Foster care is a growing concern of the American evangelical church, even though a small portion of churches talk about, according to new Lifeway Research. The survey of over 1,000 participants found that 25 percent of respondents knew someone involved in foster care over the past year; however, 12 only percent of churchgoers say their church promotes foster involvement, with 6 percent saying their church provides training.
One of the ongoing difficulties of leading a church is feeling as though you have to be all things, to all people, and the idea of promoting or creating yet another ministry can feel exhausting. That being said, here are three reasons leaders of churches should prayerfully consider leading their church toward serving (either directly or indirectly) in the world of foster care.
The Need for Foster Care Is Enormous
In 2015 over 427,000 children were removed from their homes due to neglect, physical abuse, substance abuse, or a variety of other reasons. The numbers have steadily grown over the past 4 years while most state foster programs are underfunded and understaffed. In some cases, when there are no options, these children are placed in group facilities while they wait for a home to open up. In many cases children are divided from their brothers and sisters when homes are unable or unwilling to provide space for their siblings.
Across the country, local foster care systems are desperate for stable families who will provide a measure of stability for children experiencing a traumatic uprooting from the life they know.
Foster Care is Part of a Pro-Life Ethic
Being anti-abortion is a vital, righteous, God-honoring cause the church must get behind, and it’s worth considering what being fully pro-life means. Children saved from abortion enter the world of a mother who, for various reasons, was considering ending her pregnancy. In many cases, these same mothers find themselves incapable of taking care of their children for a period of time as they go through rehab, find a job, or develop the emotional tools to be a non-abusive parent. Some of them are never able to be reunited with that child.
So often we think of taking action in the pro-life movement via the ballot box. It’s easy as a church to be anti-abortion in a political sense—that requires little sacrifice—but being pro-the-life-of-a-child requires practical action. Voting for pro-life measures is great, but a failure to help children in need communicates hypocrisy and shallowness to a culture we’re trying to convince to do away with abortion altogether.
God’s Word Strongly Endorses Foster Care
Throughout the Bible God is clear to his people—first Israel, then the church—that a major priority is to care for the widows and orphans. The connective theme between those two groups is that they were the most defenseless, uncared for, vulnerable people-groups surrounding the people of God. One of these groups today are the forgotten children of the foster care system.
James says that true, pure religion is to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27), and while there are many ways for a church to do this, it’s worth praying whether God would have your church specifically serve the foster care system in your community.
Where to Begin with Foster Care
If you sense God nudging you to learn more, here are three quick ways you can lean into this topic: