April 27, 1990, began as a normal Friday for Shea Lowery, a mom of two small children in northwest Alabama. Shea’s husband, Jeff, left early for a construction job and the young mother busied herself tending to the needs of a 2- and a 3-year-old.
Later that day, Shea and the kids headed out to tell neighbors about their church’s weeklong revival. Friday was Friendship Night. In the days before cell phones and COVID, one knocked on doors and issued in-person invites.
When a nagging pain turned into a “sick headache,” Shea and the kids detoured by her sister’s house so she could rest.
Then the phone rang.
“There’s been an accident. Keep Shea there till I can come for her,” Shea’s mom told the sister.
Lowery’s memories remain vivid more than three decades later: Her mother’s face while speaking to the doctor as Shea paused at hospital information.
Family members walking through the door of a small room where the doctor had taken Shea to deliver the bad news.
A moment alone in a hospital restroom after viewing her husband’s body when she looked in the mirror and asked, “God, what am I going to do?”
“I thought Jeff had just been hurt,” Shea recalled. Instead, he had been killed instantly in an electrical accident on the construction site.
Shea Lowery’s world was upended.
“I was a 24-year-old stay-at-home mom with no college education. I had awakened that morning a married woman and I [went] to bed that night a single mom,” she recalled.
“The funeral comes and goes,” she mused. “Life got to going again for our family. A new journey was appointed.”
A new journey
Part of that new journey, Lowery knew, would someday involve a calling into full-time Christian ministry. But she had children to raise.
“I prayed a Hannah’s prayer: ‘Lord, if you will allow me to raise my family near family, I will go to seminary.’” He did, and when the kids were grown, the Lord “came calling.”
Meanwhile, Lowery finished her undergraduate education at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.
Remarriage never appeared on the horizon, but seminary did. Lowery started postgraduate work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary before accepting a scholarship to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where she earned a master of arts in biblical counseling and a doctor of educational ministry in family ministries.
In 2017, while at Southwestern, Lowery started Entrusted Hope Ministries, a 501(c)(3) speaking and writing outreach. Ensuing years found her speaking at numerous Christian events.
Lowery joined First Baptist Church Dallas soon after beginning studies at Southwestern Seminary. Then singles pastor Michael Perron (now at Prestonwood) asked her to teach a Sunday School class for single moms. After praying, Lowery said yes and agreed to attend a planning meeting April 27, 2017.
Only Shea knew it was the anniversary of her husband’s death.
Sporting “big black sunglasses” to hide her tears, she remembered God’s goodness. “What a faithful God You are. You allowed me to live out the life of a single mom, and now You are allowing me to use what You entrusted to me to entrust to others,” she recalled telling the Lord.
“People who are going through trials have no idea how God will use the trial,” Lowery said. “They made it to the other side, but not without the storm in the middle.”
Lowery named the new class “Strong & Courageous” and started teaching. She soon saw the need to broaden the outreach.
She discussed possibilities with Perron and Pam Brewer, First Dallas women’s ministries director, who encouraged her. In addition to preparing materials for the Sunday School class, she began working on ideas for a single moms ministry model that churches could adopt. This formed the basis of her doctoral project at Southwestern.
She named the new ministry as she had the class: Strong & Courageous, an outreach of Entrusted Hope. The name evoked Joshua 1:9, where the Lord urges Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” Since Lowery’s full first name is O’Shea, the original version of Joshua, the link to the Old Testament hero seemed apt.
Word got out. Pastors started contacting Lowery, telling her that when the material was finished, they wanted access. Some inquired about translating the content into other languages.
Charla Vinyard, Entrusted Hope board member since its inception, affirmed the ministry’s importance since “the single mother is the fastest-growing segment of our society.”
“Instead of walking up to a single mom and patting her on the back and telling her, ‘You can do this,’ why not teach her how to biblically?” Lowery noted.
FBC Dallas has embraced Strong & Courageous. Lowery now also teaches a Sunday evening course as part of the church’s Discipleship University. Through First Dallas, S&C offers fellowship and discipleship opportunities for single moms, including outings with the kids.
For DU this fall, Lowery is teaching a seven-week Bible study she wrote based on Joshua and other Scripture. Attendees will also learn practical life skills as resumé building and financial management.
For the broader Christian community, S&C offers a four-phase model for congregations wishing to engage in single moms ministry:
- Phase I: Launch: A seven-week study on spiritual disciplines written by professors and their wives from Blue Mountain College, Southwestern and New Orleans seminaries
- Phase II: Living it out: The Entrusted Lessons for the Journey Bible study written by Lowery
- Phase III: Going deeper: A discipleship program encouraging the mentoring of younger women by older ones
- Phase IV: Equip: A series focusing on life skills for single moms including workplace and interview tips and counsel in money and time management
Lowery said she is currently exploring options for publishing the model for churches to use.
A ministry opportunity
Churches are signing on and Lowery finds herself in meetings frequently these days.
More than 40 women from Hillcrest Baptist Church in New Albany, Mississippi, are now going through the study with Lowery via Zoom. Instead of waiting on a published version, the church has printed the material for attendees.
FBC Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has scheduled Lowery to teach Entrusted Lessons in person in January 2022 and will film the series for distribution.
Lifeway has asked her to write two blogs: one on the loss of her husband and the other with tips for churches carrying out single moms ministry.
For single moms such as Nikki Lopez, who serves as the Sunday School class director and administrator for S&C activities at FBC Dallas, the heart of the ministry is friendship.
“When I became a single mom, I didn’t have friends or support outside my family,” Lopez said. Now her S&C friends provide encouragement, support, spiritual counsel and even babysitting for one another.
“I love that Shea was a single mom herself. She is somebody we can come to. She understands what we are really going through. She has lived it as a single mom,” Lopez said.
Churches and moms desiring more information should visit https://entrustedhopeministries.org/strong-and-courageous to find daily Scriptures, lessons, mom tips, links to podcasts, blogs, prayer support and other resources.