On a cold morning in February of 2015, I woke up in my warm home, read my Bible, drank coffee with my wife, and woke up my two kids from their snug beds. We fed them breakfast, and I drove them to school. I kissed each of them before they went in to learn from teachers who loved them, in classrooms that were inviting, and among friends they enjoyed.
That same morning, across our small town, my other two children, Sloan and Brooklyn, woke up in a hotel room with a person they didn’t know. Their biological mother had dropped them off and disappeared to get high on methamphetamine. Sheriff’s deputies were called because the person with whom they had been left didn’t know what to do with them.
Sloan and Brooklyn were transferred to the custody of the South Carolina Department of Social Services. They were placed into an emergency foster home for a couple of weeks and then were separated. In just a few short weeks, my 3-year-old and 2-year-old lost their parents, their extended family, and they lost each other.
Brooklyn was fortunate enough to land in a foster home where she would be loved for eight and a half months. Sloan, however, was labeled a difficult kid. My blond-haired, blue-eyed 2-year-old boy spent the next eight months being bounced from one foster home to the next. When he came to live with us two days before Thanksgiving in 2015, he had been moved six times in eight months.
I share this because stories matter. Stories communicate. Our story helps to put names and faces on a problem that we as the church have been called to engage.
And our story is just one. There are more than 4,000 children in foster care in South Carolina alone. Because of the lack of foster homes in our state, 61 percent of those children have to be placed outside of their home county. That means many children who are placed in foster care don’t just lose their homes and their families, they lose their school and friends. They lose everything.
The Department of Social Services reports there are more than 500 adoptable children in the state of South Carolina. More than 500 children — and 2,100 South Carolina Baptist churches. More than 500 children whose lives and eternity hang in the balance. If Christians turn their backs on children in need, then we have sentenced them to a Christ-less eternity. We can do better. We can be pro-life from womb to tomb, and pro-life means pro-foster care and pro-adoption.
Not everyone can or should adopt. Not everyone can or should be foster parents, but every church should look for how they can be involved in care for orphans.
May is National Foster Care Month and in honor of that, here are ways that you, as a pastor, can lead your church to engage children in foster care.
- Pray about whether or not you can foster or adopt children yourself. One of the greatest ways to lead your church members to open their homes to orphans is to lead by example.
- Host foster care trainings within your church.
- Provide meals. It’s fairly standard practice for small groups, support groups, women’s ministries, etc. to organize a meal calendar for a family when a new baby is born. Do the same for a foster family when a new child is brought to their home.
- Deliver care packages. If you’ve never been involved with the foster care system, you may not realize that most placements occur with very little notice or preparation time. Have supplies like diapers, gift cards, baby supplies and other necessities ready to be delivered.
- Facilitate support groups. These do not have to be elaborate. Create space and time for foster parents to be together to share their stories and experiences. It is a blessing to foster/adoptive families to learn that they are not the only ones who “feel this way,” or “acted this way,” or “have struggled just like that.”
- “Commission” foster and adoptive families in your church. Foster and adpotive families are doing mission work in their homes. Commission them for the task and dedicate their service to the Lord just as you would commission other missionaries.
- Pray for foster families. Pray for them in your study. Pray for them publicly. Recruit others to pray for foster families in your church. When we were early in our adoption process, our names stayed on the church prayer list for a long time and I’m so glad that our church prayed for us.
- Preach about it. James said it this way in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
We were once orphans, but no more. God has adopted us and made us His own. He has given us a hope and a future. There are thousands of children in our world who need a hope and a future through godly families and loving churches.
Pastors, you can’t do it all on your own, but you can lead your church to be involved in foster care and adoption. Caring for orphans is not an option, it is a command of the Lord and it is a wonderful privilege. It’s high time that we acknowledge this need and heed Christ’s call.