This post is part of a series by Dr. Chipman. You can read Part 1 here.
If you plan to foster or adopt a child in the coming months, you can set yourself in the right path by cultivating five relationships along the way. See this process as part of your training for welcoming children into your home. Last week, I noted that developing a parenting ministry partnership with your spouse will help you prepare for the ups and downs of the foster or adoption journey. Here I want to think with you about deepening your ministry partnership with your local church.
I would be mistaken if I assumed that all readers of the FTC blog were active members of a local body. So, first things first. If you are not an active member of a local church, I would suggest you first develop that committed relationship before you try to commit yourself to needy kids. The New Testament describes believers as parts of the same body, members of one another (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:4-31; Eph 4:1-16, 25). So, go ahead and recognize that fact in your local church by officially completing the membership process. This will allow your church leaders and your brothers and sisters in Christ there know that you wish to partner with them in gospel ministry—and wish for them to partner with you in the ministry of foster care or adoption.
Did you notice that I am using the same language to describe your relationship with your spouse and your local church? Partnership. As a member of the body of Christ in a local church, you enjoy a mutual commitment with other believers that reflects your relationship with your spouse. In this way, your ministry of foster care or adoption becomes their ministry too. This is the power of the local church, gospel ministry in real time. So, join a local fellowship and let that fellowship partner with you in all of life. To help your local church partner well with you in your foster or adoption journey, I suggest you connect with the following:
1. A Pastor. I am not concerned here with the leadership structure of your church, just get in touch with the pastor you know best at your church and let them know of your burden to foster or adopt. Whether your church has a membership of 50, 500, or 5,000, informing the pastoral leadership in on your plans will be step one in helping the church join with you in your parenting ministry. So, make an appointment and share your heart. Don’t think the pastoral staff too busy—God’s work in your life is what they live for! And don’t be offended if they ask hard questions about your preparedness—that is why God has them in your life. Remember that one bulk email from your pastor to the church can quickly get the body behind you, so keep your pastor in the loop as the process develops.
2. A Small-Group Leader. Whether your church has Sunday School classes, adult Bible fellowship or home-groups, connect with whoever you are closest to. Speak to them privately about your plans to foster or adopt before announcing your plans publicly to the group. This will ensure he is on your team and will allow him an opportunity to arrange the best time for you to share your news with the group at a gathered meeting. Your small group will play a vital role in the success of your foster or adoption ministry. Along the way, they will support you with prayer, meals, visitation, babysitting, and verbal encouragement. God will enliven the gifting He has placed in your small group and you will experience the body of Christ in action as perhaps never before.
3. Nursery, Children’s Ministry, and Youth Leaders. I have arranged my ideas here from general to specific. Your pastor needs to know generally of your foster or adoption plans. Your small-group leader needs a bit more information. The nursery, children’s, and youth staff need to know the details and they need to know your kids personally. It may be the case that the children who come into your home will have never attended a church gathering. Most of their socialization will likely have taken place in Darwinian environments of “survival-of-the-fittest” ethics. When the kids get into nursery, Sunday School, or youth group, there is little chance that they will not struggle. So, by connecting these church leaders with your kids personally, outside of church gatherings, you will provide a framework for relational discipleship. And you will avoid some of the behavioral struggles that are part-and-parcel of foster care and adoption. So, have these leaders over for dinner with your new kids; go to a park, museum, or sporting event together; video chat with them on a weeknight. The more comfortable your kids are with those who lead the children’s and youth ministries of your church, the more comfortable your church will be in partnering with you for parenting ministry over the long haul.