I mean, it’s just not that easy to schedule. You can’t roster for it, put it on the calendar, or run it as a program. It’s not that tidy. It’s usually really messy. Hard, even. Difficult to plan for. Awkward to organise. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be vitally important to the life of the church. Maybe foster care can’t be another ministry program we offer, but it should definitely be who we are as the local church.
Semantics? Maybe. But the fact that we simply don’t have room for another ministry program quite so complicated shouldn’t be a reason we shrink back from it’s value. Foster care goes hand-in-hand with the gospel. Over and over in both the Old and New Testaments we’re given a picture of a God who calls Himself our Father. He calls us His children, adopts us as His own through the sacrifice of Jesus and then commands us to ‘love as He has loved us’. He calls himself the ‘Father to the fatherless,’ and ‘Defender of the weak’. James goes so far as to say, “Pure and true religion acceptable to the Father is this- to look after orphans and widows in their distress”(James 1:27). Jesus tells us whatever we do for these ‘little ones’ we are doing in fact, for Him. And in 1 John we read –
“This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for others! If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” -1 John 3:16-18
In fact, the longer I am around foster care, the more I am convinced it is one of the most ‘gospelly’ (is that a word?) ways to love those around us. If adopted children is who we are, and we are commanded to love as He has loved us, then foster care, and welcoming vulnerable children home to care for them should be woven into the fabric of our church family culture. Even if we are offered nothing in return. Even if we get hurt. Even if it costs us greatly. It’s part of the church’s calling to be Christlike. We’re challenged by Scripture to consider that if we aren’t caring for hurting, vulnerable children in our midst, are we in fact following Jesus as He instructs?
The reality around us in Queensland is that children in our communities really are in distress. The number of children entering the foster care system has risen even higher since the pandemic and resulting pressure it has placed on struggling families. I used to quote a statistic of “over 9000 children in QLD.” Since the end of 2019 that number is now over 11,000 children in need of foster homes in our state. And the number of foster families has not risen with the same intensity. There is a great need for the children of God to step up and step in here. These are our children– the children of our generation– and it is our calling and responsibility to care for them in their distress.
So no, I don’t think foster care should be an opt-in ministry of our churches. But it should be who we are as the church. I look forward to the day we have more of our church families waiting for children than we do children waiting for families. There is a great need for Christ to move us here. But as Spurgeon says, “We have a great Christ for [our] need.”
We offer a wide range of resources to support local families in foster care, and for churches who are looking for ways to care for these families. Head to our ‘Store‘ to find them, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to chat more.