Why does the Widowhood Workshop ministry exist? What is it trying to accomplish? (1) Raise awareness about widowhood. How many people think much about it, until they are forced to experience it? How many Bible classes at church have studied or discussed the subject? How many people have read a book or even an article about widowhood? This ministry is about educating the inexperienced about what it is like to lose a spouse and live with that reality every day. (2) Challenge married couples to cherish their marriage before one of the two is left behind. When is health appreciated? When it’s lost! Human beings without determined intention naturally seem to drift toward taking things for granted (e.g., health, wealth, friendship, home, mobility). This ministry is about deepening gratitude for the treasured blessing of marriage before the experience of loss. (3) Provide pre-widowhood preparation. Is there practical value in premarital counseling to assist with the transition from being single to being married? If there is, some familiarity with widowhood can help in transitioning from being married to being widowed. Loss is a storm. The best time to prepare for a storm is before it comes. This ministry is about offering some training for the experience of becoming involuntarily single. (4) Motivate local churches to develop ongoing widowhood ministries for their own members and communities. Why are there all kinds of ministries targeted to specific needs (e.g., education, benevolence, youth, seniors, recovery, leadership, families)? Life has its changes and challenges. Some are chosen, others are forced. This ministry is about helping local churches effectively address the uniquely difficult life of the widowed. (5) Encourage the widowed. What does a person need when they are no longer half of a whole? The whole no longer exists. They need to know they are not alone. They need to be reminded they can survive heartbreaking loss. The death of a spouse is among the worst of human experiences. This ministry is about providing much needed encouragement to those hurt deeply by loss.
What is the difference in a Widowhood Workshop and a Widow/Widower Retreat? The Widowhood Workshop ministry has conducted both. It would be easy to confuse the two. Let me explain.
Generally speaking about their primary (not exclusive) purposes, one is educational…the other inspirational. One is a something-for-everyone event…the other strictly for the widowed. A Widowhood Workshop is the former. A Widow/Widower Retreat is the latter.
A Workshop educates attendees about widowhood, what the loss is like, and the challenge to live a meaningful life after the heartache of such a personal loss. It highlights both the divine and personal perspective about widowhood. This increased knowledge, hopefully, helps the non-widowedto more effectively minister to those who have lost their mates (in their families, churches, and communities). This education should also help those who are married to cherish their mate more, invest more heavily in their marriage with the reminder it will end at some point and one of them will be left behind.Greater knowledge will also help better prepare the one left behind to deal with the harsh reality of loss.
A Retreat is designed to inspire those who have suffered loss. They already know about loss. They are living it. They often struggle in silence. Their loss makes others feel uncomfortable. We humans do not like discomfort, so most keep our distance. Widowed people can become socially estranged. The Retreat atmosphere is unique. Everyone has suffered severe loss.Everyone there knows everyone else has suffered loss. It’s a social atmosphere without the typical awkwardness experienced by the widowed in public. The activities at a Retreat are faith-building, spirit-lifting, and thought-provoking. It is all about encouraging the widowed. We have Youth Meetings, Family Encampments, Ladies Inspiration Days…Why nothavea Widow/Widower Retreat?
There is more information about both Workshops and the upcoming Retreat on the ministry website.
Dr. Ira North, probably
best known for his lengthy ministry with the old Madison church in Middle
Tennessee, recommended to churches that wanted to grow to go “all out” for
young people. I agreed with that when I first read it in his book and still
believe he was “spot on.” One of the effective ministries that has been
blessing our youth for decades has been youth meetings (of various sorts). They
complement the efforts of conscientious parents to train their children in the
way they should go (Prov. 22:6). Parents and churches have cooperated to host
such events, provide transportation and in some cases even housing.
Why not a Widow/Widower Retreat to build faith and
provide encouragement to those who have gone through the excruciating loss of
their spouse? Why can’t families and churches work together to provide this
kind of experience for those of their number who are trying to do life after
loss? A “youth meeting” for the widowed! Those were the kinds of reflections
that led the Widowhood Workshop
ministry to host its first-ever retreat in August of 2018.
Last year’s retreat
brought together over 70 widows and widowers from 14 different counties in
Tennessee and eight different states. Attendees ranged in age from their 30’s
to 90’s. They represented 2,414 years of marriage and 408 years of widowhood. Our
exit surveys indicated it was overwhelmingly successful. Again, the LaVergne
(TN) church of Christ (Rutherford County) is graciously permitting the Widowhood Workshop ministry to use their
building to host our second retreat August 2-3, 2019.
We have a
responsibility to care for those in unusually difficult life circumstances (Ja.
1:27; 2:15; cf., Mt. 25:31-46; 1 Jhn. 3:17-18). What are we doing for the
widowed? Can we do more?