The call to shepherd a church is a call to shepherd the community. The responsibility of pastoring a church comes with the mission of serving the community. Churches are not islands in the community, set up to isolate believers from the ails of society. The walls of the church are not protective barriers to community problems. Quite the opposite—the church should be the vehicle by which people are sent into the hardest, darkest parts of the neighborhood.
But how? Most will agree the church should be part of the solution, at least in theory. You can get a lot of head nods and amens when you preach about solving community problems. Many churches have good intentions but do not where to start. The hard part is putting the sermon into action. How does a church become part of the solution to improve a community?
The list of ideas is long. While each community will have neighborhood-specific problems, one issue stands out as a neglected nationwide solution most churches are not considering. Fostering is one of the most overlooked ways to get your church to solve community problems.
Fostering connects you to the heart of community problems. Do you want to jump into the thick of evil? Whatever issues are producing foster children are often the core of a community’s sins. Take a foster child into your home, and you are immediately connected to some of the most difficult issues in your community. In Bradenton, where I live, drug addiction, specifically heroin, is ravaging the city. We are the top county in child removal rates in all of Florida, due mainly to heroin addiction of parents.
Fostering is a way for pastors to lead by example. At any given time, we will have a dozen or more foster children in our church. The foster movement at our church began with a couple of families. Now several families are fostering, including some of our staff. Do you want to practice what you preach? Then foster. You will live several sermons a week.
Fostering gets churches taking care of the most vulnerable. Fostering is one way to be both pro-life and pro-justice. A pro-life ethic and a pro-justice ethic are not diametrically opposed. When James wrote of widows and orphans, both life and justice are present in the text. When you foster a child, you are championing both ethics.
Fostering creates a culture of sacrifice. Foster parents lose privacy, money, security, and a whole lot of sleep. Sacrifice is required from the moment you start going through the certification process. Get enough people fostering in your church, and a culture of sacrifice will form.
Fostering supports the biblical notion of church as family. While rules vary by state, many of the adults in your church will qualify to foster. You can be single and foster. You don’t have to have biological children to foster. Other options, like providing respite care, are also available if you don’t want to take on the full responsibility of fostering. Frankly, you will need the support of your church to foster. When a church has several foster children, the idea of a church being family becomes quite real.
Fostering gets people off the church island. Do you want to free your people from the concept of the church offering protective isolation? Start a movement of fostering. The church is not a fallout shelter from a radioactive world. You can’t be salt and light hunkered down in isolation.
My family forever changed when we started fostering. We adopted one of our foster sons. Our foster children bring joy, frustration, confusion, and contentment—sometimes all emotions at once. It’s not easy, but I’m thankful.
Posted on August 4, 2021
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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This is awesome. How would you advise a church get started?
We started reaching out to the community with small give aways like boxes of food that cost $10 – $12 each. Then, backpacks with some school supplies, then added hygiene kits. Each year it has grown. The church body saw the smiles and the thank you notes. That was the fuel. When we invited the people in – they came for the give aways and found love.
This year we have given away 700 food boxes, 1600 backpacks, 10,000 pairs of children’s socks and underwear and 1,931 pairs of new shoes to school children in our County.
There are many good licensing agencies that can help with the process. I would start with One More Child. They are the best! https://onemorechild.org/
We are Love Moves Us, an organization created to nurture and support families who answer the call to foster and/or adopt children. We are located in Joliet, Illinois, but can help you get started with ideas and connections. Our executive director is Jason Bentsen.