On Tuesday and Wednesday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson reached out to faith leaders in the state to join him for the Restore Hope Summit. This event was intended to address prison re-entry and the foster care crisis happening in Arkansas and I must say that it was a very well organized and successful event. I am grateful to report that there was a great turnout of faith leaders across the state, including pastors and non-profit leaders. I appreciate not only the work of our states governor but of my friend and State Representative David Meeks on this matter.
It was during this event that we were able to hear the stories of multiple people who had been through the foster system and a few who ultimately found a place that they now call home. I was also reminded of just how many opportunities the church has to serve those in foster care. Often, it’s hard for people to get past the stigmas of foster care and even more difficult for them to come to a place where they are willing to serve.
I have been involved with The CALL for nearly two years and foster care is something dear to the heart of my home. So when our state director, Lauri Currier, called and asked if I would serve on a panel of pastors at this event, I was honored and eager. She told me that my objective was to share practical tips and encouragement with other leaders in the room as it pertained to engaging and mobilizing our communities in the area of foster care. I shared the stage with three other men who are powerfully and successfully leading ministries who are seeing great response from their people in the area of foster care.
I want to share my three part response to the question I was asked in regards to educating pastors on how to encourage their people to be involved in foster care.
1. Identify those who are already involved.
More than likely, you have someone in your church who already has a connection with adoption or foster care. If not, you have a person, or a group, who wants to know more about how to be involved in foster care. Approach those people and be willing to lead through following. Give them the responsibility of familiarizing themselves with the need in your area and connecting with other churches and organizations who are already doing things well. Then, schedule a meeting with those people to hear about what they learned. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Be humble and be willing to ask for help. Encourage your people to take charge and then offer them the resources you have to see this become a successful ministry in your church.
2. Break down the big numbers.
It can be overwhelming for the person not involved in foster care to hear that there are 4,000 foster children in their state. Find someone in your church or community who is fostering or who has adopted and put that family in front of your church. Introduce that family and communicate to your people that this crisis may be bigger than you, but that you can make a difference in the life of one child. No one person can effectively minister to 4,000 individuals, but put them in contact with a few, and big things can happen.
3. Envelop the rhetoric in your theology.
I know, that sounds too complicated. But let me break it down: remind your people that they have been adopted. When you preach the Bible, it’s pretty easy to make a bee line to the story of our own helpless state before we were adopted by our Father. Crazy, right? If you are faithful to preaching the Gospel and your people believe it, their hearts are already softened and geared to the fact that these children don’t belong to the state, but to the church.. because they belong to God. When you preach about being pro-life, communicate the connection of the value that all humans have in the eyes of God. When you share your testimony, communicate the connection of you pre and post conversion and the victory you experienced though the loving act of God adopting you.
So, pastors, how will you encourage your church to act?
Will you ask the sweet ladies to make meals that can be stuck in the freezer for foster families? Will you approach the handy men and offer to lend a weekend a month to help the foster families in your church? Will you finally set aside a few minutes out of your busy schedule to meet with families who want to see your church involved?
I have heard it said “not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something.”