Seven Reasons Why Your Church Should Have a Ministry to Widows

This verse in Scripture cannot be more compelling or clearer:

“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

Scholars have produced massive volumes on the biblical mandate to care for orphans and widows. The Bible is not ambiguous on this topic. I am grateful churches around the world have taken some steps to care for the orphans, though much more remains to be done.

But, in North American churches, I see hardly any intentional church wide ministries to widows. Millions are left to suffer and struggle in silence.

Though the biblical mandate to care for widows should be sufficient motive for our churches, consider some of the struggles widows experience. These seven factoids should give you at least a glimpse of the need for ministries to widows in your church.

  1. The death of a spouse is the number one stressor in a person’s life. Too many survivors are not ready to deal with the issues of widowhood (Holmes and Rohe stress scale).
  2. Over 800,000 persons are widowed each year. Of that number, 700,000 are women (U. S. Bureau of the Census).
  3. Widowhood lasts on the average 14 years. That is a significant portion of any person’s life (U. S. Bureau of the Census).
  4. There are over 14 million widows in the United States today. That is an average of 40 widows for every church in the United States (AARP).
  5. Upon the death of a spouse, a widow loses 75% of her support base. It is imperative for churches to stand in the gap (Widow’s Hope).
  6. Widows have a 30% higher risk of death in the first six months after the death of their husbands. They truly die of a broken heart (University of Glasgow).
  7. The poverty rate among widows is three to four times higher than elderly married women. Financial needs among widows are often great (Social Security Administration).

Please don’t walk away from reading this short post without considering some type of action in your church to care for widows.

It is one of the clearest mandates of Scripture.

It is also one of the most neglected mandates of Scripture.

Let me hear from you.

Posted on February 17, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Ministry to women who had been left bereft or widowed was the first ministry of the church in the New Testament. Who is and who is not a widow is outlined in scripture and includes those women who lost their husband due to prison, death, divorce, abandonment, and so forth. Moreover scripture outlines the churches responsibility to these women in their unique situation of vulnerability for protection and care. This is also why special care was taken to appoint Godly men to Minister to them.

  • My how this article has touched my heart. I realize I am not crazy and not alone in how my life is. I have been a widow for almost 4 years now and the road is very hard. There are so many truths you have mentioned! I can sometimes get upset with my christian brothers and sisters, because of my struggles/needs and I don’t often feel like anyone cares. But I also remind myself that as a church staff person for over 10 years, I didn’t reach out to the widow as much as I should have. My eyes have been opened and I now totally understand why scripture specifically mentions caring for the widows. I don’t know the answer, but I do think churches and christians need to be more intentional.

  • Since becoming a widow at the age of 54 I also was foster mom to 3 very young grandchildren and still raising one w/out assistance because of family dynamics. I lost my job, my son moved out and then later across the state, health issues, financial issues, among other things and in trying to educate two different churches….I come away feeling ashamed, a loser, selfish for wanting and needing help (more with physical tasks), bad for having expectations, & my being a widow is no worse than anyone else’s life issues. I am not trying to compete I just need help. My grief has gone to major depression (and that is sin so they sure are not going to enable my sin)…..I don’t care to go on trying.

    • Michele Wise says on

      Being a widow is a life changing experience. It is absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. Understanding that I am not alone that our Heavenly Father is there in the quiet, painful and lonely spaces was what lifted out of despair. But it was through people that He accomplished this miracle. I have a started a widows support group, our mission is modeled after my own experience which would take too long to explain. But I would be more than glad to share that model which is evolving to meet the needs of widows. We widows and widowers are still here and understanding how we can apply Gods word in practical ways concerning caring the widowed and grieving is what’s needed. I would be willing to discuss our simple, practical model with those who are interested. You may contact me via email.

    • Don’t give up Grace. Keep pressing on!!

  • Judy Taylor says on

    We just finished a special day for our widows…our Valentine’s Day banquet….just showing them love during what can be a lonely time. We have a catered dinner, with special decorations and a deacon and wife attending to each table. Great time each year!

  • Jim Watson says on

    Sadly, too many of our churches seem to have left that aspect of ministry to the government. They seem to have forgotten that the government is poorly suited for ministry. And, they seem to have forgotten that WE are to be His hands and feet in this world.

  • there are also a need for those women who’s husband is there in the physical sense but not in the emotional or relationship sense.. It can be like living with the walking dead and is very difficult to say the least… those women need love and support from the church and others too…

  • Another reason this is needed is widows can suddenly feel out of place im the church. My mom and dad always went to church together but when he died my mom now finds herself sitting I Sunday school with a bunch of men or being the only single person at a table full of couples. She also doesn’t identify as much with the older women’s group and won’t get involved in stuff because everything is either for couples or in the case of women’s retreats they coat more than what she can afford. Single women having other single women to spend time with is important.

  • Doranna Cooper says on

    Caring for widows & orphans needs a definitive explanation. We have a widow who moved from the mid-west to So. Calif. & thinks that even though she can drive, others should be hauling her around, another interpretation I heard was that the church must pay for the memorial reception and because our church doesn’t ( none of the churches in the area do) she has already instructed her family to have the service elsewhere.
    In our area there are widow support groups & grief support groups & our church has a “Helping Hands” practical ministry for widows & single women & moms. Yes, there needs to be widowers group but men need to be like women, start one.

  • Glad to see this topic being taken up in this setting. I’ve always found it odd that for so much Scriptural attention in the NT alone (1 Cor. 7; 1 Tim 5, etc.), evangelicals don’t spend much attention factoring it into their ministry strategy.

    In the midst of a lot of talk of churches maybe losing their tax exempt status in the near future, I’ve often wondered how the government would look differently at religious entities like churches if we were doing our part in this area to help care for the elderly (teaching their children to take the lead first), and widows specifically.

  • I am thrilled to see you publish this concern for widows! I have been a widow for more than 10 years now, and I began a widows’ support group in Wilson County, TN, in 2010 known as PHOEBE Connections, Inc. We meet monthly to build relationships and support each other in our journey. Everything changes when you become a widow, but you don’t have to walk that road alone, as it often seems at first.

    PHOEBE Connections is also a service based ministry that gives back to the local church and community through monthly service projects. Service is a part of healing, and we encourage widows to find new identity and purpose in Jesus Christ by serving others.

    Since 2010, our Phoebes have stocked food pantries, contributed to pet shelters, cooked meals for homeless people and for women just coming out of prison, collected toys for our local Hispanic mission, provided clothes for homeless children in the Philippines, supplied a local school with grocery gift cards for families in severe financial need, given school supplies to underprivileged children, contributed annually to a ministry in Kenya to help widows and orphans, supplied kitchen and craft supplies for a special needs ministry, participated in annual summer mission trips to work with international students, and MANY more service projects – all on a budget of $0!

    The women of PHOEBE Connections are exceptional women who have found joy in Christ by loving one another and helping our community in any way we can. We look to Him daily as our provider, protector, and comforter.

    I write daily devotions to the PHOEBES each morning and send them via email and post them to our Facebook page and website. I highly encourage them to stay in the Word and to seek God in prayer each morning. In 2014 at their request, I published a widows’ devotional book, God’s Word to a Widow’s Heart: Daily Hope to Overcome Personal Loss. The book is a year’s long compilation of the devotions.

    With the help of a couple of local churches, we became a 501(c)3 in 2015. We are an interdenominational group of widows, and our ministry continues to grow throughout Wilson County. We would love to help other widows groups form, as well. Two other groups have formed from our group, and a widowers’ group like ours is now forming in Wilson County.

    Personally, I would love to see LifeWay publish Bible studies or other related material for widows. We work closely with two wonderful GriefShare groups that provide excellent help for grieving widows, but quality material to help widows cope with their struggles is scarce.

    You can learn more about PHOEBE Connections at or our Facebook page, Phoebe Connections. Thank you again for bringing attention to the need for widows’ ministry within the church. We often feel forgotten, and that simply should not be.

    • Like^^^^^^^^ thank you for mentioning this wonderful ministry.

      Mr. Ranier I am wondering if your blog topic was a result of a comment made on an earlier blog you had about women leaving Church?

  • Divorce Care 4 Kids (DC4K) is great for children who are hurting
    Single and parenting for Mom or Dad who might be hurting
    Grief Share for those who have lost loved ones and hurting
    Divorce Care for those who have been left because of Divorce and hurting

    And Yes Ministry to the widows/widowers- Monthly Day Trips
    Lunch at Church once a quarter at no cost

  • What about women that feel like widows, divorcee’s that their husband of over 3 decades left them and they are struggling financially, depressed, lonely, and feel like an outcast in their own church? I feel like a widow! And I did all I could to fight for my marriage. It’s been 6 years and it feels like yesterday!