Ten Simple Ways Your Church Can Serve Foster Families (by Jason Johnson)

Foster care is a Church problem, not a state child welfare problem. It is a Gospel issue first, not a government issue. The Church has both the duty and privilege to speak on behalf of and stand for the sake of those who cannot speak and stand for themselves because that is exactly what God has done for us through Jesus. That’s the Gospel.

Kids in foster care are not the government’s kids, they are God’s kids and therefore the Church’s responsibility. In response, many families choose to submit to the laborious and often painstaking process of becoming licensed foster homes so that abused, neglected and marginalized kids can have a safe, nurturing and Jesus-centered place to find refuge and be loved. The work these families do is full of unbelievable difficulties and unspeakable joys. On a daily basis they carry both the weight of brokenness and the hope of redemption on their shoulders and in their hearts. They live, breathe, cry and walk out the Gospel in the vulnerable lives of these young kids while exposing their marriages, their children and their community of friends to a warfare unlike any other. It is a calling – a hard, beautiful, worthwhile calling.

But not everyone is called to be a foster parent. As a matter of fact, most people in the Church won’t ever bring a child into their home for any extended period of time. But this does not mean they, and the Church as a whole, don’t have an essential and necessary role to play in the lives of these foster families and the children they are giving themselves over to.

While we are all not called to do the same thing, we are all certainly created to do something. That’s how the Body of Christ works – ears, eyes, hand feet, etc. – the collective diversity of different parts all coming together for the common good. Perhaps it could be said this way: You’re either called to bring children into your home or you’re capable of serving and supporting those who do. These kids, after all, are God’s kids and therefore all of our responsibilities within the Church. So while this list is certainly not exhaustive, here’s ten simple, unique and diverse ways that a church can practically serve foster families within their body – and in so doing participate in their calling and responsibility to care for God’s kids by serving and supporting the families who have brought them into their homes.

1) Organize a Meal Calendar
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.

2) Schedule Lawn Care
Do whatever you can to relieve any amount of burden you can from the family – like organize a team of people in the church who rotate mowing foster families lawns while they have children in their homes.

3) Certify Babysitters
It is illegal to leave a foster child with a babysitter that is not (in most cases) CPR certified and background checked. This means most families struggle to find babysitters. Host CPR certification classes at the church. Have sitters ready for families!

4) Conduct Dedication Ceremonies
Most churches celebrate Parent/Child Dedication ceremonies during the year. Do the same for foster families. When they bring in a new placement pray for them in front of the church and have the body commit to support them!

5) Host Date Night Childcare
Once a quarter or every semester (or even once a month) the church can hire certified babysitters for a Friday or Saturday night and allow foster families from the church and community (hint: outreach!) the chance to go on a date!

6) Deliver Care Packages
Most placements occur with little to no notice. Often times within hours. Have things like diapers, gift cards, baby supplies, and other necessities ready to go to be dropped off to a family immediately after receiving a child.

7) Stock a Supply Pantry
In conjunction with the care packages develop a supply pantry that stores items like diapers, cribs, strollers, car seats, baby equipment, bikes and other things that families may immediately need upon a child placement.

8) Build a Respite Care Team
Certified babysitters can watch a child for a short period of time (generally less than 48 hours). When extended breaks are needed or travel plans require it, respite care providers are needed. These are extremely hard to find. Have a team at your church ready!

9) Facilitate Support Groups 
Foster parents live in a unique world of state regulations, bio-parent visits and licensing guidelines as well as experience the emotions that come along with loving vulnerable children. Give them a place to connect, share experiences and encourage one another.

10) Pray
Pray for them. They are engaged in a spiritual battle over the lives of incredibly vulnerable children. They are standing on the frontlines and in the gaps for these kids while willingly placing themselves in the path of the Enemy’s attacks.

The Church is uniquely equipped with a variety of giftings, callings and passions to effectively eliminate the foster care crisis in our country. The opportunities to serve these kids and the families who care for them are endless and full of possibilities.

Perhaps the script at your church could be this simple:
“At __________ __________ Church, some of us are going to bring children into our homes; the rest of us are going to find ways to serve and support them!”

 


 

This article was republished with permission from Jason Johnson Blog. This blog is an excellent resource for foster/adoptive parents, and the churches supporting them. It’s well worth your time to read. Expect to be both encouraged and convicted.

 


 

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4 thoughts on “Ten Simple Ways Your Church Can Serve Foster Families (by Jason Johnson)

  1. Maria

    These suggestions are right on. I think it’s in Texas a program has started, partly supported by the state, in which one family within a church becomes licensed for foster care. Then the church actively and purposefully supports that family in ways such as those in this article, finding every way possible to keep the foster family strong and able to continue foster care. There is such a huge need for foster homes and it is so much work to get licensed. If a couple or family can actually get licensed, they need a lot of support to keep from getting burned out and giving up.

    We were licensed for five years but finally had to stop doing foster care because we could not take good care of our own children AND do all that foster care requires, since we did not have much support around us.

    How I wish the Anabaptist churches would embrace a plan like this! It is a wide open door for ministry. It’s even funded mostly by the state, so our mission money can still go to Central America and Africa! The state is begging us to take children into our homes, love them, teach them, train them! How the Early Church would have capitalized on the opportunity!

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    1. I’m wondering, too, if we will even have the resources we need to foster. At the very least, we can offer relief to other foster families by providing in-home babysitting and respite care.

      I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church meeting that discussed the orphan problem. Instead, we are too busy with things like making/enforcing/tweaking rules and constructing expensive buildings. Yet James says that PURE RELIGION is TAKING CARE OF THE FATHERLESS. How much clearer can it get?

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  2. Jean Zook

    We are foster parents & the article is right on! Wow!! Several of the points have been painful issues to me. One was the church dedication thing. We have experienced baby dedications & at one particular dedication, we had 4 foster kids…from 0-5 in our care. We wrestled with what to do…..our hearts longing for the same spiritual blessings, for the kids in our care, that other parents had for their precious babies. But none of our 4 were dedicated yet. Do we just dedicate the infant & skip the 11 month old & the two preschoolers?? There already was a whole line-up of new babies and hubby expressed not wanting to take away from the other families & the special-ness of their day. That frustrated me because that was like saying that our foster kids were “less than” & yet I knew hubby was trying to be respectful. I hoped someone would specifically invite us to join. But nobody said anything & I committed it to God. I have personally prayed & dedicated the kids to God, & I know God is not limited at all!! He is going to make little warriors out of those kids yet! 🙂 But there was/is still a conflict in my spirit….wishing that someone would tell us it was ok to bring our little ones too.

    We did receive baby meals…..when a new sibling was born & came to live with us. That was very special! There was a small sense of guilt too, because another young couple had also just had a new baby…their 1st. My heart was afraid of being a burden & an obligation…..in the midst of such joy at this couples 1st baby. But I tried to be a gracious receiver.

    Probably the part that struck me the most from the article, & made me teary, was the part about us being on the battle front & being so vulnerable. People have no idea unless they’ve experienced it. Its an intensely lonely & hard place to be at times & I am grateful for the people God brings our way who understand & reach out to help.

    Thanx so much for sharing that article! Blessings on your own journey!! It is a hard road to walk, but also is an incredible mission field. The kids are so willing to soak up Jesus because He ministers to them in their intense pain. Ive seen it again & again!! Take heart! 🙂

    ~Jean

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