Ways Your Faith Community Can Care for the Fatherless
Mobilizing for adoption and foster care
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples (John 13:34-35).
As Jesus was approaching his crucifixion, he told the disciples that others would recognize they are Christ-followers by the love they show. Jesus commanded them to follow his example and the same imperative holds true for us. Those I encounter will see that I am a follower of Jesus, if I love as Jesus loves. Yet, my errant nature can hardly comprehend love that lays down life. Love that sacrifices self and endures intense pain. Love that is saturated with the assurance of redemption. Clearly, loving others with a Jesus-like love can’t possibly be sheltered or comfortable. This kind of love involves bold actions and big risks. Just as Jesus did, I must.
Jesus was explicit in his commandment; it is a demand of intentional doing, and we should heed James’s instruction: “Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to [God’s] word; instead, put it into practice” (James 1:22). For six years, I have heeded the call “to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering” (James 1:27). I am a foster mom, an adoptive mom, and a birth parent advocate–championing biological parents in their distress–because of Jesus. Not because doing so is free of despair, not because it is esteemed or comfortable, not because it brings blessings, though the invitation overflows with them, but because it provides me abundant opportunity to act as a witness for the love of Christ and demonstrate God’s love for us.
Supporting the Call to Foster or Adopt
While I aim to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, my small soles alone scarcely fill a single footprint of the love he showed while on earth. However, with others who surround me, we make a dent in a well-laid path.
Leaders can inspire and equip their community to support and serve those who devote their lives as foster and adoptive parents. Foster care and adoption are certainly not for everyone, but everyone can do something. Foster parents and adoptive parents are missionaries who have accepted the field into their home. Stories of brokenness enter through the front door of welcoming homes, and the body of Christ should help to hold the doors open (Psalm 10:14; Matthew 25:40).
My husband and I have a son through private adoption and a daughter through foster care adoption. We have reunited a foster daughter with her mother and are currently reunifying a foster son with his father. On top of that, we cultivate connections with members of all four birth families. It is messy and beautiful. It is imbued with loss and trauma, filled with mistakes and forgiveness, each moment carried and sustained only by grace (John 1:16). And, we don’t do it alone. Our community has wrapped around us and made the impossible feel possible. Meals, flowers, babysitting, and encouragement from Scripture show up during complicated, uncertain times. Believers celebrate and cry alongside us. They may not understand it all, and I may not be able to provide many details, but they know that caring for the fatherless isn’t easy, and they are on fire defending “the rights of the poor and the orphans” and being “fair to the needy and helpless” (Psalm 82:3).
Ways to Inspire and Equip Your Community
Here are some practical ways you can mobilize your faith community to support the call to care for the orphans, needy, and helpless children in our midst.
Adoptive and foster families can experience isolation, safeguarding the stories of their children and carrying the burdens of birth parents that aren’t theirs to share. That loneliness can be paralyzing. A family that feels valued by their church community is a softer landing place for vulnerable children. Leaders can create ministries or support groups, formal or informal, designed to consistently rally around foster and adoptive families. Everyone has a unique strength or spiritual gift they can use to serve a family caring for the fatherless (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
Leaders also have a precious responsibility to ensure that the faith-based environment is trauma-informed. “Those kids” can’t be labeled as “bad kids.” They need to be received as God’s gifts to us (Psalm 127:3). For example, parents of a foster or adopted child shouldn’t have to miss a sermon or, worse, avoid coming to church because they are afraid or embarrassed that their child will be pulled out of Sunday school or looked down on because of the behaviors that stem from trauma the child has endured. The community, especially volunteers that interact with children, must be provided strategies and knowledge to empower and empathize. (Here are helpful Trauma Healing resources).
Advocate for the Cause
Orphan Sunday is a great opportunity for leaders to advocate for the cause of the fatherless and bring awareness to the community, by joining other churches and organizations in locally-led events and gatherings. These may include sermons, concerts, prayer meetings, and shared meals. Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) founded Orphan Sunday with this powerful mission:
Each November, thousands of events will echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God’s great love for the orphan will find echo in our lives as well. Orphan Sunday is your opportunity to rouse church, community and friends to God’s call to care for the orphan.
To dive deeper, a leader can attend, or send others to the CAFO Summit. “The CAFO Summit inspires and equips the Church to care for orphans and vulnerable children with wisdom-guided love. Together, we explore effective foster care, adoption, family preservation and global orphan ministry.”
“We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19)
Choosing to love in uncertainty and loss is wearying. But, I am not alone. I am supported by those who desire to “make sure that orphans and widows are treated fairly” (Deuteronomy 10:18), and who choose to show up in the story of the fatherless. Because of them, I can keep pursuing the hearts of innocent children and their hurting families. I encourage you to join me: take a step into the story, hold the door open, and display a Jesus-like love.
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