While it is common for Christians to praise adoption, at least 80 percent of American churches do not have a single family that adopted a child during the past year. (WORLD Magazine, January 22, 2005)
Do Christians realize that adoption is truly a special opportunity for believers to affirm and demonstrate the sanctity of life to an unsaved world? Sadly, many Christians do not seriously consider adopting for a variety of reasons. Churches can and should play a crucial role in encouraging its members to "look after orphans in their distress" (James 1:27) . Here are some specific ideas on how to become an adoption-friendly church.
1. Pray that you and your church would become an adoption-friendly church. The ministry of prayer is invaluable. Pray that potential couples will be
sensitive to the Lord's leading in their lives. Pray that the church as a whole would step up their involvement in assisting couples who adopt.
2. Preach key passages on caring for orphans and spiritual adoption. Passages like James 1:26-27 remind us of what pure and faultless religion is all about (caring for those who are least able to care for themselves) and Ephesians 1:3-5 (the act of physical adoption is a great object lesson for spiritual adoption in Christ). "God's example of care for us in our affliction should impact our understanding of what it means to care for orphans in their affliction" (Dan Cruver).
3. Invite guest speakers to raise awareness of adoption needs and opportunities. Speakers who have adopted or lead an adoption ministry can share their passion with your church in small groups, Sunday School, morning or evening services. Give the church the opportunity to hear about these needs while giving them ways to help.
4. Make adoption resources available to the church family. There are a wealth of adoption resources-both secular and Christian-that can be helpful to couples considering adoption. Most of the time misconceptions about the adoption process keep families from considering adoption. The church can be a tool to provide helpful facts for couples to make informed decisions.
5. Frequently list pro-adoption ministries and organizations. List them in your church bulletin from time to time and have a "resources" link on your church web site connecting to these fine ministries. You help these ministries by making them known to your people, but you also assist your people by providing accessibility to these helpful resources.
6. Encourage couples facing infertility to connect with adoptive parents. So often the emotional roller coaster of infertility drugs can be taxing on a couple, not to mention the significant medical expenses incurred because of costly infertility treatments. Graciously counsel those couples to consider the privilege of parenting an adopted child (before their emotions and finances are exhausted).
7. Regularly have adoptive parents and birth mothers share their testimony of God's goodness and grace. Testimonies can be powerful reminders to the congregation of what "good" can come out of a "bad" situation as ordained by God.
8. Educate your church family regarding the costs involved in the adoption process. Most members in the church may be unaware of the expenses involved in adoption such as: home studies, background checks, attorney fees, airfare and travel costs (especially for international adoptions). The average adoption costs vary from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 dollars. The cost should not scare off potential adoptive families, rather motivate the church as a whole to "count the cost" and assist as best they can. What price tag can we put on a young life?
9. Encourage the church family to give financially to adoptive couples. Giving financially to adoptive parents is one of the most - if not the most - significant things you can do. As potential couples take the giant step of faith in the adoption process, one of the biggest concerns will be "how are we going to pay for this?" A monetary gift along with a note of an encouragement can greatly encourage the couple by affirming their decision to pursue adoption. Whether a $50 or $5,000 gift, what a shot in he arm to their walk of faith. The church says they are pro-life, this is a tangible way to "put our money where our mouth is."
10. Create a standing fund at church for adoptions costs. Church members can contribute to this special fund which adoptive families can utilize (either an interest-free loan or one-time gifts to these couples). ABBA Fund (www.abbafund.org) provides fund administration and approval process for churches at no cost. Yet another way for the church to show that it is serious about being an adoption-friendly ministry.
11. Challenge ABF's, Sunday Schools, and smalls groups to raise money for the adoptive couple. Love offerings help lessen the financial burden of adoption while exhibiting how the body of Christ can encourage and support each other. Imagine the surprise on the couples face when they discover their own Sunday school class sacrificially gave to help in the adoption of their child.
12. Take a Deacon's Fund-type offering for adoption expenses. As mentioned earlier, Christians often verbalize their disdain for the abortion movement, yet often do little to make a positive difference. The church collecting funds to give to fellow members once again forces the church to "put its money where its mouth is." If we talk the pro-life talk, we must walk the walk. Money talks.
13. Establish an Adoptive Parents Small Group in your church. Get a key person in the church to take this on as a ministry. Meet on a monthly or quarterly basis as needed. This support-type group provides encouragement for those couples in the midst of the adoption process or those contemplating adoption.
14. Create email list serves of adoptive parents for support and encouragement. The adoption process can run the roller coaster of emotions. Staying connected by email can prove helpful especially when the couple needs a timely word of encouragement.
15. Connect with local social service agencies. Most every county and parish has child welfare programs and foster care programs that Christians should be involved. Many times there is financial assistance for those families who are foster parents or are in foster-adopt programs.
16. Utilize attorneys or case workers within the church family. There may be lawyers specializing in family law that would be willing to donate their time and expertise to assist a church family with the legal documents for the adoption. This provides peace of mind to the adoptive couple knowing their legal expert is a Christian attorney. The financial savings resulting from the pro bono work could be significant.
17. Sponsor a child. Support EBM's Bethesda Outreach's ministry to AIDS orphans in South Africa. Find a ministry of like faith that you know and trust - encourage others to do what they can to pray for and financially support orphan and adoption ministries.
18. Participate in mission trips to orphanages abroad. What better way to raise awareness for adoption than to experience the desperate living conditions of so many children worldwide.
19. Maximize special holidays to emphasize adoption. There needs to be sensitivity and discernment in the way it is presented, but Mother's Day (and even Father's Day) can be an ideal service to raise awareness of adoption. A special offering could be collected for an adoptive couple. An adopted child or adoptive parent could give testimony to God's gift of a family to them. The annual Sanctity of Life day is observed the third Sunday each January. This can be a poignant reminder to the church of the devastation of abortion, yet a powerful prompting for the church to become an adoption-friendly church.
20. Celebrate adoption as a church family. Affirm those who pray and encourage others to adopt. Praise those who give financially to adoptive parents. Celebrate the living object lesson of Ephesians 1:3-6.
Adoption is the ultimate expression and outworking of loving the modern day orphan. While not every Christian will be led by God to adopt, the church can and should do what it can to encourage and facilitate adoption. How will you and your church live out James 1:27? Will you help your church be an adoption-friendly church?