When you enter into the world of foster care, adoption, and vulnerable children, you enter into tremendous need. The need is everywhere, and the statistics are there to back it up. 160 million orphans. 550,000 children in foster care in the US. A 60% year over year increase in kids entering foster care. 2,700 children waiting for families in our state. Material needs for the parents to get their kids back. Needs of the DCS workers. Needs of the foster parents. So much need. It’s easy to get lost in the need. It’s also easy to be persuaded by someone’s pitch that their need is bigger and better than another. For example, I once had someone tell me “but what’s going to happen to XYZ if your church doesn’t do something about it?”
This is why knowing your purpose is so important. Do you know your mission? Can you explain it clearly to your team and your church? Can you filter all of your decisions through your mission statement or vision statement?
Knowing your purpose needs to be rooted in scripture. Understanding the biblical call to orphan care should be the foundation of your ministry (another post to come on this topic). Whether your ministry focuses on one specific verse or a variety of scripture, the Bible should be your motivation and guide for every decision. The biblical call to orphan care is a discipleship issue, not a social work issue.
If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to your purpose, start with the thing that’s right in front of you. What is God doing in your church? Do you have a lot of families who have adopted internationally? Are there several families interested in becoming a Safe Families host family? Do your host families need clothes, diapers, and car seats to make it easier to say yes to a placement? Is God stirring the hearts of the people in your church to become foster parents? Are you seeing amazing foster parents—clearly called by God—starting to fall apart because it’s too hard? Each of these scenarios happened in our ministry, but we had to remain focused on the thing in front of us. That is what we developed and put structure around. Lots of other good ideas came up as we were building our Adoption, Safe Families, Resource, Foster Care, and Care Communities Ministries. But we focused on what God clearly called us to develop during those times. Everything else? Not in our lane. And not what God had for us.
Just because there is a need in front of you does not mean you are called to meet that need. Engaging in this behavior will…
- …make you think the work is about you.
You’ll think you’re the only who cares enough, is good enough, or is willing to sacrifice enough.
- …burn you out to the point of no return.
You’ll tackle too many things at once, lose your center of gravity, and become cynical and jaded about the mission.
Obedience comes from scripture, prayer, and discernment. And while you as a leader need to discern where God is leading your ministry, the individuals on your team need to discern where God is leading them. Sometimes those two may conflict, and that is okay. Our job is not to convince people that our mission is better than theirs, but to build a team of people who can get excited about the same mission. Great leaders don’t build their ministry on themselves, they define a compelling mission that people follow.