The first days after a mom chooses life are critical. Sidewalk counselors should follow up with her to provide her with the support she desperately needs.
First hours and days are critical
Touch base within a few hours. I send inspiring Bible verses, reminders of why they chose life, summary of help that will be offered. Most women prefer texts and unless they stop me, I find it useful to text a couple of times a day until a mentor/church is appointed to follow up with the mom. If ultrasound pictures were taken on our mobile ultrasound unit, I send those, as well as a video. I make sure the mom doesn’t feel she is all alone.
Clearly understand and communicate obstacles to mentor
It is necessary to clearly ask and discern obstacles that have brought the mom to the abortion center. She must feel heard, and I find it is best to write each obstacle down. Repeat them to ask her if you have correctly recorded every concern she voiced. When passing the mom off to the mentor, be sure that list is clearly communicated to the mentor. Be sure the mentor knows and will respond to each concern. On our national form, we have a checklist of major needs, but we also have a notes section where we can list any other needs. Details like these are important in helping the mentor pass-off to be successful.
Be sure mentor knows major resources in which mom has shown interest
Whoever will be following the mom will need to know which resources she has felt will help her. Both our sidewalk counseling group and the mentor group have an extensive resource list. We have developed this through googling resources, and sometimes developing our own resources through our volunteer pool. Having a written list you can refer to is invaluable in counseling women, but we have found it is best to alert the mentor to resources and having her be the one to link the mom to that help. This helps solidify a trusting relationship with the mentor, the church, and ultimately, God.
Do not promise anything you cannot provide
Be careful what you promise. Never promise something you know with certainty you cannot provide. For example, Sheryl Chandler of Truth and Mercy Prolife Ministries will often provide local Charlotte baby showers to moms who don’t want a mentor. Her showers are lavish, providing two years of clothing and supplies. We are careful to confirm her availability before we promise the moms that she will do their shower. The last thing we want to do is give empty promises that will reflect negatively on our Lord if we are unable to keep them.
Always, in initial discussion, discern her understanding of/relationship with God
You will build on this in the coming days, and can let mentor know how that discussion has progressed. True heart change will never occur without the Gospel, so this should never be ignored. I believe it is as critical as offering help, or providing ultrasounds.
If no Gospel shared initially, share in a follow-up call, preferably that day
Sometimes, the shell-shocked mom has endured a spiritual battle of life vs. death, and cannot absorb the incredible truths of the Gospel. However, if a mom is abortion vulnerable, the Gospel is often the one thing that can tip the scale to an ongoing choice for life. I always try to share the Gospel the day that I first contact a mother. They will likely need to hear the Gospel more than once to understand more fully, even after submitting their lives to Jesus. Do not be dismayed by gaps in their understanding. Roots take time to grow!
If she responds with submission to Jesus, ask if she wants help finding church
The goal of our work is to point people to the Gospel, and then to ongoing discipleship and relationship with a local church. This is important for all the women we work with, but especially critical for those who make a beginning profession of faith. That faith must be discipled to be fanned into a life burning with a desire to serve and know God. The local church is the vehicle though which God ordained for that transformation to happen.
If no mentor appointed soon or she rejects mentor, develop relationship
Sidewalk counselors will quickly burn out if we become the mentors to the women as well. However, if a baby’s life is on the line and we can spend the time trying to connect relationally with a desperate mom, it can mean that mom will choose life. A very commonly voiced concern is the moms feel all alone in this. They may not ever really want help…they just want a friend to uplift and encourage them. When no mentor is available, to the extent it is feasible, be that friend. The goal is ALWAYS to point them to a local church and to God. Always circle back to that.
Be clear in what mentor/mentee relationship looks like – set expectations with clear ministry policy
Our ministry form has a list of expectations to make our policy clear. We have recently added a summary of what that relationship looks like so that our counselors can read the summary verbatim and be sure there is no misunderstanding from the mom.
If mom doesn’t respond, keep trying!
Perseverance is absolutely critical in reaching these women. It is common for them to not respond to texts or calls. Often, phones are disconnected or lost. Always get their emails, as well as cell phone numbers. Emails tend to be stable over time. If a mom doesn’t respond, don’t give up trying, but also don’t give up hoping. It doesn’t necessarily mean she aborted. She may just want to forget she ever considered it.
If mom expresses doubt, offer to meet her for lunch or call her
Be prepared for the fact that many moms choose life, but then waver. They need ongoing support and encouragement, especially early on. I have found that if I am willing to talk with them or even meet with them when they express doubts they can be convinced to remain convicted to a choice for life.
Once mentor is connected, counselor should back off
Many of the women we work with feel a strong bond with the person who counseled them initially to choose life. They recognize that they were drowning, and that counselor is the one who threw them the life line that rescued them. Years later, I often still get texts from grateful moms! However, the ongoing day to day help and discipleship is a ministry in itself. Sidewalk counselors need to release the moms to their mentors and help encourage them to transition the trust for the counselor to the trust for the mentor. Sometimes a group text eases this transition. In all cases, it is important for the counselor to back off and let the mentor be the one to take over providing resources.
I do continue daily email Bible verses (blind copy)
Sometimes years later the moms will contact me as new issues arise because they are part of my daily bible encouragement email group. I am certain this extra touch and ongoing gentle discipleship and relationship has prevented future abortions at times. Some contact me saying they are pregnant again and considering abortion again. While this could be manipulative to get our help, it could also be a cry of help to the people they know will indeed help.
If mom has mentor and continues calling counselor for help, always refer her back to mentor
If a mom is insistent, calling when every new issue arises, there may be a time when the counselor should not answer the phone. After sending a text to the mom explaining that it is through the mentor and local church that help is delivered, don’t answer her calls. There are times when “tough love” is the best approach.
Case study of follow up that lasted MONTHS
I never expected to be the point person for months with “S,” a teen mom. However, with her living many hours away, total rejection of a desire to be appointed a mentor, and ongoing wavering to abort, I had no choice. It was me … or no one.
“S” chose life after a couple of tenuous weeks. She even submitted her life to Jesus. Yet, for three full months following that choice, she vacillated between abortion and life as she continued to struggle with her dire circumstances. Her parents kicked her out of the home, and the father of the baby threatened blackmail if she didn’t abort. Friends abandoned her and urged her to abort. If I had not been the one consistent voice urging her to save her baby, I have no doubt she would have aborted. She made multiple appointments to do so.
I continued to disciple her. I texted her for hours a day, speaking biblical truth and encouragement. I was tempted many times to give up. It was such an uphill, time-consuming battle; but it was all worth it. She is due in 2 months. She isn’t sure whether she will parent or place her baby for adoption, but she is a strong Christ follower now and firmly pro-life. Her baby is safe in her womb. She has begun evangelizing others. Her worldview has changed completely. She is now living for God, though stumbling and faltering at times. I consider her a friend, and she looks upon me as someone she can trust.
It has been a huge time and emotional investment. I could NOT do this for more than a very few number of women and continue to be an effective sidewalk counselor. Yet, I would do it again in a heartbeat … because a little heart is still beating since I was willing to invest that energy into this troubled young lady.