“It was 28 years before I saw a family actually living out the call [to foster]. …I feel like if I would have seen it growing up in the church, I might have started fostering earlier.”
In my recent conversation with Sarah Butler in Episode 184: How Awareness Leads to Action, she shared the quote above about how, in spite of being in the church her whole life as a pastor’s daughter and then getting married to a pastor, it wasn’t until she was 28 years old that she witnessed a foster family in action.
You can watch that portion of our interview here:
And she isn’t alone. I think many would resonate with Sarah’s experience.
One of the most moving statistics in my opinion is that there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States and there is an estimated 380,000 churches. It makes it crystal clear that if more churches were to have a heart for foster care, whether that be to advocate for members to become foster parents or to support those in the foster care community, it would open up opportunity for a real difference to be made.
If you are reading this, it’s likely because you already have a heart for foster care or have a role within the foster care community. You may be an agency worker, case manager, foster parent, foster sibling, respite caregiver, advocate, church leader, or prayer warrior. Regardless of your role, you may be wondering at this point: How can I help mobilize my church to make this impact?
There is no one-size-fits-all plan to create church involvement.
You may be wishing for a way to move your church from zero to one hundred right away or perhaps a five-step program to boost church involvement in the foster care community. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to do this instantly. Each church and every community will be different.
This is why we have an entire role called a TFI Advocate that works to bridge the gap between foster care agencies and churches. It’s relational work, requires a lot of listening, and takes an understanding that every community truly is unique.
However, there is one thing you can do to get the ball rolling in the right direction: You can set the example for your church.
You can take the time to get familiar with those in the foster care community in your neighborhood and in your city. You can consider becoming a foster parent yourself. You can ask agency workers what needs they have. You can support a foster family down the street from you. And you can regularly pray for everyone in the foster care community.
You can be the example.
Just like it took seeing it in action to nudge Sarah to action, this will be the case for many people in your church. They may have considered foster care but may be thinking: I don’t think I could ever do this. It seems too hard. Or they may not even think of it at all without seeing someone else living out that call.
This is not to say you have to foster for this reason alone. There are many roles in the foster care community that you can take to set an example for your church.
By taking the initiative to build relationships and getting to know the stories of those in the foster care community, you can open the door for others in your church to become aware of what is happening around them and how they can make a difference.
Awareness leads to action.
This is one of our favorite sayings because it is true! Again, Sarah’s story is a perfect example of this. But we have seen it happen time and time again where action is taken because awareness was created for the need.
By setting an example and sharing with your church about what is going on in the foster care community in your area, you will help them become aware of the needs and ways they can help. That awareness builds understanding for the foster care community, increases how much people care, and will lead to many people seeing opportunities to take action themselves.
There isn’t an “easy button” for increasing church involvement in the foster care community. But if you take the time to lead by example, others will follow. All it takes is one person to create a legacy of foster care involvement in your family and in your church.
And that person can be you.
If you are looking for some additional resources to learn about the foster care community or information to share with someone at your church, here are a few you could start with: