Sidewalk counseling is a life-saving ministry of the pro-life movement, but not all pro-life advocates feel ready or called to sidewalk counsel. Many instead serve as peaceful witnesses through prayer outside of abortion facilities. This non-talking role is massively important but often underestimated because pro-life advocates do not fully understand how much they are able to participate through their presence. In this article, I will share with you some ways that pro-life volunteers have assisted my sidewalk counseling ministry.
Sidewalk counselors have two goals when they go to an abortion facility. First, they want to save babies and help families. Second, they want to shut down the abortion facility. Advocates who choose to be “Non-talkers,” also sometimes referred to as “Prayer Warriors,” can help advance both goals through their peaceful witness. Non-talkers help with the primary goal by supporting talkers through prayer, by holding signs, or as a witness to what is going on, especially if the police need to be called. Non-talkers help with the secondary goal by being a witness to the community. We go into detail about how this works and how much optics matter in the Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass but I will be focusing on the primary goal in this article.
Non-talkers can hold welcoming signs that offer help to the families coming to the facility. I recommend signs like, “Free Ultrasound and Pregnancy Verification,” “Here to Help, Not to Judge,” or “Today is a Hard Day, We are Here to Help.” Signs like these are conducive to helping the sidewalk counselors start conversations with the abortion-minded woman. They offer sympathy and resources. We talk more about signs in the course as well, including how some can seem helpful from the pro-life perspective but may be off-putting to the families coming to the abortion facility, making it more difficult to start conversations.
Signs add to your presence because they can communicate to those driving by or driving in that you are there for a purpose. This can raise awareness in the community, especially if you are there on a consistent basis.
I have been sidewalk counseling since 2012 and unfortunately, there have been times when it was necessary for me to call the police. We shouldn’t do this frivolously, but we also shouldn’t hesitate when there is a serious risk. There have been multiple times when cars have purposefully and recklessly driven right up to and past us, coming very close to hitting me and my fellow sidewalk counselors. I have also had a clinic escort become threatening and physically shove me while I was at the clinic. (For that full story, see my blog post, Why I Called the Police at the Abortion Facility Last Month)
In times like these, for the safety of everyone, it can sometimes be necessary to call the police and make a report. Unfortunately, when you are making a report it can turn into a he said/she said situation unless there is some sort of video evidence. This can be one of the key roles for peaceful witnesses that can go overlooked. Non-talkers should be ready to record with their phones if something happens because third party videos from a small distance can usually show more of the story than a video being recorded by the people involved.
The very presence of pro-life advocates showing up to the abortion facility can boost the morale for sidewalk counselors. It can be an emotionally draining process to participate in this ministry, but knowing that there are other people who care enough to be there with us and do something about what is going on can sometimes make all the difference. Not only does your presence help uplift the sidewalk counselors, but it can be a visible sign to the abortion-minded mom coming in that we are here to support her and stand with her if she decides she wants to leave the facility.
In our training, I highly recommend that pro-life advocates never go to the abortion facility by themselves and they should have at least one other person with them, but it is much better to have multiple people there, if possible. If there is a larger crowd it can be best to have the non-talking peaceful witnesses to stand across the street. The sidewalk counselors should stand in the opportune spot to wave down cars coming into the parking lot, but it all depends on the layout of the facility you are at and the public right-of-way in that area.
For Christians, we understand that prayer plays a massive role in this ministry. While at the abortion facility, many peaceful witnesses come to bring prayerful support. They can pray for the sidewalk counselors and the families who have abortion appointments that day. 40 Days for Life is an international prayer campaign that organizes prayer outside abortion facilities so you should try to get connected with them and if there isn’t a chapter in your area, you should consider starting one!
If you have never been to an abortion facility before, I encourage you to give it a shot and bring a friend with you when you go. Most people are afraid of going because they worry they will say the wrong thing or not know what to do. But anyone can go and be a peaceful witness to what is happening there. By holding a sign or simply building a presence on the sidewalk, you can make an impact on the abortions taking place in your community. [Tweet that]
If you want to learn more about how to be a better peaceful witness or sidewalk counselor, you should become a member of the Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass, available September 2019 and available for preorder now. I created this in depth course because in my time as a sidewalk counselor I have learned what really works and doesn’t work in front of the abortion facility to accomplish our goals as pro-life advocates and I want to share that with you. We have 18 lessons of training content that cover everything from how to start conversations with abortion-minded women to what to bring with you on a counseling day.
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The post Peaceful Witness: Prayer and Beyond originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”