So Now What Do We Do?
Practical Ideas for Adoption and Foster Care Ministries
It is exciting to see more and more church adoption and foster care ministries being launched. There are many helpful resources available to help new church ministries as they get started – and we have compiled some great ones on the Tapestry website. But as we talk with ministry leaders from around the country who have launched or are just about to launch church ministries we hear one question over and over: so now what do we do?
What these leaders are finding out is that launching an adoption or foster care ministry is one thing, but creating and developing ways to effectively connect, encourage and inform families is entirely another. It takes a continual supply of fresh ideas to effectively meet the needs of the parents and children connected to your ministry and to fulfill your ministry’s God-given vision. So we want to share with you several practical ideas that we believe will be helpful as your ministry moves forward.
- Think Big . . . While Keeping it Small – Many church ministries start by thinking BIG – big plans, big events, big crowds and big impact. While it is generally good to “think BIG,” we think one of the “biggest” ideas an effective adoption or foster care ministry can pursue is to create safe, small group environments for people to connect and find encouragement. Consider starting a playgroup for moms and kids or a small group for waiting families as a way to connect those in the same stage of the adoption or foster care journey. You might also consider organizing a night out for moms and moms-to-be at a local coffee shop as a great opportunity for women to talk about the unique joys and challenges of the adoption or foster experience.
- Identify Needs and Respond – We have learned that often the most effective activities and events come from simply identifying the needs of those in your church and your community and then responding. For example, it may be that many couples in your church have questions and even fears about adoption based on the many myths of adoption that they so frequently encounter. In response, an experienced adoptive family can prepare an educational talk to present quality information about the true realities of adoption. If you don’t know where to find this type of information, contact us and we will be happy to send you our materials.
- Stories, Stories, Stories – Stories have a way of connecting with hearts and minds. Find forums, both large and small, to allow families in your church or ministry to tell their story as a way to inform and encourage others. But be sure you know a little bit about each story that will be shared so that those who hear these stories leave with a realistic and accurate picture of adoption and foster care – and most of all with a sense of hope.
- Always Make Time to Celebrate – Sometimes the best way to “do adoption and foster care ministry” is simply to throw a party. Women in our ministry often get together to have a “sprinkle” (i.e., a mini-shower) for moms welcoming a baby or young child into their family or finalizing the adoption of a child from foster care. Many of our families also like to party at the airport baggage claim as we welcome home families arriving with their children adopted internationally or from out-of-state.
- Continue to Learn While You Serve – It is important to be well informed about the adoption and foster care landscape so that you can serve families and children well. Take time to locate quality, reliable resources and information that will help you become educated about aspects of the adoption and foster care world that you may not have directly experienced. For example, you may have adopted internationally but your ministry seeks to also serve foster families and those who have adopted from state foster care. As a result, it may be important to learn some basics about the foster care system so that you can better understand and serve foster families and those considering that path. Be sure to let us know if you would like help in finding these types of quality educational resources.
- Don’t Forget About the Guys – It is important not to forget about the guys when planning adoption and foster care ministry events. It is equally important to consider that guys often prefer to connect in different ways than women. As a result, playgroups and coffee shop chats aren’t likely to be popular with the guys. But we have found that a monthly burger night (at a new burger joint each month) is a great excuse for guys to get together and talk about adoption and whatever else is on their minds.
- Having Fun is Ministry Too – Periodically we plan an event with a single purpose in mind: to simply allow our families to have fun. We have previously rented a jump house playground to let the kids (and kids at heart) run and play, and for the past two summers, our families have come together at a small, local water park to swim and have fun. These family fun events have proven to be a great way for parents and children to connect and enjoy being together.
- Importance of Family-to-Family – We have learned that there is simply no substitute for families considering or exploring adoption or foster care being able to spend time with families that have already successfully navigated these paths. Experienced families in our ministry often invite pre-adoptive couples over for dinner or coffee and dessert in order to listen, answer questions, offer encouragement and pray. While large group events and impressive programs can certainly be helpful, we have consistently found that one-on-one love and care is always important in order for couples and families to experience the support and encouragement they so desperately want and need.
© 2007 Tapestry, a ministry of Irving Bible Church
Also Found In: Ministry Toolbox, Resources for Churches, Starting a Ministry