Why We Need Male Sidewalk Counselors

Jacob Nels is the Operations Coordinator at Equal Rights Institute. One of the most important things Jacob brings to the table at ERI is his expertise in gracious dialogue, particularly with people who are post-abortive and abortion-minded. In addition to putting those skills to good use at college campus outreaches, Jacob has a regular presence outside an abortion clinic as a sidewalk counselor and has had the joy of helping many women, men, and children leave the clinic alive and whole.

Jacob Nels sidewalk counselor men

Jacob Nels sidewalk counseling in Georgia

A few years ago I watched a black sedan pull into the parking lot of an abortion clinic. A man and a woman got out and walked up to the clinic, ignoring my attempts to engage them. After the man walked her into the clinic, he came back to his car for something. Raising my voice to carry across the parking lot separating us, I tried again to start a conversation with him. I said,

Jacob: Hey, man! I know this is a hard day. No one really wants to be here. I’m here if you want to talk.

Ross: I’m not for this. I don’t like it.

Jacob: What do you mean? Would you tell me your story?

To show my respect and friendship, I did something that almost always works with other men. There is a white line painted on the sidewalk that I cannot legally cross. Pressing my toes to the line, I extended my hand to the man and said,

Jacob: My name’s Jacob.

From ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About Religion’ to ‘I Will Pray Tonight’

Sometimes when I have an opportunity to share my faith in Jesus, I don’t take it.

Stay with me.

Sadly, many people have had negative experiences with Christians, which makes them disinclined to engage with one again. If I jump at the first chance I have to witness to them, they are more likely to close up and be unwilling to talk at all.  Instead, I try to very intentionally create an environment where the person feels safe to discuss religion. [Tweet that!] It’s like the difference between welcoming someone to come inside and opening the door, and grabbing him by the hair and dragging him through it. Notice that I am not justifying Christians perpetually avoiding conversations about religion. We must be intentional about sharing our faith, but while also being prudent, making the most of the opportunity (Colossians 4:5-6). Sometimes the person never opens up, but other times, this approach really pays off.

On February 21st, 2015, Equal Rights Institute trained a group of students and community members in Bakersfield, CA. Then on the 23rd and 24th we brought them to CSU Bakersfield so they could put what they learned about dialogue into practice. We set up two simple poll tables to get conversations started.

On February 21st, 2015, Equal Rights Institute trained a group of students and community members in Bakersfield, CA. Then on the 23rd and 24th we brought them to CSU Bakersfield so they could put what they learned about dialogue into practice. We set up two simple poll tables to get conversations started.