How to Start a Christian Support Group in Your Community

Beginning Steps

  1. Ideally, God has called you to this ministry and you have a church that will assist you, and be engaged in the ministry with you.
  2. If you do not have a church's support on this endeavor, seek training and educate yourself. There are organizations all over the country that train DV Advocates. Check the Recommended Resources page on this site.
  3. Spend enormous amounts of time in prayer. Ask faithful prayer warriors and intercessors to pray with you and for you, and for the women that God will send your way.
  4. Link up with other advocates. Ideally, you will find Christians to work with, but secular advocates are well educated and resourceful, too, and you will in any case be working with them in your community.
  5. Try to find an existing support group that will let you sit in a few times. This will help you get the feel of 'support group' thinking and dynamics.
  6. Read your Bible. Read it some more. God's Word is alive and working...let it work in you.
  7. You can order a supply of support group Bible study books right here on the website (see the sidebar). Even while you're waiting for them to arrive, get together with the women who need help and listen to them. Pray with them. Assist them with their needs as you are able. Most important, introduce them to Jesus and explain His great love for them. The Psalms can be a great source of comfort for hurting women. Remember: you don't heal them--God does.
  8. Particular Challenges Facing Rural Support Groups

    In a city, a hurting woman can seek help anonymously. In a city, she can probably attend a support group without anyone noticing that her car is in a particular parking lot. Or she can park some distance away and walk to where the meeting is (unless she's being stalked or followed!). Many groups run for twelve or sixteen weeks and then start the course over. There may be groups available in different parts of the city, and so a woman could choose a location where no one knows her. By the time she finishes her course, she will probably have made some connections that will allow her to receive continued support from someone closer to where she lives.

    In a rural area, there's no such thing as anonymous.

    In small towns, everyone knows what car you drive, where you work, and who your spouse is. It is far more difficult for a woman to attend a domestic violence support group that is not known about in the community.

    Therefore, a support group in a rural area should advertise itself as a women's Bible study group, and take the following precautions:

    • Let local pastors, law enforcement and advocates know where and when you hold your classes. Letting the police know the location and time of your class allows them to drive through the parking lot occasionally, in case a woman is being followed. It also provides a measure of protection for the women when arriving and leaving. Rural communities know their cops by name...make them some cookies now and then, to remind them how much you appreciate them.
    • Participation in the class must be by referral only. Women who want to attend can be given a "safe" phone number to contact the leader of the group. The number should be a cell phone with only the leader's number, and only her voice on the voice mail. This may prevent an abuser from knowing that the woman is attending anything but a Bible study, should he get hold of the number.
    • Hold classes at a local church or ministry building.
    • At your meeting location, have a locking file cabinet or drawer in which to keep all information about the group. That way, women can have a safe place to keep their important papers, safety plans, medical records, and keys. They may even need to leave their study materials there, if it is not safe for them to have information about domestic violence at home.
    • Because of the dynamics of a rural community, having a course that runs a set number of weeks may not work. Domestic violence support is an ongoing ministry, and women reach goals at different speeds. Many women stay in groups for years, helping other women as they come in by sharing their own experiences.
    • You are likely to see women from your class at the only grocery store or bank in town. It is important not to mention anything about what happens in class, when you meet in public. Saying "see you at class on Friday" is okay, but nothing more specific. The women's safety must always be your first consideration.
    • In rural communities, many people carry guns in their trucks and cars, especially during hunting season. It's normal--no one gives it a second thought. This can be dangerous for a woman in a violent relationship. Always be alert and pay attention. If a woman tells you that her husband is violent, make sure you know what his vehicle looks like. Ask her to bring a picture of him so everyone who comes to class knows what he looks like. If she is separated from him, make sure she has her no-contact order and/or let your law enforcement officers know of your concerns for her safety.