource center (PRC).

But when it comes to the relationship between local churches and PRCs around North America, why is it that many churches just don't get it? Why is the marriage such an uneasy one? The mission of the local church and the mission of the PRC are very compatible, and the two organizations should work together. Many churches in the United States and Canada (where we have been serving for the past twenty years) have no interest, understanding, and, in some instances, appreciation for the Pro-Life Movement and the ongoing ministries of PRCs. If we are going to reconcile this somewhat rocky marriage, we must discuss a strategy to initiate change.

Sell the Church

As we interviewed church leaders in my city a few years ago, we discovered that they did not know how many abortions took place in our city or state. Many were even unaware of how many abortions took place in their own neighborhoods. One church was less than two blocks away from an abortion clinic doing 90 to 125 procedures each week, and the church leaders didn't know it.

In all fairness, it's often not a lack of interest, but a lack of education that is the problem. Please do not assume that local pastors get and read your newsletters or direct mail. Many pastors work sixty hours or more each week in their own ministries, and sometimes local PRCs are just not on their radar screens. To make your PRC more visible, once each week arrange a visit with a pastor in your area and share the needs and facts about unplanned pregnancies and their impact on lives in your city. Make it a brief thirty-minute meeting. Take along a fact sheet and practice the three B's: Be good. Be short. Be gone. Time is a precious commodity to most pastors.
As we interviewed church leaders in my
city a few years ago, we discovered that
they did not know how many abortions took
place in our city or state. Many were even
unaware of how many abortions took place
in their own neighborhoods.

A place to start is with the pastors of your board members' churches. It is likely your board members can set up those meetings and assist you in the process. The first meeting is merely educational; it's not about money. That may come later. Build a case for the need for your center and highlight how you have made an impact in the past months and years. The story of just one child saved would make the center worthwhile, but all of you have many exciting stories to share. Educate and sell the pastor. He must be made aware of the need in the community and your plan to address that need. Present your mission, vision, and the core values that are the essence of your center. All of that in thirty minutes. Whew, it's a big task, but you can do it!

Be a mission agency in your presentation to the church. World Vision saves lives in third-world countries. Your PRC saves lives right here in the local church's own city and neighborhood.

MasterCard has a great ad that asks the cost of a number of everyday items and then asks the price of a particular life experience. To the last question the narrator says that it's "priceless." Could we all agree that a baby saved, adopted, and loved by a childless couple is priceless? A baby saved to grow up in a loving, caring family and to make an impact on our world and society is also priceless. Be mission- driven in your education of and discussion with the local church.

I love the mission statement of the U.S. Coast Guard: "This we do that others may live." They rescue people from the perils of death and bodily harm on the high seas. Is that not also the essence and purpose statement of your center? Share that mission with local churches in your area and ask how they can help you do even more.



Partners In Ministry -- A Marriage

The best marriages are those based upon mutual love, respect, and shared values. I believe your best opportunity for a marriage with local churches will be based upon similar issues. A PRC needs to be a ministry partner with the local churches in its area. Often churches cannot be on the front line in meeting every need they want to address. You, as a center, can be their outreach arm to meet the pro-life needs in your city, town, or village. Just like the church, you need resources to function, grow, and move forward. You need human resources (volunteers) and financial resources (dollars) in order to exist. Educate, motivate, stimulate, and activate the churches in your area. Ask them to allow you to be their outreach arm in your shared community. Keep them informed. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. Let them know you are representing them well and are their key ministry partner in providing resources for those with unplanned pregnancies.

These methods are not quick fixes, but two things are evident: you need the church and the church needs you. Use some or all of these methods to impact church involvement in your PRC. Do it right and build a long, happy, and effective marriage with the churches in your area.

Share your important mission and purpose with the church: "This we do that others may live."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick McLaughlin, President and Founder of The Timothy Group, is a specialist in relational fundraising, including major donor contacts, events, and capital campaigns. Patrick McLaughlin can be reached at 616-224-4060 or at timgroup@iserv.net.

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