By Kelly McCorkle Parkison
With the rise in Christian families pursuing adoption as a means to both grow their family and as a picture of the gospel, churches have the opportunity to come alongside them as they walk through the process.
There are many avenues of adoption including foster care, domestic or international adoption, even becoming a stepparent in a blended family. Each adoption journey is different and has its own unique needs.
Even though the types of adoptions may differ among families in your church, no matter what, the church should first remember to be “the church.” If the church is truly about loving Jesus, reaching the nations, and making disciples, then the church will love families through the adoption journey.
For churches looking for practical ways to serve adopting families, here’s how to walk with them in their process from beginning to end.
1. Encourage those interested in adoption.
Let’s say one Sunday, a family announces in their small group they are feeling led to adopt. Immediately, they should feel loved and encouraged by their church body. It’s vital they know their church family is regularly praying for them as they think through this decision.
Churches can be proactive by starting an adoption/foster care support group to connect a prospective family with other church members who have similar desires or who have already walked the adoption path.
Adoption Awareness Month and National Orphan Sunday take place in November. It would be a great gesture to recognize these new adopting families and existing families in a special way during that month.
2. Help with the cost and provide tangible support.
Finances are the number one deterrent to families considering adoption. Churches might consider a designated line item in their yearly budget to provide adoption grants.
Furthermore, the family’s small group can help them with fundraisers. They can promote events through word of mouth and social media. Also, group members being physically present at fundraisers demonstrates love and support for the adopting family.
Most important, keep praying for them. Pray for God’s incredible provision of their financial needs. The church will see God answer their prayers through His incredible generosity as He faithfully provides the money needed by the adopting families.
3. Comfort them during the waiting.
Next comes the waiting for families, and this can be the toughest part. There is waiting to complete the paperwork; waiting to hear if the paperwork is approved; waiting to be matched with a child; waiting for the court approval; waiting for your child to come home.
The waiting period will vary from one journey to another. But it doesn’t matter how short or long the waiting period is, it’s still difficult. The parents are seeking to trust in God’s perfect timing as they are longing for the child or children to come.
The family’s faith will be tested and pushed to the limits as they seek to remember God is in control. This is an important time for a church to rally around an adopting family.
In a book I wrote about our family’s adoption journey, He Knows Her Name, I described the church body as Aaron and Hur when they held up Moses’ arms when he no longer had the strength to do so in the battle against the Amalek armies (Exodus 17:11-13). In our journey, it was a group of godly women who surrounded me in prayer and spoke truth from God’s Word over me.
These women held me up until the adoption was completed. In times of weariness, when I began to lose faith, when I had urges to give up, when negativity would arise, these women held up my hands and lifted my eyes toward Almighty God. What a blessing to be surrounded by such godly women!
Church, be Aaron and Hur for adopting families.
4. Rejoice with the family, but understand the process is not over.
Just like the gospel, adoption ends with great news. The parents will be united with their child, and they will become a forever family. This is one of the most joyous times for the family, as they are finally bringing their child home.
However, the process isn’t over, as the “messiness” of bonding takes place in the family. This is another crucial time for a body of believers to step in and be the church.
A church can provide meals for the adopting family, clean their home, and take any biological children on an outing, so they can have a sense of normalcy. After some time of bonding has taken place, the church can also provide respite care, so the parents can have a small break.
In addition, it’s important for the church to be sensitive to adoptive families during their adjustment period. Church members should not judge adoptive parents when they are parenting or disciplining differently.
Avoid insensitive questions about the child’s history or asking if they like their new family. Don’t comment about “how lucky they are.” Although most of these questions and comments will be done with purest of motives, they can still be touchy for some families.
Respect the adoptive family’s routines and boundaries. It’s important not to hug, kiss, or pick up the new child, if the family is still teaching them about the dynamics of the family relationship versus the friend and acquaintance relationship.
And as always, continue to pray. We are all flawed people, and when you add the intermingling of different cultures, races, family dynamics, and backgrounds, it can add an extra strain on the adoptive family. Pray for their strength and endurance to finish strong in the bonding process.
In the end, it’s a matter of the church being the church to adoptive families. Love Jesus and love those in your church family. Adoptive families will need your stability, your counsel, your prayers, and your support. I am so thankful for my sweet church family that walked with our family every step of the way.
KELLY MCCORKLE PARKISON (@KellyParkison) is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom to five kids in Tennessee, and author of He Knows Her Name: A Relentless Pursuit to Adopt from India. She is also a former Miss South Carolina and contestant on CBS’ The Amazing Race.