How Can the Church Support Foster Families?
- Sheila Alewine Author
- 2023 2 May
God has a special place in His heart for the afflicted, for those who are humbled, weakened, bowed down, or oppressed through the actions of others or by the circumstances that occur because we live in a fallen world. Everyone is familiar with the picture of Jesus gathering the little children around Him and correcting the disciples’ idea that they were a bother or distraction. God’s heart is moved with compassion for people who are scattered, dispirited, and in need (Matthew 9:36), and especially for orphans and widows.
It is important to God that the church as a whole and Christ-followers as individuals serve, support, and encourage widows and orphans. In fact, Scripture says it is the very definition of pure religion.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
The church has a great history of serving widows and orphans; mission work is often built around orphanages, and countless children who have lost both parents have been adopted by Christian families who understand that they, themselves, have been adopted into God’s family. In many cultures, the attitude toward orphans has changed over the years, thankfully, and fatherless boys and girls are no longer treated as servants or worthless burdens. Mission work and ministries continue to be established in places where these attitudes prevail.
Foster parents care for children who may or may not be orphans. Foster care is designed to be temporary, a time of separation so that the parent(s) can get needed help. The goal is always for a family to be reunited, but in many cases foster children are eventually adopted. I believe what Scripture teaches about widows and orphans extends to families who find themselves in the foster system.
The verses below show us how God cares for children and families in need:
God Desires Justice for Children and Families in Need
“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).
“You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless” (Exodus 22:22-24).
God Is the One Who Will Judge Those Who Afflict the Defenseless
“You have seen it, for You have beheld mischief and vexation to take it into Your hand. The unfortunate commits himself to You; You have been the helper of the orphan. Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer, seek out his wickedness until You find none. The Lord is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror” (Psalm 10:14-18).
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3).
God Desires Families in Crisis to Have Their Physical Needs Met by Those Who Have an Abundance
“When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21).
“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. You shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments” (Deuteronomy 26:12-13).
God Is Protective of Broken Families
“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5).
“The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked” (Psalm 146:9).
God Expects His Church to Participate in Caring for Those in Need
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45).
“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35).
These verses are significant because they reveal God’s heart, and if we know God’s heart about a certain matter, then we ought to have that same attitude and concern. If it’s important to Him, it’s important to us.
With that in mind, what are some practical ways that the church can fulfill its responsibility to care for widows and orphans? Foster families have big hearts and make big commitments, and they need extra support from their church families and friends, as well as their own relatives. Inviting a child of any age into your home when that child is in crisis is a physical picture of what God does for us when He invites us into His family, and as believers, we are called to help our brothers and sisters to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our body.
Here are some suggestions from people who are directly involved in fostering and supporting foster families.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Ben Wicks
For the Church:
1. Seek God’s will and heart for your church by beginning with a season of prayer, asking God how He would have your particular body get involved in this ministry.
2. Seek out resources in your community that can educate your people about the needs that exist right around them.
3. Open your church up for training sessions so that interested families can be licensed to foster.
4. Provide multiple opportunities for serving in this ministry. Every family can’t commit to fostering a child, but every family can do something to support a part of the ministry.
5. Welcome foster children into your children’s ministry, making them feel at home, accepted, and loved by you and the God who created them and knows their story.
1. Develop a relationship with a family that is fostering. Ideally this would be a family in your church, but it doesn’t have to be.
2. Don’t forget “kinship” placement families (where children are fostered with a relative). These are often underserved for a variety of reasons. People make assumptions that a child is fine since he/she is staying with a blood relative.
3. Set up opportunities for the men in your church to come alongside foster fathers, and women to support foster mothers.
4. Provide dinners for the family.
5. Provide childcare to allow foster parents to have a “date night.”
6. Provide transportation for the numerous visits foster children will have to attend.
7. Consider getting licensed to foster just to provide respite care, allowing families who are fostering full time to have a break for a weekend, a vacation, or an out-of-town emergency.
8. Explore ways to minister to the hurting biological families.
9. Give financially to assist foster families with the extra needs they will encounter.
10. Be a “big brother or sister” to a foster child, providing spiritual mentorship and faith-based discipleship.
Fostering is a beautiful picture of what God does for us. When we are in crisis, He takes us in, gives us peace and rest, provides everything we need, blesses us with joy and laughter and acceptance. In addition, He always tells us the truth so that we can develop a relationship with Him, our loving Father.
Our world is broken, and there are many children who find themselves in the foster system through no fault of their own. As believers who have been adopted in God’s family, may we love them well and do our part to give them a safe family here, and an opportunity to spend eternity in God’s home.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
Author Sheila Alewine is a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother of five. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play. She has written seven devotionals including Just Pray: God’s Not Done With You Yet, Grace & Glory: 50 Days in the Purpose & Plan of God, and her newest one, Give Me A Faith Like That, as well as Going Around The Corner, a Bible study for small groups who desire to reach their communities for Christ. Their ministry also offers disciple-making resources like One-To-One Disciple-Making in partnership with Multiplication Ministries. Sheila has a passion for God’s Word and shares what God is teaching her on her blog, The Way of The Word. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.