Workshop on Widowhood Helps Many
by: Stafford North | May 4, 2016
While I was at Ohio Valley University for their Lectureship, I met Dean Miller and learned of a service to which he is devoting himself. I believe what he is doing is good news for us all to know about and to utilize.
Miller, who preached for the church in Hartville, Ohio, for thirty-three years, lost his wife to Parkinson’s Disease in December of 2013 after forty-one years of marriage. In seeking resources to help himself with the life challenge thrust on him, he says that he found few resources. He notes that “in our public textual Bible studies we have often seen passages which reference widowhood, but we rarely do an in-depth study of this topic. Have we reflected on the personal impact spousal loss has on the individual? Do we have a ministry in our congregation addressing this life challenge?”
He notes that in a book called Getting to the Other Side of Grief by Zennebelt-Smeense and deVries, they write “Recognize that those who have never been widowed barely have a clue to what the process is really like.”
So based on his own experience and on what he has learned from others, Miller has developed a program called “Widowhood Workshop” as a way to educate on this topic. In this program he seeks to help married couples appreciate more deeply what they have before a mate dies, thus making marriages better. He also seeks to prepare the couples for the experience one of them is almost certain to have when losing a mate. And, in addition, the workshop trains those who wish to practice “pure and undefiled religion” by more effectively ministering to those who have been widowed. The workshop also helps those widowed to meet the challenges they face.
In the last two years, Miller has conducted these workshops at congregations in Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida. He now preaches for the church in Maury City, Tennessee and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked about ways a congregation can be more attentive to their members who are widowed, Miller made several suggestions. First, he said, make a list of those in the congregation who are widowed to recognize how many of them you have. Then teach from the Bible the responsibility of the family and the church regarding those who have lost a spouse. Then, help them to be socially connected. Find those sitting alone at church and sit with them. A congregation can even create a fellowship in which those now single can have a chance to be with each other.
A congregation can establish a ministry to serve those in widowhood. This ministry can both serve their needs and give them an opportunity to serve. Helping others is a great way to move through a time of loss. In many congregations, these members provide a great resource for visiting others, writing cards, keeping records, doing work around the building, and many other things. A very interesting use of those who have lost a mate would be to let them tell their story when a Bible class is studying a passage about caring for those who have special needs
Finally, Miller points out that there are fifteen million widows and widowers in the U.S. today and that a program to serve them offers a congregation great outreach opportunities.
One effective way both to utilize the manpower which widows and widowers provide and to give them an opportunity to associate both with each other and with other members of the congregation would be to utilize the concept of Monday Night for the Master program described in Good News in January 2010. To reach this story go to www.oc.edu/goodnews and type in the search box “Monday Night for the Master.”
Let’s find ways to help those experiencing the loss of widowhood, both men and women, and let’s utilize them in good ways of service which they are able to provide. It will be good news if more congregations both serve those who have suffered this loss and who provide a way for them to use themselves for the Lord.