Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is the Church's role in Adoption?

Lately I've been pondering this question. I'll get more specific in a minute, but first I want to throw out a few disclaimers:
  1. This post may be long and rambling. :)
  2. I am not claiming to have any expertise in this area, quite the opposite! 
  3. I am NOT NOT NOT judging any particular church, ESPECIALLY my own! 
But here is what is on my heart. I'm hoping this post will generate a good discussion in the comments section, and I hope to hear from many of you what your thoughts/personal experiences are.

Ok, Jess, get to the point already :).

As I've been swept along this road to adoption, I've come across something that doesn't feel quite right. It seems that some adoptive families don't get support from their church. I'm talking big churches and small churches, all across the country. I'm blessed to be a part of an adoption Yahoo group and have been able to hear from many people about this.

Support from churches seems to vary. Some not at all. Some will not allow members to announce their adoption plans to the congregation, but it is ok to ask individuals for support. Some churches are great about announcements and encouragement (including my own). Some will take up a specific offering. What I haven't seen a lot of, (and that doesn't mean it isn't happening, this is where YOU come in!), is churches giving directly from their budget (you know, what people tithe) to financially support adoptive families.

I've heard various reasons for this, and they all make logical sense. I am a very logical person, so my head understands very clearly the reasons. For small churches, they often have very little money to give. For large churches, they have so many members that if they support one family they would need to support them all, so they don't support anybody.

Now, I have never been a part of a budget committee and I'm sure it is a VERY hard job! That is why I'd like to hear from you, if you have any insight. My head gets it, but my heart doesn't. Especially when I think of the early church, in Acts 2:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46
Is this part of the reason for the tithe? So that the church could support "anyone who had need"? Again, I don't know the answers to these questions, help a girl out here! :)

But I wonder...

Would more people consider adoption if the church (in general) regularly and openly helped adoptive families financially? Maybe they could budget adoption grants and families could apply for them? Are there any churches out there that do this? I am curious if you know about one.

Money IS the biggest obstacle for adoptive families. There are many scripts I have played out in my head as to why we shouldn't adopt now:
  • Lord, we're too young. We haven't worked for very long and don't have much savings.
  • Lord, just let us pay off our student loans first.
  • Lord, it makes more sense to work for a year to save up the money.
  • Lord, we are losing my income so I can stay home with Riley and help him adjust to his new life in a family.
  • Lord, I am graduating and will have to start making payments on my student loans.
  • Lord, Riley's medical needs will bring more expenses than we have ever had before.
  • Lord, we might have to take out another loan for the adoption....
Oh, I could go on and on! Note that all those excuses boil down to money. But God's calling for us has been clear: NOW. These children CAN'T wait!

All that to say, what are your thoughts? I'm sure this discussion has been had "behind the scenes" at budget meetings galore, but I think it's important for us "lay" people to know.

If you've never commented before, please take this as a personal invitation from me to share your thoughts and experiences.

I want to hear from you! Sound off.


CAH said...

I've adopted special need children twice. This answer is probably not what you want to read but I don't feel it is the church's responsiblity to help people add to their families via adoption or any other means. If someone got in front of the congregation and said they needed 20,000 dollars donated for an IVF cycle, most people probably wouldn't have much sympathy, even if the "family building" concept is the same. On the same token, I beleive that if kids can't join your family in the usual way, that God finds a way to bring them to you. People, who don't know she's adopted, tell me that my adopted daughter looks just like me. Coincidence? Or was there just a touch of God's hand reorganizing her genes because He knew that we were her real family.

Jess said...

Thanks for your comment!

My question pertains to caring for orphans (literally, taking them into our home/community), not about helping church members who want to expand their family.

CAH said...

Well then, per the bible God wants us to take care of widows and orphans. God doesn't care how much cash/possessions we amass in this life, what he's interested in is how we treat the weakest and the meekest of humanity. Not animals and not the environment, but people. And the meek will inherit/rule the earth - I assume that means in the 2nd earth after the 2nd coming. So it is really in our best interest to take them in and give them good care because they will one day become our rulers. I think our special need children are the most blessed children of this earth.

But as far as the church goes, it is a personal decision to help or not. God won't be judging us on the actions of a group. There is no law of averages that play in our favor based on the overall actions of the various groups we joined when we stand before God in judgement.

Lu, Poppies Blooming said...

Here are my thoughts...

Molly said...

I am not sure how I feel the church support adoption but I absolutely think that the church should do more to support orphans in general. Too many churches do nothing. I also can relate to all of your doubts. Young, just graduated, less time to work with two new kids, more expenses with their care,etc. But, God has showed us over and over again that this is the path he wants us to follow.

The Land Family said...


Thanks for your thoughts on this subject. My husband is a Senior Pastor at a medium sized church in Indiana. We are not getting much support for our adoption. A couple people from our church donated to our adoption, but most don't understand why we are doing this. We already have one girl and one boy and why would you want more children. Most in our church don't understand that scripture doesn't give us a choice to care for orphans and widows. We need to just do it.

There are some churches that give grants to church members. I have heard that some churches will take up an offering for the family.

Thanks for your thoughts.

God Bless,
Amy Land

Tony and Dawn said...

James 1:27 does not ASK the church to care for orphans and widows in their distress - it instructs them to do so. Care (or visit) can take on the form of financial support of orphans directly or by supporting adoptions with grants. That's my opinion.

To do NOTHING is going against God's word. We have a very tiny grant program in our church that was started three years ago. We have assisted in the adoption of about eleven children and have sent nearly $8,000 to assist with orphans internationally. I wish we could do more, but right now - we are tapped out.

Unfortunately, the financial support of the program is very, very limited. I held a fundraiser in our community in 2009 and reached out to the three largest churches (about 8,000 people) and got nothing - and I do mean nothing. I prepared food for 125 people and about 20 showed up. Very discouraging, but I have not given up.

Nicole said...

I personally think it is a lack of faith the whole way round. On a personal level for the church members that they don't have faith to believe that God will oversee the adoption particulars and make it all balance financially, emotionally, and physically. And guess what? Those people make up the churches. :)
Adoption is such a hard thing for so many people to understand. When my husband and I announced our plans to adopt, our friends and family (a mix of Christians and non) mainly had a confusing mix of questioning stares and obscure comments such as "So you aren't going to have any children of your own?" or "Why would you want to risk getting a child with problems?" It was truly heartbreaking. I think that adopting children, whether it is international, domestic, special needs children, or whatever...still has a stigma attached to it. The most soul crushing response I have heard, though (not from someone I personally know) was something to the effect of "There was a reason that kid was orphaned. Obviously there is something wrong with it. Why would you intentionally ruin your life like that." So sad.
I think a lot of this seeps into the church community. I have seen more negativity out of my faith professing friends when it comes to under served ministry fields than any one else! It takes so terribly much faith to jump out and say that you are willing to sacrifice for a child. You are willing to give up some comforts to save a life.
Churches I think although they have the best intentions of going out into the world and expanding the mission field, fail to realize that they can do some of the best help by starting with the aid of members of their own congregation. Not to mention the politics that are so rampant in the church these days. :(
I know that was a bunch of stuff thrown together...but there are so many things I wish I could help to change in the minds and lives of the church community. And I will! All change starts small. :)

Nicole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
schoolmother said...

You know, another idea I've had is kind of a revolving loan: One adopting family borrows $5000 (or whatever) pays it back with reasonable interest and it is then available to the next family. Would to God that there were so many families wanting to adopt from one church that they actually had to do more than one loan at a time!!

wordgardener said...

Having now come home from the journey of special needs adoption, I can tell you that not one dime came from our church to sponsor us, though in part that is because we walked away from our old church because it finally dawned on me that they were a starter church...only helping with that first step towards faith. they were literally incapable of seeing individual needs in my estimation. Our new church is rather large for this area, over 7k strong. They have teams that go build christian orphanages in Africa. I imagine if I were to go and say, I would like to help with future families and their fundraising efforts, they would be all over that. I would step up and help as a fund raising coordinator so to speak...and that would not take from the budget. It is not the churches responsibility to take from the operating costs I do not think. But to step up and form a group of folks that help with yard sales and such, I can't see that the church would not allow the usage of the building etc. With that being said, MANY churches have said NO to even using the parking lot...I would not want to be in that group when it is time to give an account standing in front of Jesus. I have my own short comings but I get the orphan plight loud and clear...and I think the heart of a church can certainly be measured in how they react to adoption. Now the ultimate question is why is a family adopting? Are they doing it to serve their own needs or are the needs of the child first? Is it to grow a family or is it to rescue a child? That also has alot to do with the tone of helping a family adopt. If I thought a family was restricted to blond hair and blue eyes, would I want to give? I am not is alot to think about.

Jess said...

Tony and Dawn- That's encouraging that your church at least has some form of grant program, no matter how small. And more power to you for not giving up after that non-fundraiser! I think I would have cried if that happened to me :).

Amy- I agree with you that some people don't understand why we're doing this. At least for us, it's not for reasons like, "Oh I want to have more kids", but rather, "These kids are going to DIE if we don't rescue them! That's a FACT! We are willing and able to rescue at least one!". It isn't about growing our family, it is about saving these children.

Joy- I really like your idea of a "revolving loan" through the church! I know some outside organizations do this (LifeSong), but how cool would it be to have a program like that in individual churches? I love that idea of borrowing what you need and then giving that back to others when they need it.

Thanks for the great dialogue, everyone!

CAH said...

We live in a polite world of depraved indifference. When we went to Ukraine for our first adoption, I heard this well meaning advice often enough, "Charity is fine as long as you don't bring it home." I come from a world where people drive BMW's to work and the grocery store. Charity is paying hundreds of dollars to attend an event put on by one of your friends for a good cause. Everyone has their "cause". They see special need adoption as mine. Although they think it would be better for me just to donate quietly rather than "get my hands dirty." And a relative of mine actually said to me the only reason we were adopting our daughter was to outdo them on appearing charitable - that I was taking attention away from their planned event.

I feel that to break through the barrier of "depraved indifference" sometimes you need to bring the problem home. Most of the people who advised us against adopting, now embrace our daughter. I am praying that one of these well-to-do people wakes up and decides to commit to an RR adoption - either personally or by helping another family.

People in the church are the same as the people I described above. People get uncomfortable when you bring a problem home. But sometimes you just need to plow on and do it. It might be time for a wake-up.

My wake-up came when our biological child was born severely disabled. Very few things make a cause more personal than that.

sinkingthom said...

My passion for this subject goes very deep, but God has been speaking somewhat clearly to me through a number of different sources. I recently listened to a message by a pastor from Michigan by the name of Kevin DeYoung about what the mission of the church is. He made some very good points, and I think they are relevant in this case. First, it is important to make a distinction between what God is calling the church as a whole to do, and what He is calling individual believers to do. Second, while believers are called by the scriptures to do many things, the call that is unique to the church - something ONLY the church of Jesus Christ can do - is go and preach the gospel and make disciples. It is essential that in the midst of all of our orphan care that this unique call is not lost or neglected. The third is that we need to be careful that as well share our burden for these children that we realize that not everyone is called to the same burdens. Let us not use hard OUGHTs in our conversation, but let us share with people an invitation to what they CAN do. I admit, I am working through a bit of frustration that the church as a church isn't as engaged as I think it should be. But we brought our CAN to the people of our church through emails and various fundraisers and a little at a time raised $7000 in 4 months toward our adoption of Peter, our little boy with DS from Hong Kong. And these are people who definitely fall into the category of "Don't have a lot to spare". This is after being turned down by 3 aid organizations, and actually a very disappointing kickoff. God wants that child in a loving home MUCH MORE than you do! As someone already commented, churches have their reasons for not being "officially" involved, but if we engage "the church" - the people not the "institution" - I expect more often than not we will find God's people wanting to do more than we ever expected - but in God's perfect timing. One last note - this Sunday, an 8 year old boy came over to me and handed me $10 and said, "It's for Peter." This is the body of Christ at work. Oh, and once we have Peter home, we are planning to establish an orphan fund with the money we receive from the government as an adoption tax credit so that others can have the joy of welcoming "the least of these" into their homes!

Thom Inglin
Adopting Peter w/DS from Hong Kong
Waiting for "matching approval"

Here's the address to the message I was referring to: