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How to Start an Orphan Care Ministry at Your Church

So you have a passion for orphan care and you want to inspire and mobilize your church to join in the cause? First of all, we are so inspired and encouraged by you! While this task can be daunting and sometimes overwhelming, we hope to give you some guidelines and ideas that will help equip you as God leads you to start this ministry. This list is not by any means exhaustive, but rather a good place to start as you and the Lord start off on this adventure together.

How to Start an Orphan Care Ministry at Your Church

Where do I start?

  • Look to God’s Word & pray

Gather with members of your church or your ministry leadership team to pour through God’s Word and pray about the ways God instructs us to care for orphans.

Study: God’s Heart for the Orphan

Pray: Download a 40 Day Prayer Guide

  • Determine the path you want to take

Once you have determined what you want to see happen through your orphan care ministry, and how you’ll e strategic in your planning. Pray and ask God to put a specific area on your heart. You can’t possibly help every single child in need. It’s not logical or feasible to create an orphan care ministry that helps all the orphans in the world. But this does not mean every orphan can’t be helped. It just means YOU can’t help all of them.

Most ministries are focused on one of the following three areas:

  • Orphan care
    • Usually pertains to ministering to the needs of children in orphanages or children’s homes.  These needs can be categories into four main areas:
      •  Material needs such as school supplies, food, and clothing
      • Emotional needs such as friendship, love, and encouragement
      • Social needs such as training for their care-takers or education to give them the opportunity to contribute in their community
      • Spiritual needs such as discipleship or Bible studies or partnerships with their local churches
  • Foster care
    • The best route is to recruit foster parents, partner with social workers, and support current foster families.
  • Adoption
    • Create awareness of the need for orphans to have families, encourage and inspire others to adopt, create support systems for those considering adoption or who are already pursing adoption

A great way to set yourself up for success is to know your audience at your church. God has given your church unique assets…so take the time to identify then. Is your congregation mostly young families? Perhaps you should focus on providing homes for foster children in your area who need them. How about primarily empty-nesters with some money to spend? Maybe you should spend your efforts to fundraise and financially support those who are caring for kids. What if your church is diverse with all different types of people? Then you should diversify, but be careful that you don’t say yes to everything. Remember, we all have a “lane”. If you can identify a few things you do well right now, this will not only help you decide what to say yes to, it will also help you determine what you need to say no to.

And whatever it is, don’t be ashamed to start out small. Don’t try to do everything right away; somethings you’re not able to do or supposed to do until a later time. If you try to do everything you’ll end up really doing nothing. Focus on your channel and aim for excellence.

  • Establish your mission and vision

Your mission defines what your ministry stands for and how you’ll go about doing what you’re focused on. Your mission should be clear, concise, and declare the outcome that you ministry seeks to accomplish. This is similar to it’s purpose, but there is a clear difference. Your purpose is the reason you exist. Your missions is how you will accomplish that purpose. For example, your purpose may be to serve orphans in India while your mission would be to advocate, fundraise, and sponsor orphaned children in India. See how the purpose was rather general while the mission was clear and concise.  [Read this post about the Difference Between Purpose and Calling. Note the author uses Calling as another word for Mission.]

Your vision is an inspiring, vivid, and beautiful mental image of how your mission will play out at a specific time in the future that is revealed by God and is based on an accurate understanding of truth, yourself, and your are of focus. When someone hears your vision, it should be a very clear picture of a future time, not the past or the present time. [Related: Difference Between Calling and Vision]

Okay, I got the foundation. Now what?

  • Discuss with the leadership of your church

Go to the leadership of your church to talk about your heart and desire to start an orphan care ministry in your church. Do your research beforehand and take the time to share information that is relevant to your targeted children in need. Inspire them with the reasons why God has made the church the best plan for caring for orphaned and vulnerable children. Invite them to work alongside you to create the strategy and next steps in order to start the ministry. Don’t ask for anything upfront other than support. Most church pastors or leaders are looking for two main things when someone from their congregation approaches them with the idea of starting a new ministry:

  1. A strong leader who takes initiative and knows what their goal is and a clear vision
  2. A team of people around them
  • Gather a team

Look for people in your community and church who will pray with you and join the minister as a team.  Pray for wisdom and direction on who God wants to have on this team and how He wants to use you within the ministry.

You might look for people who are also passionate about orphan care, such as:

  • Adoptive Parents
  • Foster Parents
  • Adult Adoptees
  • Adults with adopted siblings
  • Foster-Care Alumni
  • Adoptive Grandparents/Family Members
  • Social Workers
  • Missionaries
  • Attorneys or Judges in Family Law
  • Students studying childhood education, teaching, or orphan care

Draw out the few from the masses and give them an opportunity to gather together. There’s incredible power when people can look around a room and see that they’re not alone. As community naturally begins to form, the fire within each individual will now burn together as a group. Ask God to continue to fan that flame and see what happens.  While you wait patiently for God to point you in the right direction and bring the right people, continuing brainstorming ideas and different ways you can take action and invite your church to join you.

Make connections

  • Maximize the opportunities in your local community and around the world

The goal of your ministry is not simply to have just a few people involved, but rather establish a culture that everyone in the church can relate to and participate in. In the early formation of your ministry, establish a solid foundation and build from there. If you want a long-term effect it is only going to happen through a sustainable and growing movement. And that takes time. This means that your orphan care ministry will start small, maybe very small. But don’t be discouraged, be excited! This may force you to start simple and be slow, but it will also help you make smart, calculated decisions.

As things begin to grow you’ll be glad you took the time to build a strong culture, foundation, and systems of support when things were still small. Use this time to invite others to the team, iron out the mission and vision, come up with a good strategy and develop relationships with ministry partners outside of your church that are going to help you accomplish the mission and vision you’ve set. You’ll need more than just your single church to have an effective orphan care ministry.

Depending on what your focus channel is, come up with who you would want to partner with to advance your mission.

    • Orphan Care Focus – Advocate for orphaned and vulnerable children, both locally and globally. Reach out to a nonprofit orphan care organization who can benefit from your advocacy, fundraisers, etc.
    • Foster Care Focus – Reach out to foster care agencies in your area and see how you can promote foster care to families in your church. Determine how you can work together and partner with foster care workers and families already fostering in your church or community.
    • Adoption Focus – Reach out to adoption agencies in your area and see how you can promote adoption to families in your church. Determine how you can work together and partner with adoption agencies and families seeking adoption, or who have already adopted, in your church or community.

Step out in faith

  • Take action

The goal of your orphan care ministry should be action, not just awareness. The idea is to not only show the need but more importantly, the calling. Try to be prepared to help them take the next step. This is a big reason why you should make connections with other like-minded organizations, churches, or ministries. Of course, you want to educate people, but your ministry is truly successful when you help people obey.

Here are some ideas to use as a guideline to your brainstorming:

Awareness

Circulate Church Media

1. Orphan care articles in the church newsletter, e-mail announcements, bulletin inserts, or Facebook group/page

2. Announce orphan care events (i.e. fundraisers, foster care month, statistics, Orphan Sunday, etc.).

  • Did you know National Adoption Awareness Month and Missions Month is November, Foster Care Month is May, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is the third weekend in January, and Orphan Sunday is in November?
Take Advantage of the Bulletin Board

1. Create a physical space to display statistics, information, and educational articles.

2. Post a map with pins in each country from which a member of the church has adopted or sponsored. You can post pictures of the children and adoptive/foster families from your church with their children.

Request Sermons about Orphans

1. Ask your pastor to speak about the Biblical foundation and call of orphan care. If he is open to it, ask if you or a guest speaker can share instead. Most likely, you are the one who is passionate about it. People are drawn to passion.

2. Ask an adoption agency or foster care representative to come talk about the need.

Write a Blog about Orphan Care

1. Research and share information on current orphan care topics. [Related: How to Start a Website or Blog]

2. Comment on other blogs, in forums, and online groups to drive connection with others.

Support

Support Adoptive/Foster Families

1. Start a mentor program that connects experienced adoptive families with others who are just starting the process or are interested in adopting.

2. Provide meals for families who have recently adopted or who have new foster children in their home. Create a meal calendar for others in your church to participate as well.

3. Volunteer to babysit for foster families. (There typically is some sort of training or background check for this, but you can help a couple out tremendously by giving them a free night once a week.)

4. Host a baby or new child shower for an adoptive family.

Start a Small Groups & Support Groups

1. Emotional support, tips, or parenting advice for foster/adoptive families.

2. Orphan-themed book club.

3. Orphan-focused prayer group.

Provide Information/Resources

1. Set up an informational table with adoption, foster care, orphan care, and ministry information.

2. Create resource sheets with contact information for ministry partners you’ve made – agency references, how to fund an adoption, statistics, and Bible Verses.

Funding

Hold Fundraisers for church ministry, orphan care ministry, or individual family

1. Make and sell T-shirts

2. Hold a church Garage Sale

3. Host a Benefit Dinner

4. Reach out to musicians and hold a concert

5. Host a Silent Auction

6. Sell coffee and have all proceeds go towards area of your choosing

Outreach

Host Social Events

1. Host social events – breakfasts clubs, sports tournaments, etc. for those in the church and in the community to learn more about your cause.

2. Host an fundraiser to raise money to support an orphan care ministry you’ve chosen.

This post is written by Stephanie Eitzen, a student studying Ministry to Orphans and Vulnerable Children at Austin Bible Institute.
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