1/27/2010 7:00 AM
Families are formed in many ways, and no doubt your church has done and is continually doing many things to be supportive of the families in your church, regardless of their configuration. (And we all know there are MANY ways a family can look in today's world.) Parenting classes are often offered in many congregations, and family ministries councils are frequently charged with coming up with great ways to connect families and offer them opportunities for fellowship, service, and education. But what about those individuals or couples who do not yet have children but who are considering or pursuing adoption or foster care? Have you considered how their needs and interests may be different from those families that already have children?
One thing that you can do is to begin an adoptive families support group within the church. Although such groups exist in some larger cities, often they are poorly advertised and inconveniently located. By offering an adoption support group to your members or to the community at large, you communicate to the congregation and community that your congregation values every kind of family. Plus, you'll strengthen the bonds between the families in your church.
The purpose of such a group in your congregation would simply be to offer support to persons who are at any stage of the adoptive process—consideration, application, waiting, completion, and beyond. The group could set aside part of the meeting time for prayer and spiritual reflection, or you may decide that the group will simply be open to all persons in your community and not include spiritual content. Leadership could be provided by an adoptive parent, a counselor, a couple or individual who is passionate about adoption, a social worker, or some other caring individual. The format of the gatherings would likely be very loose and informal, allowing plenty of time for updates, information sharing, and Q&A time.
Here are a few other helpful suggestions…
- Come up with a creative name for the group such as "Plus One," or just call it "Adoptive Families Group."
- Write up a paragraph that describes the group's mission and purpose. Here's one from Walnut Hills United Methodist Church near Des Moines, Iowa:
"A community of families created through adoption that gathers regularly throughout the year to support one another on our journeys. This group is open to all who have been touched by adoption: international, domestic, foster, waiting, those with children, or those just starting to think about adoption. Our goal is to be a welcoming group in which to share our joys and challenges of the adoption process, parenting highs and lows, and the everyday moments of family life. We not only come together to support each other as parents, but we also provide a place for our kids to get to know one another and share their experiences of being part of an adoptive family."
- Initially, don't jump right in to offering workshops or structured discussions. Let that emerge naturally from the group members.
- Potluck dinners in the home of the members are a guaranteed way to keep things informal and fun!
- Create an email list and/or Facebook group right away so that everyone can have a centralized way to keep in touch and get information.
- Use some of your church library budget to purchase children's story books about adoption.
~ by Tim Gossett
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