There’s a teen at your church who always seems to be so full of life — she sings with the praise team and volunteers for children’s service. She’s dating the audio-visual guy and they often sit up front during service holding hands. One day you hear an odd rumor that she’s pregnant, but you pass it off as church gossip. After all, she wears a chastity ring. She is not the type of girl to have an unplanned pregnancy. However, you do notice that she hasn’t been sitting near the front of the church recently. And then you realize that she hasn’t been serving in children’s church in three weeks. Where did she go? What should you do?
Or maybe you receive a phone call one day. It’s a close friend, and you can tell that he’s barely holding it together. Faltering, he tells you that his girlfriend is pregnant. He is not ready to raise a human being. He just started seeing his girlfriend six months ago. What do you say? What do you do?
Many Christian couples choose to ignore these situations, believing that they’re “none of our business.” It’s much easier to look away than to involve yourself and your spouse in someone else’s struggle — especially if you have a lot going on. Offering thoughts and prayers before running off to the next appointment is much simpler.
Sometimes you want to help but don’t know how. You open your mouth, and platitudes fall out. “God has a plan” and “Everything will be OK” seem to ring hollow, but you have nothing else to give. The Devil is happy to keep us in this state — indifferent or ill-prepared to face life’s challenging situations.
However, the Bible presents a better option for us. In Scripture, we see Jesus willingly stepping into uncomfortable situations. And just like Jesus did, married couples can walk into moments of crisis — such as when a person isn’t sure what to do with an unplanned pregnancy — and shine the light of God’s hope into the darkness.
Below are things you can do as a couple to engage with and support the woman or couple in crisis in effective ways. Though the ideas will refer to “the couple” facing an unplanned pregnancy, if you’re engaging with the man or the woman individually, the principles still apply.
Invite God into your decision-making as a potential mentor couple. If He has placed a conviction in your heart(s) to reach out to someone in need or has prompted them to seek you, then He has a clear plan for what He desires to do through you. Seek His guidance. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach.”
According to Jenny Coffey, licensed marriage and family therapist at Focus on the Family, before you begin mentoring the couple facing an unplanned pregnancy, you must first agree with your spouse on how much time and mental capacity you’re able to give. You may quickly answer, “None!” But there are simple ways to help somebody that may result in a large impact. You may not have the bandwidth to show up to every one of the couple’s doctors’ appointments. Still, you might be able to point the couple to resources online or take them to an organization that can provide the physical, mental and emotional support that they need. You might not have the time to sit and talk for hours, but you can set up a grocery delivery service for them.
The most important thing is to have an honest conversation with your spouse regarding what each of you can realistically offer to the couple facing an unplanned pregnancy. Talk about the roles each of you will play — one spouse might take the lead in visiting the couple you’re helping, where the other offers support by watching the kids or making dinners. Remember that the Holy Spirit never brings people our way by accident. You might be surprised at how much you have to offer or how time and finances open up for you when you commit to helping.
Prepare your heart
There are three general ways that people deal with unplanned pregnancies: deciding to parent, making an adoption plan or getting an abortion. It’s important that as a supportive couple, you realize that this will not be your decision. If you’re a Christian who understands the sanctity of life, you may want to push the idea of parenting the baby. But ultimately, you’re not responsible for the choices that someone else makes.
Consider how you can support the pregnant mom and the father of the child best if they choose to parent the baby or make an adoption plan. But also consider how you’ll walk with them if they decide to have an abortion.
Regardless of the choice they make, God still sees them as valuable, and your actions should reflect that. Coffey reminds us that our actions not only have an influence in the moment but also for the future. “The vast majority of people who have an abortion will have children at some point. So even if abortion is chosen, which we hope it isn’t, we still have the potential of influencing this couple or this mom for the future,” she says.
There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage
One writer says, “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with people as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He invited them, ‘Follow Me.’ ” Jesus presented Himself as one looking out for others’ best interests. He showed love and compassion before He made such radical demands as follow Me.
As Coffey says, “There is no influence without relationship.” If you want to positively affect someone, especially in making such a life-changing decision, you have to get to know them first. If you weren’t close to them before, find a way to become their friend. Approach conversation carefully and with kindness. That first discussion might sound like, “Hey, I want you to know that without judgment, my spouse and I are here for you. Let us know whatever you need. And we are committed to coming alongside you, whatever that looks like. If you’re interested in that, we’d love to go out for coffee sometime this week.” If they’re Christians, you could add, “I don’t necessarily know why, but the Holy Spirit’s been putting you on my heart lately. Are you available to meet up for lunch?”
Create a safe space
If you’re already friends or have established yourselves to be approachable, the next step is to create a safe space for the couple dealing with an unplanned pregnancy to speak with you. Coffey describes a safe space as one that presents accountability without judgment. A couple facing an unplanned pregnancy could be experiencing myriad emotions: anger, fear, shame, disappointment, helplessness and desperation, among many others. You and your spouse should be individuals they can come to and share those feelings without fear of judgment. Regardless of your personal opinions, you allow the couple to express themselves.
For example, if, in the course of your conversation, the woman yells, “I really don’t want to have this baby!” You don’t have to try to fix that statement or underlying emotion. Coffey says, “She might not want to, but she still might choose to [have the baby].” By allowing the couple to process their frustrations with you without fear of judgment, you can empower them to face the reality of the situation and make better choices.
While you, as the mentor couple, refrain from judging, holding the couple accountable for their choices is equally important. This may mean challenging their statements. For example, the couple might think that because their financial situation is difficult, or because they didn’t want to have a baby, the kindest thing they could do is to have an abortion (rather than bringing an unwanted child into the world). To challenge this statement, you could ask, “I know you think abortion is the kindest thing you could do right now, but what are some other kind things you could do? What other options exist?” The man might say, “I am not ready to have a baby! This is going to ruin my life!” In this case, you could test the truth of that statement. Are there examples of people who have decided to parent and thrived despite a shaky start?
Involve the church
Once a decision has been made on how to proceed with the unplanned pregnancy, the mentor couple can enlist other members of the church to provide even more support for the couple in crisis. Galatians 6:2 reminds us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Coffey provides a list of do’s and don’ts when engaging a couple dealing with unplanned pregnancy:
Make statements such as, “This is a really hard decision. You have every right to feel that way.” It allows a person to feel seen and understood.
There is great power in showing up time and time again. The couple might not remember every word you said to them, but they’ll remember that you were there for them when they needed you.
Be wary of statements such as, Everything happens for a reason. God has a plan for you. Maybe this child will have a cure for cancer.” While these statements are true, they tend to ring hollow when someone is in the middle of a crisis.
The Word of God is a powerful weapon against attacks from the Enemy. However, there are moments when someone needs practical, present help. So rather than preaching, be the Word in action. Let your light shine by your presence and active participation in their lives.
Note for husbands
In many situations involving an unplanned pregnancy, the woman bears the brunt of the responsibility. This means that for the mentor couple, the wife may take the lead on providing physical support and guidance to the pregnant mother. However, this does not mean the husband mentor does not have a significant role to play. The mentor husband can be a positive role model. The way he treats his wife, as well as the mother facing the unplanned pregnancy, could provide a model for the male support that could be desperately lacking in the situation.
How pro-life are you?
As a busy couple, this may seem like a big burden to take on. However, the question stands: How pro-life are you? Signing petitions and attending rallies are good things to do, but policies can only go so far. The truth to our conviction shows in getting our hands dirty. Just like our Savior, we must be willing to step into the inconvenient and uncomfortable. His grace is sufficient, and the sacrifice is worthy.