Hey Church Leaders! We see you and you are doing fantastic but difficult work. You’re juggling so many things from sermon preparation to fundraising, from pastoral care to administrative tasks and leading a team. You’re doing your best to propel people forward towards the grace and love of Jesus week in and week out, but sometimes the weight of your calling gets heavy. There are so many hurting people around you.
There are broken families and desperate parents. There are kids right now in your community who need a place to lay their head at night. There are kids who need a warm meal, parental figures who can love them, and a place to call home. These kids exist in your backyard. They ride the school bus that passes your house each morning and they play at the park down the street from your church each week.
We aren’t just talking about a few kids. There are 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. Yes, that’s an overwhelming number, but here’s the good news: there are 350,000 churches in the U.S., including yours. (Click here to see the foster child-to-church ratio in your area.) God has chosen us, the Church, to care for them. James 1:27 says that pure religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress. This mandate James writes about is for everyone. We’re not all called to foster or adopt, but we are all called to do something.
There are unique paths that have been forged by great organizations to help kids globally; yet, until recently, the course has not been made clear on how to help those who feel orphaned locally. Perhaps you’re motivated to get involved, but you don’t know where to start. You may be asking, “What would this ministry look like in my church?” “How does someone become a foster parent?” “How do we identify those who need church support?”
We’ll be the first to admit that caring for those that feel orphaned is a daunting task. It can be paralyzing to begin asking those big questions. It can be intimidating to think about working with government and agencies. “Where do I start?” “Who do I call?” “What do I ask?”
All of the endless questions can feel like a burden and a hard task adding to that weight you feel as a pastor. Don’t sweat it, though. That’s where we come in!
HERE TO HELP
My name is Shauna Whidden and I have the privilege of serving Backyard Orphans as the Program Director! I’ve been married to my husband for 17 years and we have spent all of them together in pastoral church ministry. We have six kids who keep us busy, as you can imagine. Though I am new to this role on the team, my calling to orphan care traces back to my childhood.
I was an 11-year-old missionary kid when I met Sammy. Sammy was a little boy living in an AIDs orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. He had lost both of his parents to AIDs and he too was sick. His energy was low and his smile was weak, but when I met him, I could so deeply feel God’s love for him. It was on that day when God called me into orphan care.
30 years later, I still felt the calling of orphan care as strongly as I did that day in the orphanage. So, in 2016, our family decided to start fostering! We had three kids placed in our home who needed permanency through adoption. It was a joy to adopt them on National Adoption Day, November 3, 2017.
After their adoption, I knew there was more that God wanted to do through me. That is when the opportunity came for me to join the team at Backyard Orphans. For me, this position wasn’t just a job or another thing to do, it was God fulfilling that call he placed upon my life at the young age of 11 in Nairobi, Kenya.
THE CHURCH’S ROLE
Since joining the team, I have learned how important the church’s role is in orphan care. I have learned that the church is the solution to the orphan crisis.
Our team of trainers is excited and ready to help guide you! Each member of the training field team has spent years both in the foster care world and in pastoral church ministry. Our passion is to serve you well. We will guide you in developing a comprehensive foster care, adoption, and support ministry. We will walk alongside your team every step of the way, from the first point of contact to launching this ministry and beyond.
Our workshops are comprehensive, thorough, customizable, and easy to learn from:
- One Day | Church Staff & Orphan Care Leaders | Partial or Full Day
One Day offers church staff and volunteer leaders holistic training on church-based orphan care and a thorough plan to develop a foster care, adoption, and support ministry. This workshop is designed to walk church leaders through our 10+ year proven 4-step process. It is interactive and customizable to fit the needs of all churches, no matter the size or demographics!
- Onboard | Church Staff | 2 Hours
Onboard offers church staff an in-depth look at the modern day orphan crisis and how the church should respond. This 2-hour mini-workshop is designed for pastoral staff to unify the vision of orphan care across every department.
- Grow | Next Generation Volunteers | 2 Hours
Grow offers kids and youth volunteers an opportunity to develop themselves as leaders and to hone their skills in working with children from hard places. This 2-hour mini-workshop is packed full of practical tools for volunteers to utilize as they help disciple the children in their care each week.
Christian Renewal Church in Hilton Head, SC booked our Backyard Orphans team for a full day workshop this year. After much planning and preparation, they launched their new orphan care ministry on Sunday, October 3! On the day of the launch, 5 families said yes to foster care, 1 family said yes to adopt, and 25 families said yes to support!
Their point person shared, “It’s been a couple of weeks since our launch Sunday and I’m still hearing from so many people how much they were impacted by becoming aware of the foster care needs in our own backyard. I’ve had multiple meetings with families wanting to step up and serve in different aspects. It’s amazing how simply presenting the information opened their eyes to the need.”
Every year we stay focused on the task at hand, helping hurting children find healing homes. Every year we stand in awe of how God is moving. We have seen over 1000 children placed in healing homes and over 100 churches launch an orphan care ministry! (Our most up to date stats can be found right here.)
If the church remains silent and inactive, kids in care will remain in need of families. In fact, there are counties that have foster children spending nights in shelters and child welfare offices because there are not enough foster homes to place these children in.
If the church remains silent and inactive, current foster families within churches and communities remain in need of support. Lack of support leads to higher burnout rates, and higher burnout rates lead to more children moving from home to home without the stability they need.
If we, the Church, remain silent and inactive, we will miss a God-given opportunity to share the love of Jesus. The Church has a responsibility to care for orphans. We must respond in obedience to the mandate spelled out in Scripture.
But what if the Church speaks up and becomes active in orphan care? We’ll see children find families, families find support, communities find healing, and people find the Gospel. And we, the Church? Well, we will find an unspeakable joy that comes from serving the “least of these.”
Are you ready to get involved now?
- Bringing awareness to the need on a Sunday is a great way to get started! Nov 7 is the 20th annual Orphan Care Sunday. It’s a global initiative that is designed to bring awareness to orphan care. Learn more about being a part of this day at orphansunday.org!
- Meeting with us is another great way to get started! We have a team of experienced church trainers who are ready to start the conversation with you. We can give you more information about what a foster care, adoption, and support ministry would look like in your church. Let’s get a meeting scheduled!
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“Backyard Orphans is committed to seeing more families waiting for children than children waiting for families! They are a valuable resource to the local Church when it comes to living out the mandate of James 1:27. We are all called to do something in orphan care, and Backyard Orphans will help you discover and develop that something! If every Church does a little, we can do a lot for children and families in need!”
– Bishop Aaron Blake Harvest Family Life, Waxahachie, TX
“Backyard Orphans’ nailed the church training for our lead team. Six hours of staff and key volunteer time spent exactly right: equipping Peoples Church and Network for true religion.”
– Pastor Chris Beard, Peoples Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
“Backyard Orphans is one of the greatest resources in helping churches reach the hurting children in America. They are setting up ministries all around the country that will impact kids’ lives for eternity.”
– Pastor Scott Wilson, Oaks Church, Red Oak, TX
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