Let me first start this one with some background about how God feels about orphans:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
Here is how God sees adoption:
To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:5-7
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Psalm 27:10
He literally uses it over and over to compare our new relationship with Him when we accept His free gift of salvation. I believe abandonment is injustice and God wants us to act. My husband and I adopted Liam not because we are his rescuers but because of the love God has put in our heart. I believe Jesus wants us to go after and love the hurting, abandoned and those that the world would see as "the least of these". There are millions of orphans in this world and I believe the Church should and could be doing more. It would change the lives of these children and it shows the world what the gospel really is.
My thoughts on this started because of a Facebook post on one of my adoption pages I follow. The person posting asked what churches could do to better help adopting/fostering families because they had a family leave their church over lack of support. The responses were mixed. Some families experienced a very supportive environment from their church, but sadly many were either silent or even intentionally hurtful.
I mentioned this post on Twitter and had someone who is going to school to become a pastor asked me what churches should be doing. I'm not on staff at a church, I'm just an adoptive mom but I will throw some ideas from my perspective. So here are a list of 10 things churches could be doing to support orphan care and fostering/adopting families.
1. Educate Yourselves and Your Staff
I have been shocked by how little the average Christian knows about the orphan and foster care crisis around the world. Find out how many children are in foster care in your area and which countries are currently allowing international adoption. Find out what happens to kids that age out without ever having a family. Educate yourself about the costs of all of these options to families. I have people ask me often how much it costs to adopt from China. I always start by asking them, "How much do you think it costs?" So far nobody has come close to guessing. The average answer is half of the actual cost. To learn more I would start with the Christian Alliance for Orphans.
2. Celebrate Orphan Sunday
Orphan Sunday is one day a year where your church can highlight the cause of orphans around the world. It is in November and an amazing opportunity to share the chance to give and pray for the fatherless. Maybe your church could fund a specific project for an orphanage in a country your church already supports. Maybe you could share adoption information or highlight families in your congregation that have or are adopting. However you choose to celebrate, it is a way of focusing on God's heart for those children in need.
3. Assign a Staff Member
One of the most helpful ways to help families in adoption or fostering process is to assign a pastor to care for them. Many applications to adopt or for adoption funding grants require a letter from a pastor and with many families (like ours) attending a very large church, it can be difficult for those families to know what to do. Make it clear to the congregation that if a family is entering this process, they can see Pastor Smith. Then Pastor Smith can meet with them, pray with them and they would feel connected to someone who can write them a letter of recommendation.
4. Mission Trips
Several translations of James 1:27 actually use the phrase "visit orphans and widows in their distress". I believe that part of a church's mission plan for the year should include visiting orphans and widows. That can be done through organizations that churches are already working with or partnering with an adoption agency and providing people and resources for orphanage visit trips. Our agency goes on several trips to different countries throughout the year. These trips are so crucial because the people who go are able to get information about these children and advocate for them. It can be a wonderful blessing to the children and often the teams' lives are changed by the experience.
5. Bring Them Meals
If your church organizes bringing new moms or those recovering from illness/surgery meals, please do the same for adopting families. I've given birth to 3 biological children and the lack of sleep from jet lag and adjustment from adoption is just as intense if not more so. Those first few weeks of bringing home a new child are a huge adjustment and something as simple as a fellow church member bringing a meal can mean the world. Treat this child the way you would any other new baby brought into the church.
6. Baby Dedication/Baptism
Please remember to add adoption language when you are posting about upcoming dedication/baptism events. This can be very subtle but acknowledge that not every dedication will be of a biological newborn.
7. Connect families
You can connect families though quiet personal ways of introducing them to each other or having an adoption/foster group through your church. Either way, this can go far to help families not feel so alone and get the support through the process that they desperately need.
8. Educate Your Children's Team
A child brought into your church through foster care or adoption will probably have different needs than children coming with their biological parents. One of the best and simplest ways to ease that child's transition is to ask their parent what your team can do to help. In our case, no one knew that our son was adopted and he was snapped at by a volunteer that didn't understand that he didn't speak English. Some families are working very hard on forming attachment with their new child and would rather they be the one to feed or rock their child to sleep so they need to know during service if that needs to happen. Many of these kids will have experienced trauma or have physical special needs, so it would be great if extra volunteers or volunteers with extra training could be present to help.
9. Meet Their Needs
I understand that churches cannot say yes to every need but anything would be a blessing to those adopting and fostering. Some churches give financial grants while others allow their members to host bake sales, rummage sales, or pancake breakfasts at their facility. Some churches also support these families by promoting their fundraising events. Most families in this country do not have the $30-40,000 it takes to complete an international adoption. Most families would be strained if they had to immediately buy all they needed to take on a foster child/children (carseats, crib, etc.). Anything you can do to help these families with their practical needs is very appreciated.
This is the most important thing you can ever do. Pray for orphans. Pray for families.
If just ONE family in every THREE churches in America adopted a waiting child, there would be no waiting children in foster care. International adoption is down over 60% in the last decade. We can do better as the body of Christ to care for the fatherless.
But don't take it just from me: