A church in the small Ohio town of Kinsman, population around 600, has a ministry committed to finding foster homes for children in its county. The Rock Of Grace launched an initiative called #everychild which has made a huge difference in just 18 months according to a CBN News report.
Lead pastor Jordan Biel discovered that in Trumbull County, population 200,000, there were 140 children living in group facilities needing foster families. “I was just alarmed that 140 kids were in our backyard and literally 10 minutes from my house is Trumbull County Children Services,” he told CBN News.
He was prompted to partner with the children’s services agency to find a loving family for orphaned children by loving one child at a time. 40 foster children are now living within the church community. Five have been adopted.
The pastor’s vision for the ministry was inspired by his own walk of faith to adopt a little boy. “Every church’s calling is different, I get that. But to answer the question: Should every church do this? Yes.” He’s been stunned by the success of the program. “I did not know it was going to take off like it has, to be honest,” Pastor Biel conceded.
CBN News spoke to church members Melissa and Jason Crisp who have been married for 24 years and have four biological children, but have still managed to foster nine more children in the last year and a half.
“You’re being a positive part of their life and you hope it lasts their whole life,” Jason said. The Crisps say that while it’s rewarding, the hardest part is falling in love with a foster child, only to hand them over to a responsible family member who comes forward. “I’ve had to learn how to really trust God with kids’ lives that I love, that I have no control over anymore – and that’s a lot,” Melissa explained.
The CBN News report revealed that church members who aren’t ready to commit to foster or adopt can still play a role. The church gives volunteer opportunities via its Family Advocacy Ministry (FAM) which pairs foster families with members who provide support by cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and praying for foster families.
“80% of foster families will continue fostering if they have a support system, but many of them will quit if they feel alone,” Pastor Biel declared. That support helped Melissa Crisp who explained: “Besides regularly sending someone, they called, texted, sent Bible verses and just reminded us that it’s good when it doesn’t feel good.”
Rock of Grace leaders point out that if every church in Ohio followed its lead, all of the state’s 5,000 foster children would have a home. Its FAM director Nikki Culver told CBN News: “James 1:27 says that undefiled religion is for us to take care of the widows and the orphans. I feel like God is charging us with that to act. I believe every church can be part of it and literally change the world.”
Church involvement with adoption and foster care ministries has dropped substantially over the past five years in the US. A Lifeway Research study found that only around 40% of Protestant churches are actively involved in a foster kids ministry. Church members providing foster care has dropped almost 10 percent over the last five years.
Jason Crisp said: “It’s important more Christians get involved. I put such a high priority on that – if we can lead more of these kids to Christ at an early age, you can’t beat that.”
Almost 400,000 American children live in foster care. The US ranks third in the world for having the most officially recognised orphaned children, according to World Population Review. Less than half are adopted each year.