The Table Podcast

Ministering to People Considering Abortion

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock and Ronald Warren discuss ministering to people considering abortion, focusing on Warren’s work with Care Net.

Timecodes
00:15
Ronald Warren’s background in caring for people considering abortion
04:11
The ministry of Care Net
10:46
The biblical basis for Care Net’s services
16:51
God’s design for the family
22:48
Supporting people considering abortion
33:55
Abortion and the struggle of unmarried couples
37:58
Pregnancy Decision Line and the Church Initiative
Resources Care Net
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. And my guest is Roland Warren of Care Net. And, as you can tell, he’s with us by the wonderful capabilities of technology. And where exactly are you located, Roland?
Roland Warren
We’re in Lansdowne, Virginia.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So for people who don’t necessarily know where Lansdowne is, where is that in Virginia?
Roland Warren
It’s right outside … it’s a bedroom community that’s supposed to Leesburg, Virginia, which probably doesn’t help people much at all.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Unless they’re Civil War buffs.
Roland Warren
That’s right. But we’re very close to Dulles Airport.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay.
Roland Warren
In the Washington, D.C. area.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Very good. And you are CEO of Care Net. And describe what Care Net is.
Roland Warren
Yeah. Care Net is a network of 1100 plus pregnancy centers in the US and Canada that really focused on offering a compassionate alternative to abortion. So really our vision is, we envision a culture where women and men faced with pregnancy decisions are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and empowered to choose life for their unborn children, and abundant life for their family. So it’s really this holistic perspective, this network of pregnancy centers in local communities that affiliate with us at the national office in order to move forward in what I call a pro- abundant life perspective.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, great. And how in the world did you get involved in something like this?
Roland Warren
Yeah. It’s interesting you say that. I always tell people, some people are old enough to remember, there used to be these old commercials for The Hair Club for Men. I don’t know if you remember that or not.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. I’m of limited capabilities in that regard.
Roland Warren
There’s this guy who was president of this company called The Hair Club for Men, and it was about trying to get men hair. And at the end of the commercial he would always hold up a picture of himself bald, and then, obviously, in the commercial he had a head, a wonderful head full of hair. And he would always say, “I’m not only the president, I’m a client,” that kind of a thing. So I always use it as a joke, because it’s a great lead in to have I got involved around the issue. When I was a 20-year-old college student, I got my girlfriend pregnant. And we were encouraged to abort. We instead got married, which was our plan, and been married for 36 years. So I really was confronted with the whole notion of an unplanned pregnancy and becoming a father in that context. And so that really set me down this path where the life issue was something that was something I had to consider at a very, very early age, in a relative sense. And I’m thankful that we made the decision that we did. So, over time, God just led me down the path to Care Net.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So this is not just a theoretical exercise for you by any means. This is something you’ve actually lived through the decision making process and everything else associated with it.
Roland Warren
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s really shaped a lot of my thinking about the issue, certainly on the fatherhood front. Prior to coming to Care Net I was president of an organization called National Fatherhood Initiative, for about 12 years, which was focused on connecting the hearts of fathers to kids. And it really gave me an insight on the fatherhood issue, and how fatherhood is connected to the life issue. And that’s actually how I got connected into Care Net initially, because I came to Care Net and my predecessor’s predecessor, and really wanted to have a conversation about what were they doing to engage fathers in the process, when you had unplanned pregnancies, especially given that I knew what role my role played in the decision. So clearly, legally, her body and her choice, but I still have a responsibility. And the decision that a guy makes impacts, greatly, the choice that she makes. And I knew that first hand as a 20-year-old.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So tell us a little bit about how Care Net works. You said you work with pregnancy centers. Are you just there and people walk in? Or is there anything intentional and initiative about how you all go about having people come to the clinics?
Roland Warren
Okay. Well, Care Net. I’m in the national office. So we’re an affiliate organization, an umbrella organization that provides cover, training, technical assistance, marketing support, all kinds of resources to help the network of pregnancy centers, which are their own 501(c)(3)s through the work that they do. So the clients don’t come here. We had them before, but they go to the local pregnancy centers. And the pregnancy centers are there to offer them compassion, hope, and help to help them make a pregnancy decision. And certainly what our objective is, and our goal is to help them to make a decision to bring their child into the world.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So I take it these pregnancy centers, are they independent pregnancy centers, or are some of them affiliated with another organization, and you just help them and give them additional support? How does that work?
Roland Warren
Yeah. They’re independent 501(c)(3) organizations which were started up in communities. Really, the whole pregnancy center movement started pretty early on when Roe V. Wade was decided, and abortion clinics started showing up in communities. And as Christians were apt to do, we’re in the business of really trying to offer compassion, hope, and help, and rescue the vulnerable. And so what happened was local organizations said, “Gosh. We need to do something. We need to give an alternative to an abortion and offer some care there.” And so pregnancy centers started that way, really grass roots, started in communities.

A big part of pregnancy center work should work as church support. And that really started. Care Net started in 1975, shortly after Roe V. Wade, and really was pregnancy centers that had started in that time frame coming to Care Net, which was called Christian Action Council at the time, and was focused more on advocacy work, more similar to things like maybe the National Right to Life does, for example, but more from a Protestant perspective, ’cause National Right to Life had more of a Catholic leaning. So this was … Care Net came from a Protestant perspective, and was started by Francis Schaeffer, C. Everett Koop, and a theologian named Harold O. J. Brown, and also Billy Graham was involved. And really to mobilize the Protestant community, and evangelicals specifically, around the life issue.

So we started there, started offering this support. And over time said, you know what? There’s so much need to plant pregnancy centers across the country that Care Net moved away from … Care Net, which was a project, actually of Christian Action Council, said, “We’re not gonna focus on the advocacy part of the work, we’re gonna focus on the care side of the issue,” and then started providing that support. So that’s what we do.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So there are probably then two levels of our conversation, and that is helping people understand pregnancy centers and how they work, and that kind of thing, and the kind of work that they do, the kind of support that they give, and then how Care Net stands above them, or surrounds them with support. So let’s go in that order. Let’s talk about the pregnancy centers. We’ve had some discussions with Brian Fisher, who works with a set of pregnancy centers around the country that provide a whole array of support, and actually, in some cases, initiate contact with perspective people coming into the pregnancy center, in the hopes of having them have a conversation in which they can encourage them to bring the child to term, as opposed to aborting. So, I take it, given that you’re an umbrella organization, you’ve got pregnancy centers that have all kinds of capabilities in terms of being very simple to much more complex centers that offer this kind of service. Am I right about that?
Roland Warren
Yeah. No, absolutely, absolutely right. In fact, when Brian’s organization actually got started initially, Care Net was one of the organizations that … they came to for assistance, because we have 1100 pregnancy centers. And I think there are a few centers that they now own, but the majority of the centers that are connected in are actually affiliates that … affiliates of Care Net. So, that’s a big part of what we do is providing that level of support for folks that are there.

Some of the centers, the vast majority of them, about 70 percent of the centers are medical. In other words, they have some type of medical service, whether they’re doing ultrasound, or STI testing, or something like that. All of them … the other ones that aren’t doing that are really offering more on the care side, offering material support in some way, shape, or form, in terms of what they do. But frankly, the biggest thing that pregnancy centers really can do is really elevate the conversation around the issue. I think wholeheartedly, that the goal of the pro life movement, may sound a little interesting to say, but the goal of the pro life movement is not just ending abortion. I think that that’s a strategy or a tactic. But I think the goal of the pro life movement should really be making sure that children not just have life, but have abundant life. So it’s not just about saving a baby, it’s about raising a child. You just don’t want that person to come in who’s dealing fatherhood, motherhood, sex, and marriage, and then ending up with a pregnancy decision to leave with those things delinked, and not consisting with God’s design, because guess what’ll happen. They’ll leave, and then they’ll come back later with a new crisis and a new baby.

So we try to really make sure that our model is not retail. Our sign shouldn’t say, “Thank you. Come again.”

Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Roland Warren
Burger King, or frankly, like Planned Parenthood. Our sign should say, “Thank you. Don’t come again, not to be served, but to be service to others.” So it’s really modeling what Christ did with the woman at the well. So I always tell people, “The woman at the well yesterday is the pregnancy center today.” Disconnected from community, all alone, at risk. And the turning point in that whole discussion with Christ was when he told her to call her husband. So issue of being there, at risk, was really tied to her no husband problem. And if you think about it in the context of the work that we do, the reason why folks are at the pregnancy center also is tied to the no husband problem, given that 86 percent of the women that have abortions are unmarried. So, what we try to do is just have a holistic approach, not just about saving the baby, about raising the child, and then really structuring our work that way.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, it sounds like your work’s a lot like what we’ve talked to Brian about, which is not only having a conversation about bringing the child to term, but actually surrounding the woman with a whole array of support that allows them to feel, “I’m not going through this alone. I have people who are gonna walk alongside me in the midst of it who are gonna be there for me, in the midst of it, and also establish relationships, and hopefully connections and networks that will be there for me after I have the child.
Roland Warren
Yeah. But I think … True. But I think it’s different in a sense, in terms of the narrative that we try to articulate. The story that God gave me … I call the nativity story that God gave me that really frames our work and a real focus for our work is really this notion about family, and the role of family. So, if you look at the whole story of the birth of Christ, which … Christ was an unplanned pregnancy from a human perspective, right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, right.
Roland Warren
She saw …
Dr. Darrell Bock
Planned at one level, and unplanned at another.
Roland Warren
Worry was feeling at that moment, I’m sure it’s the same kind of thing that my wife was feeling, same … Any woman walking into a pregnancy center … How am I gonna tell my community? How am I gonna support my …? All these things. And what did she do? She chose life. In other words, she said, “Let it be unto me as you have said.” What what are you gonna do to make sure that Mary’s unplanned pregnancy wasn’t a crisis pregnancy? He sent an angel to Joseph, who in many ways was much like an abortion minded man. Hopes and dreams for his life, his life with Mary, that didn’t include a child at this time and in this way. And the angel was very specific in terms of what he said to Joseph. The first thing that he said was, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” Not your baby mamma, not your boo, not some other thing, but your wife.

And so, the key there and what you see here … and this a real big difference in terms of what Care Net’s doing … is that we’re not just focused on the sanctity of life. We’re focused also on the sanctity of marriage family, consistent with God’s design. That’s what you see in that story in the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament. The angel first affirms the sanctity of life … excuse me … of marriage and family consistent with God’s design, and then the sanctity of life. And I believe, in many ways, in terms of what … how we’ve been focused over the years, is really focusing on the sanctity of life issue without focusing on the sanctity of marriage and family issue. And as a result, again, as I said to you early on, 86 percent of the women that have abortions are unmarried.

So it’s not just about wrapping her, around her a bunch of support. It’s really about going and making sure that you’re doing everything that you can to engage that father into that process, so that she doesn’t become a repeat client. So that what’s modeled there is God’s design. And I think, frankly, a lot of times, in terms of this work, we have not done that. We haven’t done that particular piece. And it can devolve into more of a social services piece, and it, frankly, can devolve into situation where you’re seeing repeat clients. So if it’s just saving the baby, if she comes back with a new baby and then you save that baby, I mean, is that really what God wants us to do? As one who grew up in a single mother home, I can tell you first hand how difficult it is for mothers and children. Is that really God’s best? Is that really God’s design?

So really, the narrative that we’re talking about is the difference between being pro life and being pro abundant life, which means that if you look at what does abundant life look like to a baby, you can go back to the narrative of what happened with Christ. The father and mother, united in marriage, loving each other, loving their child, and loving God’s the high idea that you saw with the narrative of Christ. And that’s truly what we focus on, as well, that perspective, not just being pro life, but being pro abundant life, which means that you’re gonna focus very aggressively on building strong families, so the client’s are not repeat clients, and that we don’t just celebrate when a baby is saved, but we’re focused on also trying to talk about marriage and those kinds of things. And that’s a real big difference between what Care Net is doing in terms of the work that we try to do on a daily basis. That’s the first part of the big difference.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So that’s clear. So you’re … So that means that there’s really an effort not just to engage the perspective mother, but actually the boyfriend or whatever who is with her, and try and encourage them to become a couple, become a family, that kind of thing?
Roland Warren
Absolutely. And it’s interesting, because we actually call the fatherhood work that we do at Care Net, the Joseph Project. Because what we’re trying to do is … Essentially the work is about trying to encourage the woman to tap into her inner Mary, to ascribe to herself the virtue and the character of Mary. Well, we should be trying to do the same thing with the guy, trying to encourage him to ascribe to himself the virtue and the character of Joseph. And that’s why I made the point about that what did God do? He went for Joseph. See, Jesus could have come into the world via a single mother. That would have accomplished God’s purpose, but it would have violated a principle, a high idea, a design that He has. And so that’s why linking together the sanctity of marriage and family, and the sanctity of life is critical.

You’ll never here anyone here talking about the sanctity of life without talking about the sanctity of marriage and family, because those two things are linked. And again, as I said, 86 percent of the women that have abortions are unmarried. We did a national survey with LifeWay, which folks can get if they come to our website. And we asked women who had had abortions, who was the most influential in your decision to abort? And guess who was number one. The father. Way ahead of mother, girlfriend, best friend … the father was number one. But if you look at how the movement’s been framed for nearly 40 years, it’s been focused either on saving the baby or the woman and the baby. But it has not been focused on this notion around forming families, and God’s design for families, and that high idea that’s there. And that’s part of it.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So the next question, obviously, is you bring the father into the equation. You’re encouraging them to become a family. And I take it that because there are issues oftentimes that need to be dealt with, that you’ve got to surround both the father and the mother with support. What does that look like?
Roland Warren
Well, and that’s a good point. And I also want to stress this point, too, so folks don’t get it twisted, as we used to say back in my day. It’s not just about whether she marries that guy, ’cause that’s not possible all the time, and frankly, not even necessarily the right thing all the time. But it’s about reconnecting God’s design. Fatherhood, motherhood, sex, and marriage, relinking those things in their mind, so that their mind is transformed, so that the next time, if they have an opportunity to have a sexual encounter, they’re looking at that through the lens of God’s design. That’s why a husband will be faithful to his wife. He’s got an opportunity to have a sexual encounter. But he says, “You know what? No, no. I believe motherhood, fatherhood, sex, and marriage consistent with God’s design, and I reject that, because having sex in that context would violate that.” So, even if the couple does not form, it’s about transforming the mind, so that you don’t see her as a repeat client. And so, that’s a big part of the support mechanism, this transforming the mind, not just celebrating saving the baby, but really focusing on transforming the mind so that you don’t see a repeat client.

Now, in terms of the support piece, you’re absolutely right. And it really leads to the second thing that’s really significant about Care Net’s model. That first pillar that I talked about is really the sanctity of marriage and family, which is anchored in the first chapter, the first book of the New Testament. There’s a second pillar which is this whole focus on discipleship, which is in the last chapter of the first book of the New Testament, that we’re called to make disciples. And one of the things that pregnancy centers do, in Care Net’s network, we’re very focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the pregnancy centers can do evangelism, which leads to conversation. But they can’t do discipleship, which leads to replication.

And so a big key part of what we are also doing, particularly through our Making Life Disciples initiative, is equipping churches to have pregnancy care ministries in the church, so that clients can move from pregnancy centers to the church for ongoing support and discipleship. That is a key and significant difference in terms of what we’re doing, and much needed. Because, if we don’t do that, then she’s much more likely to go and become a disciple of the culture, and that replicate and come back with a new baby.

So it’s really linking the life issue to the discipleship issue, and Making Life Disciples, which is a ministry kit that Care Net has that we’re encouraging churches and folks within church to basically use their small groups so that those small groups can come alongside those clients who are facing pregnancy decisions, and walk alongside them in terms of providing the support that they need.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So that means probably something more than simply saying, “Oh, well there’s this church down the street that I recommend to you. And you should attend, et cetera.” There’s something far more intentional involved.
Roland Warren
Absolutely. One of the things I tell people all the time is that when you look at Jesus’ model, he had both a retrieving and a receiving model. Some folks he retrieved, like the disciples. Like, “Hey, you. Drop you nets. I’m gonna make you a fisher of men.” “You up the tree, come down. We’re gonna have a power lunch.” But then there are others that he received, like the woman with the issue of blood. So we have to have both a retrieving and a receiving ministry in terms of what we’re doing around the life issue. And you see that very clearly with Peter, when Jesus asked Peter … when Peter said, “Hey. I want to come out the boat in the storm to you,” Jesus received him. Said, “Come on. The water’s fine.” But when Peter started to have trouble, Jesus didn’t just keep saying, “Well, just keep coming.” He went out and he retrieved him.

That’s the part, in my view, that’s been missing in terms of this whole life issue. The church, if we’re gonna be the hands and feet of Jesus and model what Jesus did, the church has to be both in a retrieving and receiving role, which means the church has to be receiving clients from the pregnancy center so that they can be transformed to become disciples of Jesus Christ. And what you do when you do that … See, if you view the issue through the lens of just material support, then, in my view, you’re not really viewing it from a Christian narrative fully. You really should be viewing it as a discipleship issue. If you believe that helping someone who’s facing a pregnancy decision is good work, all good work that Christians do should equal discipleship. Everything that we do. Water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked. Well, compassion for the pregnant should be viewed.

So you should look at … When you see someone facing an unplanned pregnancy from Christian perspective, if you just say, “Well, gosh. What kind of support does she need? And diapers, and this, that, and the other, again, my view is that you’re aiming too low. You’re not rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, unto God what is God’s. The first thing you should say in your saying is needs to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. The child growing inside of her needs to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The guy who got her pregnant needs to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. And you can’t do discipleship without doing material support in the same way that … Christ said, “Look. If you see your brother or sister in need and say, ‘Be well and be fed,’ what … the love of God is not in you.”

So by focusing on discipleship you get material support. and the transformation that comes with becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. But if you only focus on material support, just surrounding them with support so to speak, without the discipleship message, then you may not get the discipleship piece. So that’s the piece that does that. That’s what motivates that. And that’s what Making Life Disciples, which is a research we developed to equip the church, church, small groups, to offer compassion, hope, and help, is really significant in terms of Care Net’s model of not just making sure that helping women and men that are faced with pregnancy decisions survive, but also make them thrive and become disciples of Jesus Christ, which is really the call that we have as Christians.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Let’s talk about what I would guess is the common situation. A woman walks in to one of the pregnancy centers. She says, “I’m pregnant. What am I gonna do?” I’m assuming that she may walk into your center not knowing whether she’s gonna keep the baby or not. And it starts from there. Walk us through how your centers handle that kind of situation.
Roland Warren
Yeah. It’s an interesting question. There’s lots of different ways that clients come to us. One way, obviously, is they find us on the web. We use a very effective in terms of doing key word advertising. A woman will type in, “abortion, or abortion pill, or I’m pregnant.” I don’t know. Whatever it may be, and they’ll find a pregnancy center and call and want to come in. And one of the things that we do is we really invite her to come in and tell her that there’s support that we know that we can provide for her.

But a key piece also as well is that we invite her to bring the father of the child with her. And it’s key, because it’s not … The difference between saying, “Is the father gonna come with you?” is one way. But that isn’t the most effective. The most effective to say is, “We would like him to come with you.” And one of the reasons that’s so important is what I was saying before, that we know that he’s the most influential in her decision to keep the child or not. If she can see herself having his support, it’s a key driver for us. So we invite the client in, the client comes in, there’s an intake process where you just basically do a needs assessment to try to understand what is causing them to get to where they are, and what are the issues that they are facing?

Essentially, one of the things that I say often is that life decisions need life support. So, you know those life rings that you see that they have at swimming pools and have on boats, that’s what I mean, life decisions need life support. So, in a sense, she’s out there in the water, and you’ve got this speedboat and you’re getting to her and you’re throwing those life supports. Now what are those life supports? Well, those are the reasons why she wants to have an abortion. And one of the things that I always focus on is that the decision to have an abortion is really from conception to birth to birth kind of decision. But that’s not what’s driving the decision. What’s actually driving the decision is what happens after birth. So it’s really nine months and one second. So to the degree that she can’t see that she has support after birth, she’s much more likely to have the abortion. So what you want to be doing is talking to her about the support mechanism that she has to help her understand that while you’re trying to help her understand fully the life growing inside of her.

Now, one of the things that’s key, and particularly in our culture today, given ultrasounds and things of that nature, is really trying to encourage her, and him, to have an ultrasound. And, as an African-American, one of the analogies I use often is, you know those cameras that went into Mississippi in the ’60s, it really brought the Civil Rights movement right into their home, and they saw what was happening to the vulnerable at that time. Well, the ultrasound is the window into the womb in the same way that that camera was the window into the Civil Rights movement. And she starts to see the life that’s inside of her.

And particularly for the guy, that’s really important, ’cause, as you know, we are very visual. Our minds don’t change when a pregnancy happened, hers does. And when the guy’s there, what we find is that he’s much more likely to be supportive of bring the child into the world, and she does as well, when she hears the heartbeat, and it becomes real for her in a very tangible way. And then after that, now you’ve got that. But that’s not the end of the story because these situations tend to ebb and flow, based on the support mechanism. And you really want to be walking alongside them during that process, and that movement needs assessment.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Now about how many … you say you urge them to bring in the father. What kind of percentages do you get out of that request? Do you know?
Roland Warren
Yeah. It’s interesting. We still have way more female clients than male clients. It roughly is probably closer to maybe 30 percent or so will come in with the guy. And that’s been growing over the years. Candidly, we used to not even ask, because the issue was framed as a … this is about the woman and the child. And for various different reasons, we weren’t engaging the guy. We weren’t even designed to equip the guy. That was one of the things I started when I was with National Fatherhood Initiative, and how I got connected to Care Net in the beginning. We started a project. And a funder that wanted to fund putting fatherhood resources into pregnancy centers, to see what we could do to help engage them. And that was very personal for me, because I grew up without my father, and I understood the temptation that a guy will have to run if he doesn’t know what it means to be a dad, he’s never had a dad, the prospect of being a dad could be terrifying, and it’s just easier to run.

So having resources there, and also having, what you’re seeing increasingly, is client advocates who specialize on working with the guy. So when she comes in, there are folks working with her, walking through the issue from her perspective as a woman. But then there’s someone there to walk through this issue with the guy, to help him start to have that perspective. ‘Cause often you’ll hear a guy say, ‘I don’t want to be a father. I don’t want to be a father. And one of the things that a guy can say to another guy very firmly is, “You already are a father. The question is, what kind of father are you gonna be? Are you gonna be the kind of father that protects the vulnerable and helps bring your child into the world? Are you gonna be the kind of father who helps in the life of your child?”

Fatherhood begins at conception. And so, really being able to say that directly to me, it really snaps and helps them really understand fully the role that they play. And then also, one of the first resources that we developed when I came to Care Net was, before she decides. For years we had a resource called, Before You Decide, which was focused on the woman and helping her understand what was going on inside of her and the issues. But there was never a corresponding resource for the guy. So we were trying to engage him after she made the decision, if you will. But we need to get him involved early in the process before she decides, so that you can be involved. You have agency there, and we know, given what we know about the research and the data and just common sense, he can have a tremendous impact on the decision that she makes. So our model’s really geared toward leading towards that.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So you got three scenarios, the best I can tell. You got the woman coming in on her own. There’s no guy in the equation that you’re able to get access to. You’ve got a woman coming in with the guy, and you sit there and the question becomes, “Is this a workable couple?” If I can say it that way. And then you’ve got a girl who comes in with the guy and you go, “Yeah. This is a workable couple. This is something that will work. Take us through each of those scenarios a little bit, if you would.
Roland Warren
Yeah, absolutely. And when you have a situation, unfortunately too many of our women coming in by themselves, one of the things that we still want to make sure that we do is that we try to help her get connected to the dad in any way, shape, or form that we can, because we know that long term support is really gonna be critical. And candidly, that’s one of the reasons why church involvement is so critical, during that phase from conception to birth. Because … It’s interesting. One of the Scriptures God gave me when I first started doing this work was James 1:27. Talks about religion as pure and faultless in God’s sight, but to care for the orphans and the widows in their distress.

And the insight I had was, when that was written, what was an orphan, and what was a widow. Well, an orphan was a child without a father, and a widow was typically a mother without a husband. And so what we have in our pregnancy centers are cultural orphans and widows. And the church has a very, very specific call to orphans and widows, which means the support that that single mom’s gonna need makes the life decision her knowing that early on in that process from conception to birth is critical to her making the life decision, which is why the church needs to be in the retrieving ministry, as well.

So, that’s what we want to do. We want to make sure that she’s got that support within the church, and doing our best to connect her to the church, so that she’s … what’s modeled for her, even if she never has a husband for herself or a father for the child, you see that modeled in the church so that her child can aspire to have that from that perspective. So we want to really do that and model that.

When it’s a couple that’s coming in together, again, church support. And that involvement’s important, why? Because that couple needs someone to help the understand what a good marriage looks like. If they come from a community where they’ve been to more baby showers than wedding showers, how are they supposed to do that? Well, we’ve got folks in the church have been married for decades. Could you walk alongside a couple who’s facing a pregnancy decision and help them see what a healthy, godly marriage looks like, and link with them?

So all of this stuff, in my view, all roads lead to church involvement around this issue. And one of the things I say all the time is that, look, our churches, we have these small groups in churches. And most small groups are about us loving us. It’s us loving us. Somebody new tries to come to our small groups, what’s up everybody, hey, you gonna mess up our feng shui. You’ve got something nobody concerns. What if our small groups were about us loving them? What if, as a small group, we got trained with our resource like Making Life Disciple, and we went to the pregnancy center where he said, “Listen. We have a client. We want to walk alongside that woman, or we want to walk alongside that couple so we can help them with the reasons why they want to have an abortion.” Maybe they don’t have a place to live. Somebody in your small group got an extra room. Maybe he doesn’t have a job. You got a small business? Will you hire him? Maybe she can’t get to her prenatal visits. You’re retired. Can you take her?

All these … This is what the church … And this has been one of my big things. We’ve allowed the legalization of abortion to actually change how we, as Christians, respond to the abortion issue, to unplanned pregnancies. Too often we try to outsource it to pregnancy centers or someone else. What did we used to do before abortion was legalized? If a couple got pregnant, what did we do? Well, we tried to come alongside the couple. Where possible, we tried to encourage marriage. We tried to integrate them … All this … What I was saying, that’s what we should be doing now, especially we’re praying for and marching for Roe V. Wade to be overturned, we should be acting like it’s overturned and the church needs to be a big response there.

So a key part of that, the pregnancy center can only walk alongside that client from conception to birth and maybe a little bit further. But after that, if you come into a pregnancy center with a ten-year-old, there isn’t much we can do for you. That’s why the church piece is a key part of our pro abundant life model’s two pillars that hold up this roof that say pro abundant life based on John 10
10. The two pillars are the family and us modeling that and talking about that and helping to support that to the best of our ability, both physically and intellectually. But then also the second pillar is with this notion around discipleship, which is the two pieces coming together.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. So, going back to our three scenarios for just second, when you have a couple that comes in and it really doesn’t look like there’s a way to put the couple together, then the situation comes more like what you have when you have the woman by herself. I would guess that becomes the default, just by the nature of things. Whereas, when you have a couple that looks like they’re gonna go for it together, and they’re gonna try and make it work, then what you need is the community support to help them make it happen, if you will, and to reinforce that decision. Is that … are those the generic scenarios that you’ve got going?
Roland Warren
Yeah. I’d just edit that in one way. Even in a situation where the couple’s not gonna be able to be a couple together, we still want to encourage co-parenting. One of the things I spent much time on, obviously, with National Fatherhood Initiative, is talking about the well being of children. And what we know is that when kids have involved, responsible, and committed fathers, they’re much less likely to use drugs, become teen parents, be poor, all these different things. So even if the guy’s not gonna be married to the mother, which we know, based on research shows when kids are raised by their married, biological parents, they do better across every psychological, socio-educational and economic measurement of child. When that’s not possible, we still want father involvement in the child’s life.

And so, we still have an opportunity there to say, “Look. Maybe you as a couple don’t work, for whatever the reasons may be. But we still need to work with him to help him be the best dad that he can be in a co-parenting context, in the same way … That means we need to help her understand how important his involvement is in that child’s life, even if they’re not married, because that’s critical to the support for that child. And me, as a kid who grew up without a dad, I can tell you first hand what it feels like not to have a father who is connected with you, heart to heart, and the impact that that can have on your life. So, in any one of those scenarios, we still want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can in that regard.

And the other reason why you want to keep him engaged is, frankly, the next time he has an opportunity to have sex, we want him to have fatherhood, motherhood, sex, and marriage linked in his mind, so that he’s not producing repeat client’s for us. And …

Dr. Darrell Bock
You want him unemployed.
Roland Warren
We don’t want him out there producing more children and become clients for the pregnancy center. So in all three of those scenarios, there really is a role for us, in terms of that transformation that needs to happen.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. There’s one more scenario that’s in my head before we move on and talk about the other initiatives that you all supply, and it is, okay, so you’ve got a mother comes in. She has a father. They don’t work as a couple. She has the child. But then she gets married to somebody else. So now you’ve got a two father situation, at least in one sense of the term. Do you all deal with that very often? Does that happen on occasion?
Roland Warren
Yeah. That’s more downstream, after … That’s … For pregnancy centers, specifically, that’s more downstream.
Dr. Darrell Bock
But the churches will face that situation.
Roland Warren
Absolutely. It is the step parenting, co-parenting dynamic which churches are increasingly becoming more adept in terms of dealing with. The scenario that we didn’t talk about that’s more likely is the opportunity for adoption. And that’s one that there’s opportunities there. And again, having the father involved and supportive of that process, where they as a couple don’t feel that they can marry or raise this child, we want to make sure that she understands that adoption is a life affirming option for her, and it’s one of the other things that we talk about. We talk about single parenting, married parenting, adoption, as well, and then co-parenting are the four scenarios that we talk to. And those are the things that we deal with more so than kinda stuff that downstream after conception and birth.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. Now you mentioned to me that there are two other initiatives that Care Net is involved in that we haven’t talked about so much. Why don’t we go through those? And you can take them in whatever order you want.
Roland Warren
Sure. One of the other initiatives that we started in 2012 was something called the Pregnancy Decision Line. And the Pregnancy Decision Line is basically a call center, if you will, that we have here at Care Net where folks find us online, through key word advertising, and they’ll call our number, the Pregnancy Decision Line number, and they are facing a pregnancy decision. And the objective of the Pregnancy Decision Line is to coach them to a life decision. So these are long calls with someone. You can think about them almost like a suicide hotline type thing, in terms of the framework. And we get calls from women and from men … about 80 percent are women, and about 20 percent are men … when someone’s facing a pregnancy decision. Often they’re looking for an abortion.

Our first thing we say is we can either provide or refer for abortion, but we think we can help you. And then we talk the through that perspective. And it really is about helping that client who may never darken the door of a pregnancy center be able to make a life decision. So that’s a key, key initiative. If it’s necessary, then we will refer them to a pregnancy center, and we’ll do a warm had off. So we’ll have them on the phone and we’ll connect them to a pregnancy center when possible, so they can come into a pregnancy center for additional support.

And then the other, the last piece, the last initiative is the Church Initiative, which again, this notion of … If you think about what it takes to transform the abortion issue, there’s two things that I think have been missing in the model. One is a long term family and relationship support, and the other is long term discipleship. Those are two transforming things that had been missing. Pregnancy centers, again, can’t do the long term support. And our Pregnancy Decision Line can’t do that either. But the church can. And so that’s why the church is one of our three, we call, wells of compassion that we have. One is the Pregnancy Decision Line, for clients who may never want to darken the door, at least initially, and we can refer them to pregnancy centers. And then once they’re at a pregnancy center and getting support that they need there, we want to transition those people into the church, so that they can be disciples of Jesus Christ and have long term discipleship support along with long term relationship and family and marriage support.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So, I imagine you have these statistics. I’m almost afraid to ask the question. When someone calls the Pregnancy Line, what kind of percentage do you get of people who, if I can say it this way, change their mind about why they’ve called?
Roland Warren
Yeah. It’s very interesting. Our target is really seven to ten percent. It’s incredibly difficult, as you can imagine, with those calls, which is a very, very good number. It’s like catching a fast ball with no mitt. It real as the calls are coming in. And if you think about that’s pretty amazing. It’s an interesting thing. If you go into someplace, and you’re looking for a certain thing, and they say, “I don’t sell that thing, I don’t have that thing, nor do I refer for that thing, but I think I can help you.” and you stand there and you continue to engage. So it really is the leading of the Holy Spirit with these folks. But we have about seven percent is our target, in terms of the initial transformation. But with all the folks that call and we engage, we send resources out to them to help them with the life decision. And then we also have an opportunity to refer them. So it’s really, really, really difficult work to do. But we …

It’s interesting. Part of what caused us to start the Pregnancy Decision Line was actually a call that came in through another initiative that we were connected in. And it was an initiative that was really focused on basically just referring people to pregnancy centers. And my predecessor listened to the call. It was a young lady who was just distraught. And she needed help now. And the call center was only equipped to just refer. They didn’t have counseling and coaching skills. And my predecessor listened to the transcript of that call. It was just heartbreaking. And that was really what led us to say, “We need to have an initiative that can meet a person like that at their point of need.”

And we just had some amazing stories, stories of women who had been in a Planned Parenthood, gone, had some issues, concern, maybe second guessing, going to the stall, the ladies room stall, calling the Pregnancy Decision Line, being coached out of the Planned Parenthood, onto the steps of a Planned Parenthood, where they accepted Jesus Christ. ‘Cause all of our platforms have, as one of the things that our goal is, is to give people an opportunity to become disciples of Jesus Christ in terms of from an evangelistic … We always present the Gospel wherever we have an opportunity to do that. It’s a core piece, ’cause we know that’s the key to transforming life.

So all the platforms, service delivery platforms or wells of compassion do that. So we’re always looking for an opportunity to do that.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Now I imagine that the percentage of people that you get who come into the pregnancy center is a higher number than the number of people who just call in.
Roland Warren
Absolutely. It’s much closer to nine … It’s actually much closer to nine out of ten. It’s pretty amazing when you have that personal contact. But you can’t hug somebody through a phone line. But we still … our view was, we still need to be able to reach those folks that … because they’re looking for immediate support. And in many cases, they’re looking for anonymity. And they may not make a decision in that call, to change. But we are giving them information, and we’re engaging, and we’re talking to them when we’re giving them a perspective that they would not have had if they went to Planned Parenthood or some other piso.

So what we … in terms of what people tell us, that’s what we know. But we know that God’s word does not return void. And so we’re out there just delivering that message to folks, a message that they would not have normally gotten if they had called some abortion clinic that really, frankly, was looking for just a retail opportunity, where we’re talking about a transformational relationship.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So it really is important to be able to get that person to the facility, in order to have a face-to-face conversation about these decisions.
Roland Warren
Well, I would probably answer that differently. I would say it’s really … I’m a business guy by training. So the way I think about this is, that you’ve got the client here that has a certain set of needs. And then you have service delivery platforms, that can deliver those needs. What’s really important is that you get that person into a context where you’re having a relational conversation with them. Whether it’s at a pregnancy center, whether it’s at a church, whether it’s at a Starbucks, that is really, that’s the power of our movement that we haven’t been locked in.

So if you lock yourself into a platform mindset, you actually hurt yourself. One of the analogies I use often is Borders vs. Amazon. And Borders outsource their online business to Amazon, because they wanted to focus on their core business, which was bookstores, ’cause they thought people need bookstores in order to get books. Amazon was focused no turning every home into a bookstore. They understood what it was.

Well, we have the same dynamic here. Our secret sauce, which is the amazing aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is us, the believers. And we are mobile. And the gates of hell cannot prevail. And that’s the advantage that we actually have over the abortion industry. They need a physical building in order to do what they do. They can still do medical abortions with pills, and stuff like that, and they’re trying to do telemedicine. The vast majority of abortions probably will always be surgical. They need a facility. But we are mobile. We are people. And whenever somebody make a pregnancy decision for life, it’s not because of a physical structure, but it’s because it’s because somebody came along them, like Christ did, and offered them compassion, hope, and help. So we’re looking for as many ways as possible to be able to do that.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Well thank you, Roland, for helping us with this discussion. And we thank you for joining us on the table, and hope you’ll be back again with us, soon.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Roland Warren
A graduate of Princeton University and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Roland is an inspirational servant leader with a heart for Christ and a mind for business. After 20 years in the corporate world (with IBM, Pepsi, and Goldman Sachs), Roland spent 11 years as president of National Fatherhood Initiative before joining Care Net in 2012 as president and CEO.
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