Foster care ministry: If not the church, then who?
By Robin Talley* | May 19, 2023
More than 10 years ago, members of Cross Church in Surprise began to explore how they could minister to kids in foster care. What started out with just a few interested people, many of whom are senior adults, has developed into a vibrant, flourishing ministry.
“One misunderstanding about foster care ministry is that the goal is not to make every person at church a foster parent,” said Robin Allen, foster care ministry co-leader at Cross Church.
There are numerous and varied needs in the foster care community. For that reason, church foster care ministry looks different for every church. There are, however, common elements in any foster care ministry.
“The things that are replicable for a church of any size are recruitment of families, advocacy for foster care needs, and supporting foster families in the church,” said Michelle Clements, vice president of development and communication for Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries.
“Foster care ministry could be something as simple as having two or three church members willing to drop off a meal or meet other needs to a much larger ministry that coordinates respite, meals, material needs and maybe even a support group,” she continued.
With the wide array of services that could be offered, Cross Church contacted ABCS for help to begin.
“We started by having ABCS come in to provide classes on the basics of foster care,” Allen said. “Then we branched out by having supply drives for local agencies’ foster care closets and group homes. Our church showed up and began to get involved.”
In 2013, Cross Church expanded their ministry to the foster care community by caring for individuals in group homes. Today, there are separate ministries for boys’ and girls’ group homes.
“We didn’t know if we would be allowed to talk about God during these times, but we soon found out that it was not a problem,” said Mary Cloud Filler, foster care ministry co-leader at Cross Church.
Clubs meet at least once a month with the children from the group home. Each meeting includes a meal, Bible study, prayer time and an activity to teach life skills. Every time the group meets, the club has Bibles ready to give to the children. There is an urgency to give everyone a Bible as the children are moved around often.
The ministry has grown enough that there are enough volunteers to meet one-on-one with each child during club meeting time.
“We want each child to know how valuable they are,” Filler said. “The children in group homes need to know people love and respect them.”
Allen and Filler said they have seen children begin to pray for their friends and family. At first, some are hesitant to pray, but then they begin to ask for prayer more often. Over the years the ministry has seen two girls accept Christ, as well as children being reunited with family.
“It is very powerful what God is doing in this work,” Allen said. “We did not have a clue. He calmed our anxious hearts, and we just loved them. We strongly feel if the church doesn’t reach these kids, who will?”
- Begin with preaching on orphan care, sharing the need or promoting recruitment within your church.
- Contact a church with an existing foster care ministry. Both Allen and Filler welcome visits from other groups looking to start a foster care ministry.
- Follow the best practices and protective policies for working with minors set up by your church. Be sure that all volunteers are screened and have a third-party background check.
- If your church has foster families, ask them how your church can support them.
- Consider having a representative from ABCS speak or have a table at your church.
*Name changed for security
Robin Talley, longtime Arizona Southern Baptist, is a former Last Frontier missionary with the International Mission Board.