(Part 8) Rooted in Mission
Updated: Sep 24
We were crammed into a tiny hotel room with four kids. Evan was at Walter Reed Medical Center, so the kids and I tagged along to explore D.C. No gym? No problem. Evan improvised his workout on the floor that night, and the kids eagerly joined in. Jumping jacks, push-ups - they were on fire! But when it came to abs, one kid struggled. Enter Evan, the ultimate cheerleader. "Don't give up," he said, offering a clever alternative. "How about a crunch instead?"
Puzzled, the child looked back at Evan and asked, "The candy bar?"
Evan didn't intend to suggest that if the child couldn't complete a sit-up, he should try indulging in chocolate instead.
Here, we have a simple (albeit hilarious) example of a communication failure. But there are also instances where miscommunication can result in missed opportunities and a lot of frustration.
Before starting a conversation with your pastor, remember that they will likely have multiple meetings with members and local non-profit organizations interested in partnering with the church. Your pastor faces the difficult task of deciding which options align best with the church's mission and vision. Show respect for your pastor's time and be ready to communicate effectively.
Questions to ask yourself as you prepare for the meeting
It is beneficial for you to try and think like a pastor as you consider the following questions, as they offer important insight for starting a new ministry or adding to one that already exists.
1) What is the mission and vision of your church, and how does a family advocacy ministry align with those values?
Are you familiar with your church's mission statement? If not, it is time to discover it now! Understanding the mission will enable you to convey how a family advocacy ministry fulfills its purpose effectively.
2) Where is work currently in progress that you can leverage and build upon?
Spend time evaluating all the areas in your church already working in family advocacy. Perhaps you already have:
Several families already ministering to others through foster care and adoption.
A partnership with a local foster care, adoption, or other type of nonprofit that centers around vulnerable children.
A clothing closet or thrift shop that could develop more effective ways to engage the child welfare system.
A small group strategy that could easily use the discipleship model of family advocacy ministries to wrap around the vulnerable.
3) Who are the people in your church who have an expertise or passion for family advocacy?
In addition to yourself, who else can help lead and organize a family advocacy ministry within your church? These leaders should have a genuine heart for vulnerable children, families, and communities and an understanding of the systems involved with protecting them.
As you reach out to church members engaging in this work, what do they need most? Are there any common problems that relate to tangible needs and support? How can your church best meet these needs while staying within the bounds of your mission and vision?
4) How would you collaborate with other ministries in the church?
It is helpful for a pastor to see that you are a team player from the beginning. How would a family advocacy ministry benefit other ministries in your church? Consider ideas like:
Being trauma-aware serves all children better, as even children from stable, loving homes may sometimes experience trauma.
Connecting with the current leaders and ministries in the church who are already engaged in family advocacy work in the community.
Working with a missions ministry to include the work your families are currently doing in local missions.
Including possible plans to help engage men's and women's ministry, youth ministry, or other ministries to collaborate.
5) What is the need in the community?
Knowing the statistics regarding your local child welfare system is essential for addressing the current needs. This valuable information can often be obtained by contacting your local child welfare agency.
6) How is this need being met elsewhere, and how will you partner in those efforts?
What are the goals in the community, and how can you plan to partner with others to see them be met? What have other communities done together to create a lasting impact on their vulnerable children and families?
Practice before you go to the meeting. Even better, rehearse with someone who knows nothing about foster care, adoption, or at-risk families. Have them ask for clarification whenever you speak about something they need help understanding.
Why your Pastor's opinion and support matter
Having the support and backing of your pastor is crucial in leading a successful family advocacy ministry. They hold a significant influence within the church, and having your pastor on board can help validate the importance of this ministry and encourage more congregation members to get involved. Their guidance and input can also help shape the direction and goals of the ministry, ensuring it aligns with the church's overall vision.
In addition, your pastor's support can bring a sense of credibility and legitimacy to your ministry. It shows that you have the backing and endorsement of the church leadership and that your pastor believes in our calling to care for vulnerable populations.
For some, this happens instantly. Perhaps your leadership already is living a life that reflects the importance of caring for children and families in need. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that not every pastor will immediately understand the nuances of this particular type of ministry. Some may have limited experience with foster care, adoption, or at-risk families. It’s important to be patient as you educate and engage your church leaders in conversations about this topic. Be ready to answer any questions they may have and provide resources for further learning.
Your pastor's involvement is not limited to just the initial stages of launching the ministry. Continual communication and collaboration with your pastor is essential for its success. Regularly updating them on the progress and impact of the ministry can help maintain their interest. A pastor who teaches from the pulpit about the significance of caring for vulnerable children and families will be an invaluable asset to this ministry.
Many churches now set aside one Sunday a year to focus on orphan care and adoption, dedicating sermons, resources, and prayers to this important cause. These can make a big impact on a congregation. We have to be careful with this strategy as well because when we highlight a ministry once a year, it can leave a lot of time for people not to have to consider the importance of this work.
nstead, it’s more ideal to weave the message of caring for vulnerable children and families into sermons and teachings throughout the year. This is where we will see a church's culture shift. You can see it transforms the church when it becomes a part of the DNA. This isn't something we do; it is a part of who we are. We don't merely perform these actions; they define us and shape our identity as a church. There is a significant distinction between approval and buy-in. It is imperative that your pastor not only approves of the ministry but truly believes everyone has a calling to care for vulnerable children in some capacity.
What if the answer is no?
This answer might be challenging for the passionate advocate.
Remember, your pastor is given many ministry options and must make tough calls as he or she guides the church. Understand the possibility that it may not be a no, but rather a not yet.
I recently worked with this church where families had been asking for years for the church to get more involved in the foster care system. The leadership realized it wasn't the right time and decided to wait. They took a whole year to research and learn about the foster care system. They even talked to experts in that field and devised a slow and thoughtful approach to make a lasting impact. If they had rushed the process, they wouldn't have been able to disciple others as effectively.
Since God's timing is perfect, a "no" is not necessarily bad news. Start by praying and seeking guidance to continue serving and supporting hurting families. This time can be used to develop the necessary skills for effective leadership.
2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
We can find solace and confidence in trusting God's perfect timing and plans. As our Creator, He is infinitely patient with us, guiding us along our journey with unwavering love and wisdom. In return, it is our privilege to patiently await His blessings and embrace the unfolding of His divine plan in our lives.
What if the answer is yes?
If the answer to your prayer is yes, then rejoice! This is an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It's a chance to join God’s mission and demonstrate His love for us through our actions.
When faced with a "yes," be aware that the work ahead will involve lots of planning and preparation. In all aspects of life, God's guidance is invaluable when making decisions that will have far-reaching implications.
I am excited to join you in this new chapter! Let's continue to be rooted in mission and trust God's perfect timing as we embark on this journey. He will lead us wherever He desires. All we have to do is make ourselves available as vessels for his calling. Let’s use our time wisely, pray continually, and strive to help others experience the love of Christ.