Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY (and founder of Practical Shepherding) and Austin Walker, a pastor at Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England, co-wrote Caring for Widows: Ministering God’s Grace, published by Crossway Books in 2015. It is a book that I consider to be a thorough resource and guide for ministering to widows.
Austin Walker wrote the first portion of this work dealing with the biblical mandate to care for those who have lost their husbands. In the “Conclusion,” Walker explained his need to write this was simply based on how few resources there are on such a vital subject to the church. He began the project for himself and those around him. He explored both the Old and New Testaments using a concordance to help him find verses on widows, studying each one carefully. The result was ten chapters laying out God’s calling for the care of these precious ladies, as well as God’s protection over them, giving the Old Testament and New Testament examples and commands. In his chapter, “The Price for Neglecting Widows”, Walker wrote:
For elders, deacons, and church members to neglect or ill-treat widows expresses an attitude that is not only the total opposite of the conduct of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it invites the chastening hand of God and calls into question the integrity of the church and her identity as the people of God, (pp. 30-31).
Pastor Walker gives examples of how Elijah, Elisha, Boaz, and Jesus cared for widows. He explained how God continuously stated his promise of protection in the law and how James called caring for widows a “pure and undefiled religion.” And in doing so, wrote these words that ought to be taken to heart:
We have seen that the Scriptures require God’s people to show mercy and meet the widows’ needs. A widow, therefore, has a God given right to expect the church to visit her in her troubles, to reliever her, as well as to comfort her. No widow should ever be in a position in which she is neglected and her needs ignored, (p. 74).
I was surprised to see as much as Walker found about the care for widows in Scripture. I knew it was there, but apparently I was not picking up on how often widows are mentioned. As much as I found the first portion eye-opening and convicting, I found the second portion, practical and doable. Brian Croft wrote the second portion which showed that as pastors we are not alone in caring for the widows, but we must take the lead.
There are chapters about how to minister to widows through the word, through gifts, through time, and how to train and encourage others to do so as well. As I said, this book is extremely practical. To give an example, Pastor Croft even explains how long one should make there visit, dealing with the three most common places to visit those who have lost their husbands: hospitals, home, and nursing homes. I’ve always sought to keep someone from serving while visiting, but Croft pointed out that while we must never make a widow feel she must serve us, if she offers, allow her.”When you go to a widow’s home, the thing that might bring them the most joy is not having someone in her home to visit, but having someone to serve,” (p. 99). I had never thought of that before. His advice on anniversaries (wedding and death) in chapter 19 was spot on as well.
I underlined quite a bit in this book, and I hope to be able to more faithfully care for the widows in our church because of this book. While reading, I would often send my mom a quote through text or picture. She has been a widow for 20 years now, and wanted to get her opinion on what the authors were saying. Her last comment back to me summarizes her thoughts well: “I hope this message gets across.”
At 156 pages (not including end notes), this book was a quick and easy read. While specifically written for pastors, this book could and should be read by everyone that knows a widow; it can be downloaded in Kindle edition for about $10. I offered it to my 15 year old son to read, as he has “adopted” an elderly widow across the street from us. He visits her once a week. He is way ahead of the game than most of us in the church. I give this book four out of five stars. It is possible that this book could have gotten all five stars if I had not read Croft’s book: The Pastor’s Ministry (book review here) that contained a chapter on ministering to widows, largely based on this book. Thus, I was somewhat familiar with some of what was written. That being said, The Pastor’s Ministry gave me the desire to read this one as soon as I finished it and it was definitely worth it.