When Sam Rainer coined the word “adoption” two years ago as a descriptor of one church acquiring another, I knew he was on to something. Instead of using corporate words like “acquisition” or unclear words like “replanting,” he used a powerful familial word. Adoption is one family bringing another family member into the household of faith.
I followed Sam’s example a year later by using the word, “fostering” to refer to a healthier church helping a less healthy church for a season. In the case of adoption, the arrangement is permanent. For fostering, the relationship is temporary.
Both are important and powerful words because they describe two distinct but closely related movements that are important and powerful. Why are these terms so important? Even more, why are the movements behind them so important? Here are five reasons:
- When a church is adopted or fostered, closure is prevented or, at the very least, less likely. There is therefore still a congregational presence in the community. The physical resources intended for God’s work remain for God’s work.
- The pandemic has increased the need for church adoption and fostering. More churches are struggling. More churches are at risk of closure. More pastors are leaving under pressure and frustration. The need is great. And the resources are there.
- The church adoption and church fostering movements are reminders that churches should work together to reach a community. These movements are a form of “horizontal growth” rather than the typical “vertical growth.” The latter is focused on getting as many people as possible to one place on Sunday morning. The former is focused on reaching the community.
- Churches that foster and/or adopt get healthier themselves. Both church adoption and church fostering are outwardly focused ministries. They take the focus off the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I, and move the focus to reaching others with the gospel. Outwardly focused churches don’t have time to be grumbling churches.
- These movements are grassroots and local. Those involved know the community. They typically love the community. This movement is not a movement where a denominational authority or some other distant entity tries to impose its will on a community. Fostering and adopting churches take place because those who lead them know healthier churches will lead to healthier communities.
We will be spending quite a bit of time discussing, researching, and following these movements. They may prove to be some of the greatest opportunities coming out of the pandemic.
Is your church involved in either of these movements? What comments or questions do you have? We would love to hear from you.
Posted on August 24, 2020
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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