(Part 12) Rooted in Identity
Updated: Sep 24
Rooted in Identity
The phone rang, and I immediately recognized that it was our foster care agency. As soon as I answered, there was a brief pause on the other end of the line. The licensing specialist asked, "May I speak with Sayeeah?" Although my name is commonly mispronounced, this one was new for me. I inwardly giggled as I responded, "Oh, it is just pronounced Kayla." She laughed and explained she imagined I might be of Latin descent with a fantastic accent.
"Well, you see, I'm actually from Kansas," I clarified, chuckling a bit. "So, I guess I'm not exactly what you might call exotic. More like eccentric, perhaps," I mused out loud, realizing I was talking to a complete stranger.
Although I have no qualms about my mother's creative spelling, I often yearned for a name that could be found on a pre-made keychain during my childhood. I vividly recall an incident in elementary school when my art teacher, while taking attendance, mistakenly called out "Crayola," which led to uproarious laughter from my third-grade peers. These days, I seldom bother correcting anyone anymore. In a bustling coffee shop, the barista calls, "Cay-ella?" I promptly raise my hand. That's me.
Selecting a name for your ministry holds a similar weight to naming a person. It is a decision of great significance, as it carries the essence and purpose of your mission.
Pray over this step and take your time as you discuss options with your core team. Ask your pastor and leadership for any considerations that they have to offer.
Your name will allow you to create handouts and help your church better understand your ministry and work. Additionally, you can design t-shirts and other fun items that add to the team-building process.
Here are some points to consider as you make this important decision.
Should you keep it simple and use your church name?
One option is to use the name of your church followed by the acronym FAM. For example, if your church is named Trinity, you could call your ministry Trinity FAM. This especially works if your church has kept it simple with its other ministries, like Trinity Kids or Trinity Worship.
Choose a name that can adapt.
Your initial focus may be on adoption, mentoring, or foster care. In the future, it could shift and grow. Staying away from specific terms like foster or orphan allows growth and longevity.
Choose a unique name.
After a few years in foster care ministry, we started receiving inquiries from people interested in learning how we got started. One woman, in particular, expressed great enthusiasm to begin this work in her church. We shared the steps we took to initiate the ministry and suggested some ideas for her consideration. During our meeting, I could sense her determination to make things happen. I was thrilled because we needed more churches to join us in this important work, especially since she was located in a county where we already had families we were serving, albeit a 45-minute drive away for me.
I saw a few months later that she had started the ministry! But I was slightly surprised that she used the same name and mission as ours, and it confused people as they assumed it was the same ministry in two places. She made a minor adjustment to the name; years later, it isn't an issue.
Research other foster care, adoption, or family advocacy ministries in your region. Choose a name that distinguishes you from others.
Several years ago, I was riding with a friend when suddenly, this passenger van zooms past us. But here's the kicker - it was covered in these awesome graphics about fostering. I turned to my friend and said, "Step on it!" We went into full pursuit mode, hoping to catch up with the driver. At that moment, I couldn't help but imagine the amazing potential for a partnership that could completely transform our child welfare system. Exciting stuff, right?
As we got closer, I realized they were an exotic bird rescue, training people to foster birds abandoned by their owners. I surmised the birds had undesirable behaviors like pecking people's eyes or swearing.
After you come up with a name everyone loves, Google it! There is a good chance that another ministry already exists with that name, which may not be a deal-breaker. What is your proximity to them? If they are in another state, it could still work. Are there local businesses that have the same name or something similar? You want to be distinct from a local coffee shop or pet rescue.
Choosing a Bible Verse
Remember what family advocacy ministries do? They disciple, believe all life is precious, and minister to the needs of hurting children and families. With that, you have extensive options, as these themes exist in scripture from the beginning to the end. Prayerfully consider which verse encompasses your church and this ministry.
Several organizations have chosen verses regarding the orphan to help represent their vision over the years. Common verses include:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
"Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."
"For in You the fatherless find compassion."
Other options could be broader, sharing about God's love for us.
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
1 John 4:19
"We love because he first loved us."
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Before you run off to the screen printer, check with your pastor or church leadership for final approval.
Ultimately, selecting a name and verse for your family advocacy ministry is a process that requires prayerful consideration and input from your church leadership. The name should uniquely identify the ministry, reflect its purpose, and stand apart from other local entities.
Ultimately, this impactful decision will lay the groundwork for your ministry, guiding its
mission and serving as a beacon of hope for those you serve.
As you continue developing your family advocacy ministry, keeping your values at the forefront is crucial. Your ministry's values should be deeply rooted in the beliefs or principles that you hold dear. These values act as a compass, guiding you through the challenges and opportunities that come your way.
Your Values may include:
Compassion: Showing empathy and understanding towards those facing family struggles.
Integrity: Operating with honesty, transparency, and accountability in all aspects of the ministry.
Discipleship: Helping families grow spiritually through the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Collaboration: Working with other organizations and individuals to support needy families.
Advocacy: Speaking up for the children who do not have the ability to speak up for themselves.
Having clear values in your ministry is incredibly important, and here's why: Values serve as guiding principles and a framework for decision-making, ensuring that your ministry operates with purpose and consistency. They represent the foundation of your ministry, defining what you stand for and how you interact with the community you serve.
Clear values can also inspire and motivate your team, fostering an environment of commitment and passion. They help to set expectations for behavior within the ministry and can be an essential part of attracting and retaining volunteers who align with these values.
By having clear, well-defined values, you communicate your ministry's identity to the broader community, increasing trust and building stronger relationships with those you serve.
It's also important to periodically review and potentially update your values as your ministry grows and evolves. This ensures that they continue to accurately reflect your organization's core beliefs and guide you in making impactful decisions.
Considering your identity, scriptural basis, and ministry values with your core team can be a powerful exercise. It allows for deeper reflection on your purpose and mission and how you can best serve those in need.
Defining these aspects of your church's Family Advocacy Ministry doesn't have to be daunting. Through prayer, discernment, and collaboration with others, you can continue to shape the identity and values of your ministry as you fulfill your calling to serve the community in the name of Jesus Christ. Let his light shine through all you do, bringing hope and transformation to those who need it most.