The gift of foster care to the church: Five ways to shift your perspective

Written by Mark Merrill
Published on February 05, 2021

As we begin a new year with fresh intentions and focus, I’m reminded that perspective is everything. The way you look at the opportunities and challenges the Lord places in your life can either bless you in a big way or be a missed opportunity for your family to experience his goodness. 

When it comes to foster care, the need for influence from Christian parents is immense. What if we shifted our perspective and saw fostering as a gift rather than an obstacle or a burden? 

If God is tugging on your heart to consider fostering but you aren’t sure if you’re ready to make the leap, allow these five thoughts to guide conversations in your home. 

1.) Get involved with neighbors in the community

Foster care introduces us to our neighbors we would maybe never meet. Today, our culture provides more resources and services that are delivered directly to our doorstep than ever before. 

For example, you can attend a church service, have your dog groomed, car washed, groceries delivered, mortgage refinanced, etc. without ever leaving your home. To that end, there are unintended consequences to these conveniences, one of those being that it has become increasingly difficult to meet new neighbors in our communities. 

When asked what is the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus’s response couldn’t have been clearer in Matthew 22:37–39: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (ESV). 

Many don’t realize that foster care not only introduces us to neighbors in our community that we may not have met otherwise, but it also offers the opportunity to minister to neighbors in their greatest time of need. Foster care allows the church to love their neighbors well. 

2.) See sacrifice as a gift

Foster care requires sacrifice, which is a good thing! You probably won’t see the call to sacrifice as the top bullet point of any foster care ministry brochure or website. But why not? 

Biblical love is the product of both our affections and sacrifice. Imagine if John 3:16 ended by simply saying that God loved the world but didn’t continue to outline just how sacrificial the Father’s love was! 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Our hope rests in the truth that God’s love is sacrificial, and it’s a gift for the church to have the opportunity to live out sacrificial love! 

Caring for traumatized children in our Sunday children’s ministries? A gift. 

Delivering meals or clothes at the last minute to a family that just had a child placed in their home? A gift. 

Having our day-to-day lives and schedule disrupted? A gift. 

3.) Involve the whole family

Foster care is a daily ministry field our children can participate in. Many times, families who already have children in the home ask how foster care will affect the family as a unit. This question is almost never asked in the positive—the inference is that foster care will negatively impact their children. 

And while yes, foster care will undoubtedly be difficult for everyone in a family who chooses to foster—including the children who are already in the home—it isn’t our primary goal in parenting to make our children’s lives easy. 

As parents, we are called “to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Foster care allows children in the church and those in the foster families’ homes to actually be participants of ministry and not just observers. 

Sacrificing toys, time spent with mom and dad, or maybe even sharing a bedroom are all opportunities for our children to join us in ministry. It’s a gift for the church to have a ministry that so actively involves the entire family unit, including the children. 

4.) Incorporate the church

There is something for everyone in the church. When families in a church choose to foster, it provides countless ways for others in the church to serve alongside them. Praying, delivering meals, donating clothes or toys, babysitting, mentoring, or helping drive children to appointments—the opportunities are limitless. 

First Corinthians 12:12–27 illustrates clearly that “as the body of Christ, we are not made up of one member but many.” No matter what part of the body we represent, everyone has a meaningful role to play that provides value. 

Did you know there are nearly sixty verses in Scripture that many refer to as the “one anothers”? These include verses like “Encourage each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:18), “Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13), and “Pray for each other” (James 5:16). 

Foster care is a vehicle for the church and all its members to live out these “one another” Scriptures. 

5.) Pursue Christ first

Foster care reinforces that our pursuit is Christ—not being perfect parents. It doesn’t take much time spent on social media before you start thinking that the standard for parenting is perfection. 

However, something interesting happens when we start engaging, loving, and serving families in crisis. When a mom or dad has their child removed and placed into foster care, it becomes clear very quickly that perfection isn’t possible—for their family or ours. 

What an encouragement that is, to know that our pursuit isn’t perfection ourselves—it’s a pursuit of the only perfect one, Christ, in our parenting. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

We are all a work in progress, and it’s truly a gift for the church to walk alongside others who are just as much a work in progress as we are. Shift your perspective to see foster care as a gift and you may find that the Lord is leading your family to unexpected opportunities and blessings.

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Mark Merrill

Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, Inc., a national non-profit organization that provides online resources via its programs, All Pro Dad and iMOM, dedicated to helping people love their families well. Mark has been featured in publications including USA Today, the Washington Times, and Sports Illustrated, and is the author of All Pro Dad – “Seven Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids”, as well as several marriage and parenting books and articles. As an advocate for the family, Mark has spoken at conferences and events hosted by major companies, NFL teams, organizations, and government bodies. Before founding Family First in 1991, Mark practiced law in Florida for seven years. He and his wife, Susan, live in Tampa, Florida and have five children. 

Read more about Mark

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