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Starting a Pregnancy Care Center

Malinda Zellman

From: September/October 1993 Children's Ministry Magazine

"The United States reports 1.6 million abortions every year," says Martha Harper, a crisis pregnancy services specialist with Florida Baptist Family Ministries. "For some women, an unplanned pregnancy creates a panic and crisis in their lives. They may view abortion as a quick solution. Few women actually know what happens to their bodies or to the baby they are carrying during an abortion. Nor are they prepared for the emotional trauma that follows an abortion."

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we can make a difference. The First Baptist Church of Leesburg, Florida, is one of many churches that has started a Pregnancy Care Center (PCC). Since opening in 1987, the PCC has served over 7,000 clients. Of those clients wanting an abortion when they came into the center, 85 to 90 percent decided to keep their babies.

"The love of Jesus is the only adequate answer for women facing such a serious spiritual, moral, and social dilemma," says Susan Stanley, director of the PCC. "It is not enough just to shake an accusing finger in the face of a young woman considering an abortion. As Christians, we are called to offer a biblical alternative."

You can have a significant ministry to women and unborn children by establishing a pregnancy care center through your church. Here's how:

1. Pray. Share your vision with others and ask them to pray with you for God's direction.

2. Form a steering committee. You'll need four or five committed people who'll help determine medical services, legal matters, financial matters, and education. The steering committee will need to

*Establish the need for a Pregnancy Care Center. Through a community survey, determine local support, referral sources, and services in existence for women in crisis pregnancies. If you decide to open a PCC, compile your research into a referral manual.

*Get expert help. Contact your denomination's social service agency to find out if it has a crisis pregnancy specialist on staff to help you get started. If no resources are available within your denomination, contact the Pregnancy Care Center, 219 N. 13th St., Leesburg, FL 34748, (904) 787-8839.

*Define your objectives. "Our PCC has a dual objective-to offer abortion alternatives and to evangelize and disciple the client," says Stanley. "We believe abortion is wrong even in the hard cases such as rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother. But most of all, we believe that Christ is the greatest need in every client's life."

Clearly set out your position on these delicate issues: What are your views on abortion? Will your staff present the gospel to clients? What is your philosophy on abstinence? Will you do lifestyle counseling to women having sex outside of marriage? Will you educate on issues such as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases?

*Take care of business. File the articles of incorporation as a nonprofit organization with an attorney and as a tax-exempt organization with the IRS.

*Appoint a board of directors and a board president. The board will establish policies and procedures, approve a budget, appoint and evaluate the PCC director, monitor legal and financial matters, and set and approve your mission statement and goals.

3. Raise funds for start-up needs. Your major needs will include office space, furnishings, supplies, and a director (paid or volunteer) who'll recruit, train, and coordinate the volunteers. Some centers have a paid receptionist. You'll need to raise funds to offset the cost of ongoing expenses such as utilities, supplies, and payroll. Establish a realistic budget.

4. Select a director and recruit volunteers. Have the director make presentations at churches and service clubs to let people know how they can play a part in the ministry. You'll need volunteers to fill many roles-counselors, supply-closet organizers, friendly visitors, and more.

5. Train volunteers. The initial training should be done by an experienced director or by a crisis pregnancy specialist who has helped churches establish new PCCs. We require counselors to attend one to eight hours of classroom training followed by 12 hours of observation and hands-on training in the center. Volunteer training content includes statistics on abortion; the scriptural basis for the sanctity of human life; an overview of services to be offered by the center; training in faith-sharing; crisis pregnancy counseling techniques; the mission statement and goals of the center; an overview of and commitment to confidentiality; roles of the director, receptionist, counselor, and shepherding homes; the correct documentation of files and logs; and follow-up procedures.

6. Plan for physical needs. The PCC offers the following services to meet the client's physical needs:

*Material needs-We have a supply closet with maternity clothes, baby clothes and blankets, diapers, formula, baby powder, cribs, and car seats.

"The center rarely buys anything to stock the supply closet," Stanley says. "Donated goods come in daily from people in the community who support our objectives."

*Financial and vocational counseling-Trained volunteers offer counseling or make referrals to schools and other agencies.

*Housing-Women who need housing are referred to maternity homes, our church's shelter for homeless women, or to shepherding homes. A shepherding home is a family who volunteers to take in a pregnant woman who needs temporary housing.

To be accepted in a shepherding home, a minor's parent must sign a release which gives consent for medical treatment and absolves the PCC of any liability during the minor's stay in the shepherding home. The minor's parents sign another permission form acknowledging that their daughter will be required to follow the shepherding family's rules and to attend regular counseling. This form also absolves the shepherding home family from any liability.

*Transportation-Volunteers transport our clients to doctor appointments, counseling sessions, or to important meetings. The client signs a statement absolving the volunteer of any liability in case of an accident.

*Child-care-Baby sitters are arranged if a volunteer or a client has no other alternative.

*Education-We offer classes in nutrition, childbirth, and breast-feeding.

*Adoption vs. parenting-If the client is considering adoption, a trained volunteer adoption counselor helps the client discern God's will for herself and her baby.

"The PCC is the best thing that ever happened to me," says a former client. "I came to the center seeking my third abortion. But thanks to the PCC, the baby I planned to abort was born in December of 1992. She is a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and I can't imagine life without her."

Reaching out to families with biblical alternatives and practical help through a crisis pregnancy ministry is one of the newest mission fields challenging Christians. Through a PCC, your church can lovingly minister to women facing troubling choices.ú

Malinda Zellman is a free-lance writer and Sunday school teacher in Florida.

Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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