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As many Christians continue to see the face of suffering on the news every evening, they wonder, “What can I do to really help?”  Over the past week on this blog, our team has been discussing the role of adoption and giving in response to the crisis in Haiti.  One of the things I have been thinking about is the role of a local church orphans ministry in the midst of a humanitarian crisis such as this.

We have seen a huge outpouring of individuals wanting to do everything from donating the use of their airplanes, to spending time in Haiti administering medical care, to hosting and even adopting children affected by this tragedy. In light of this great number of Christians who are poised and ready saying, “Lord, here am I – send me,” what can an established church orphans ministry do?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do with my friends was to play “Tackle the Man with the Football” (we had another name for this game that isn’t really suitable for print). There were really no rules to speak of, no order and certainly no protective equipment – you just looked for the guy with the ball and did everything you could to get him on the ground.  In short, it was chaos.  In retrospect, I have no earthly idea how I’ve made to this point in my life never having broken a bone.

As I got older, my friends and I graduated into more organized football and learned the importance of game plans, coaches and quarterbacks (and helmets).  When it comes to caring for orphans through your church in the midst of a crisis situation, a church orphans ministry can serve the function of a quarterback on a football team.  Still under the authority of the church staff (the coaching staff), a church orphans ministry leader has the advantage of being on the field and seeing things others can’t see and that will greatly affect the outcome of the game.  I recognize that football as a metaphor for church orphans ministry falls short at several different levels in light of the severity of the need. However, I feel it does help for illustration purposes to describe the three roles that a church orphans ministry can play:

1) Apprise – To apprise means to “inform.”  A quarterback takes in a lot of information and assimilates that information for others.  If he sees the defense doing certain things, he lets the coaches and the other players know.  You can be the eyes and ears for your church as it relates to orphans in the midst of a crisis.  For example, in Haiti, a church orphans ministry leader should be the one who knows the daily developments related to Haitian orphans.  What is happening to the children?  What are the Haitian and American policies on adoption and on temporary care in the U.S.? What are Christian organizations doing specifically for orphans in Haiti?

Finding and assimilating this information and then passing it on to your congregation through your church’s website, e-mail and your team’s social networking connections can help members of your church know the truth, can eliminate rumors about what is and is not possible and will equip them to respond accordingl

2) Advise – A quarterback can tell his coaches on the sidelines what he is seeing on the field and then make recommendations for a plan of attack.  Having gathered as much information as possible, you may very well be in a position to humbly counsel your church’s leadership about the church’s corporate response to the crisis.  Your church staff will undoubtedly be in contact with your missions team but you can provide counsel specifically related to orphans involved in the crisis.  How will the church counsel members who indicate an interest in adopting a Haitian orphan?  What organizations will be recommended to church members for financial partnership?

The key to playing this role in your church is to approach leadership as a helper and not as an expert.  Make recommendations rather than impassioned demands (i.e  “Children are starving on the streets without parents – what is this church going to do about it!!!!”)  Remember that you’re on the same team as (and under the authority of) your pastor.

3) Advocate—If a quarterback notices that his running backs are not getting the blocks they need to get through the line, he is going to talk to his linemen and advocate for his running backs.  In the same way, when you see a place where a strategy or a particular group of children need to be noticed, speak up.  Keeping in mind the last part of point 2 about humbly approaching church leadership, don’t be afraid to advocate in your church and “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves . . .” (Proverbs 31:8a).  God has placed you in a position within your church to be the voice for children who lack one. God will use you to demonstrate His love and His reality to children in the most desperate of circumstances.

A church orphans ministry at a time like this cannot only be a blessing to hundreds of children, it can be a blessing to your church and your church’s leadership as you use your passion and experience to serve your church and the Kingdom.

If you don’t yet have an orphans ministry in your church and are interested in learning more about starting one, please click here.  If you would like to talk with someone at Hope for Orphans about orphans ministry in your church, please contact our Manager of Church Mobilization, Shane McBride, at SMcBride@familylife.com.

By God’s leading and with the wisdom He provides, you can play an important role in helping the members of your church “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless. . .” (Psalm 82:3a).

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