Stories are redemptive. They humanize powerful messages and help people personally internalize transformative things through the lenses of someone else's experience. It's important that your foster care, adoption and orphan care ministry is consistently sharing stories of how God is moving in the lives of families in your church. It's even more important that your use of stories is helping, and not unintentionally hurting, the broader vision of your ministry.
When using stories – whether video, print or live interview style – to undergird the vision and mission of your ministry, ensure they are reinforcing your message and deconstructing false paradigms of your people. In general, when people hear foster care or adoption their perspectives are limited to bringing children into their home. And in general, the stories being shared in most churches are reinforcing that narrow perception. The catch is that most ministry leaders are going to great lengths to educate people on a variety of other ways they can get involved that don't involve fostering or adopting - things like wrap around support for biological families, mentoring, babysitting, providing respite, bringing meals, supporting financially, etc. But the stories they're sharing are, well...telling a different story.
A COLLECTIVE DIVERSITY
At its core, the Body of Christ is a collective diversity of unique parts all coming together for a common purpose. We're hands, feet, ears, legs and toes (1 Corinthians 12) - inextricably linked together and dependent upon one another more than we can possibly fathom. We function best when we do different things, but do them together. In the Body of Christ we're not all called to do the same thing, but we're all certainly capable of doing something. Ensure your story sharing is reinforcing that message - that we can all do something. Otherwise, if it's only stories about families bringing children into their homes, the message being communicated is loud and clear...and confusing to those who likely won't ever do that.
Stories about families bringing children into their homes are important to share, but they're not the whole story of your ministry, or of what foster care and adoption entails. Consider sharing stories of people that have never brought children into their homes but have still found unique and creative ways to be involved - this is, after all, likely where the majority of people in your church will find themselves - and the types of stories they will resonate most with. Share stories of those who have financially supported adoptions in some way, have wrapped around foster families by serving and supporting them, have come alongside families in crisis to help prevent foster care from becoming a part of their story or even of those who have not yet done anything but are in the process of prayerfully considering how God is calling them to get involved. What has God taught them in those spaces? How have they been impacted as a result?
SHAPING BIGGER PERSPECTIVE
I recently met a man in Kansas City. Mid to late 60's. He told me he makes the best BBQ in the state (a bold claim!) and LOVES to cater any foster care ministry related event at their church including respite nights for couples, info meetings for those considering getting involved and even taking meals over to families homes who have had a new child placed with them. Here's a guy that has said, "I know what I can't do, and I know what I can do, so I'm going to do what I can do well." He told me that while he and his wife may not be in a position to bring a child into their home right now they can certainly do their best to bless those who are. I couldn't agree more.
Alongside the beautiful stories of families opening their homes to children through foster care or adoption, share stories like the Kansas City BBQ guy - ones that cast a broad vision and shape bigger perspectives for your people - ones that cause even the least likely person in your church to sit back and consider that they may just have a role to play in this after all. Be strategic in how you use them to ensure they are effectively communicating the message you want your people to hear - a message you want ALL your people to hear, not just an isolated few while the others discard it as "someone else's calling".
Here's a simple graphic to help visualize what it is we're talking about. Note: The examples on the chart are not exhaustive, but representative. The opportunities to get involved are endless and full of creativity. However, the simple reality is that the majority of people in your church will likely never bring a child into their home, but will in the end be the bearers of some of the most powerful stories of what God is doing through your ministry and in your church.
To explore some of these ideas further, check out Four Ways Your Church Can Support Foster and Adoptive Families, Wrapping Around Foster and Adoptive Families and Ten Simple Ways Your Church Can Serve Foster and Adoptive Families.