Thirteen years is a long time to do anything, especially in a volunteer capacity. But for Melissa Solares, 13 years of serving women facing crisis pregnancies as a volunteer counselor continues to be life-giving in a sort of timeless way.
She says that after growing up being involved in the pro-life movement, “I felt the call in college to do some active, on-the-ground ministry.” At this point, she’s accompanied 360 women who were facing crisis pregnancies.
Melissa volunteers at the Bowie Pregnancy Clinic in Maryland and continues to revisit what she learned during a rigorous, months-long training and internship period. The training gave her the knowledge she needed to walk with women who reached out to talk in the middle of an overwhelming experience. And she discovered that the new and refined communication tools she learned were useful in her everyday life.
If your heart is nudging you toward volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, there are a number of options to consider — for both men and women.
Options counseling walks pregnant women through the possibilities of parenting, abortion, and adoption. “The goal is to draw her into conversation, not to lecture or talk at her. This means putting clients’ goals and intentions first in a non-judgmental way,” Solares said. “Whatever choice she makes, she’s ultimately responsible for.”
Volunteering to help with options counseling and pregnancy test appointments takes endurance and faithfulness because those encounters are so full of raw emotion. It can be draining and challenging, and Melissa values prayer as part of her self-care practice. Other practices that can sustain this kind of service include a strong community and taking time to process the experience with friends or by journaling.
If you want to explore options counseling volunteer opportunities, consider asking your pregnancy center what volunteer training (initial and ongoing) looks like for them, as well as what kind of support they offer.
Fatherhood outreach volunteer opportunities are becoming more prevalent as pregnancy centers begin to place more emphasis than ever on support and mentorship opportunities for fathers. While these programs vary in structure, they give men a place to process their own emotions and experiences. Volunteers in these programs lovingly challenge new dads to take on the responsibilities of fatherhood and offer resources to foster healthy family dynamics. Male volunteers are especially sought after within this type of volunteer ministry.
Donation and resource drives
The importance of fundraising and other projects cannot be overstated in any nonprofit organization, and that’s especially true for crisis pregnancy centers. Administrative staff are usually spread thin and will always welcome help with publicity, gathering and organizing materials, and tackling those small yet invaluable office tasks like stuffing envelopes or sorting diapers. If you are looking for a one-time volunteer opportunity, or are perhaps more interested in events than in working directly with clients, taking part in annual events and fundraisers may be an excellent fit.
Discerning pregnancy center volunteer work
As with any volunteer commitment, it’s important to take time to discern what you may be called to do. And there are two simple approaches that can be helpful in making this decision.
Take a given opportunity to prayer and reflection. Ask God if you are being called to use your gifts in this way. What is it exactly that your heart feels drawn to, and are you prepared to be loving and generous in your service? Do you have the support you might need for this work?
Talk about it with your loved ones. Melissa recognizes her husband’s support over the years as vital in her being able to continue doing volunteer work at the pregnancy clinic. Is your current family dynamic conducive to you spending a few hours away from home for an upcoming event? On a regular basis?
If you think you have what you need to walk with women facing a life-changing pregnancy, it can be a life-giving volunteer opportunity.