Consistent care for vulnerable children, women, and families ought to characterize a church’s heartbeat all year long.
By Chelsea Sobolik
November is National Adoption Month, a time when the nation collectively focuses its attention on ways to care for vulnerable children, domestically and abroad. This topic is dear to my heart for several reasons.
I was adopted from Romania as an infant and have five adopted siblings who were also adopted internationally. My husband and I are currently in our own international adoption process, taking steps to bring a little boy home from India. I’ve worked on child welfare policy in some capacity for a decade. Previously I worked on Capitol Hill, where my boss authored many pieces of legislation to protect the pre-born. Simultaneously, he was the co-chair of the Adoption Caucus—Congress’ largest bipartisan and bicameral caucus. Currently, I work for Lifeline Children’s Services to help advocate for policies that help vulnerable children, women, and families flourish.
The role of the church
While the government has a role to play in caring for the vulnerable, its role is limited. The church must be at the center of caring for the vulnerable. The mission of Lifeline is to equip the body of Christ to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children. In Psalm 68, David tells us that God sets the lonely in families. We want the children we serve to have forever families, but we also want them to know the truth and hope of the gospel. Caring for practical needs and spiritual needs go hand-in-hand.“The church must be at the center of caring for the vulnerable.” — @ChelsPat Click To Tweet
A pastor’s emphasis from the pulpit carries deep significance. He is modeling for and telling the church about the heart of God. Pastors should regularly remind their congregations that good works stem from changed hearts that are called to love the Lord with all we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). One of the biblical directives Christians are given is to care for the vulnerable and the fatherless. Throughout Scripture, we see numerous instances of God protecting orphans and urging His followers to do the same (James 1:27; Psalm 68:5-6).
The good news is your church doesn’t need to wait until an emphasis Sunday or an emphasis month rolls around to care for the vulnerable. Consistent care for vulnerable children, women, and families ought to characterize a church’s heartbeat all year long. Lifeline provides practical resources for your church to utilize both on Orphan Sunday and throughout the year.
Below are a few practical ways to encourage your congregation to care for the vulnerable:
George Müller, a Christian evangelist living in England in the 19th century, is an excellent example for us to remember as we pray for and care for vulnerable children. During his lifetime, he built five orphanages and cared for over 10,000 vulnerable children. His life and ministry are marked by a deep dependence on prayer and a deep trust in the Lord.
Müller wrote that “the first and primary object of the work was, (and still is) that God might be magnified by the fact, that the orphans under my care are provided, with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen, that God is faithful still, and hears prayers still.”
We should follow Müller’s example to regularly pray for the vulnerable—individually and corporately.
2. Consider adopting or fostering
Encourage your congregation to prayerfully consider adopting or fostering. While we often discuss adoption and foster care together, it’s important to understand that adoption and foster care aren’t the same. While adoption is a beautiful, redemptive option, in a fallen world, it is always born out of loss. Building your family through adoption will come with unique joys and sorrows. But as Christians, we can walk forward in the tension of the beauty and brokenness, knowing that the Lord has promised to never leave or forsake us in our journey.“The church should step up and provide safe, loving, and gospel-centered homes for children and youth in need.” — @ChelsPat Click To Tweet
The goal of foster care is reunification, but approximately 1 in 4 children and youth in foster care are eligible for adoption, meaning there’s no chance they’ll be reunified with their biological families. Every community across the United States is in desperate need of more individuals and families to open their homes and become foster families. The church should step up and provide safe, loving, and gospel-centered homes for children and youth in need.
3. Support those in your congregation who are adopting and fostering
They say it takes a village to raise a child. How much more so raising a child from a hard place? Entering foster care is traumatic because a child or youth is removed from their home and family. Children in foster care have often been in more than one foster home. And transitioning to new homes with new families can often come with a steep learning curve. Families who adopt or foster need support and care. The church can provide very practical support to those families. Whether it’s financial support, dropping off a meal, or regularly checking in on the family, the body of Christ can wrap around families who are called into adopting or fostering.“Whether it’s financial support, dropping off a meal, or regularly checking in on the family, the body of Christ can wrap around families who are called into adopting or fostering.” — @ChelsPat Click To Tweet
Additionally, leaders in the church (pastors, ministry leaders, small group leaders) should learn trauma-informed practices to be better equipped to interact with them and their families. Trauma-informed care recognizes the effects of trauma on a child and helps us understand the paths for recovery from that trauma.
A heart for the vulnerable
May we pray for and work towards a day when vulnerable children, both in our communities and around the world, know the power of the gospel and have a safe, permanent, and loving home. We have been deeply and richly blessed by our spiritual adoption into God’s family. May we, in turn, be a blessing to the vulnerable.
Chelsea Patterson Sobolik serves as the Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy for Lifeline Children’s Services, the leading evangelical child welfare organization in the country. She is the author of Longing for Motherhood and a forthcoming book on women and work. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Michael.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.