Jeff Juhala found this on Sleeptrain.com and I love it,
“not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child.”
Think about these ten words to help map out a plan to help foster children:
- Believe me it’s not just word that sounds good to put in a list. Prayer is the beginning of fleshing out all the other words in this list. It’s the singularity of prayer in the leader’s life and ministry, “Lord, direct our path!” The plurality of the team focus on unity and attitude, “Lord, give us wisdom.” And finally, there should be a rhythm of prayer through every facet of the program. Specific prayer times at all meetings, training, and events. Plus, it’s a way to include folks through Prayer Teams with reminders like a bracelet with team members and children’s first names and other ways during the ministry event to get the word out fast for prayer. Close the ministry time with prayer over the children. We encourage a circle of prayer symbolically putting the children in the middle.
2. Plan – You need a roadmap to where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Typically, we want to make things happen – NOW. We have found that a well, laid out action plan gives all leadership personalities the ability not only to communicate the vision, but the process of getting it accomplished. We plan from our event (camp or club) backward. We train our volunteers to take the date and begin going back ten or even twelve months. We also provide a ten (or twelve) month planning guide. Each month includes a team meeting, people involved, a checklist of things to do within that month and discussions about the overall plan. For instance, we train our volunteers that they are basically going to do four things: 1) Lease a campground 2) Engage Social Services to secure the children 3) Get the volunteers (staff require a personal ask, camp counselors a general bulletin or pulpit ask) and 4) Raise the money (see # 10).
- Get the right people leading. The personality of the leader and the process of running the ministry are critical. However, much of the time those qualities do not exist in just one same person. So, you need a leader who can find, inspire, train and lead others. They should have the potential of communicating and delegating to others in your church. Maybe they won’t be an immediate superstar right away, and may need time to grow and develop but they are willing to work hard, learn, live and lead. We have also found that the adults need care, support and community as well. One our values is, “treat people royally.” how can your team do things for the volunteers that go above and beyond. How can you make things nice, respect their time, help them grow themselves and give them opportunity to do great things for God.
- The adults who volunteer should be trained and prepared for the ministry. People need to know what they are getting into and what it will take to be successful. Don’t slack on preparing them for the ministry. Often times in ministry we are afraid of making the entry to difficult. This ministry should have a VERY high expectation bar that requires the sacrifice of time, comfortability and money. Some people will not make the cut, it’s not personal; it’s just not a fit for what’s needed for these children.
- The relationship with the children begins with permission, high standards of safety and care and following the rules set up by social services. As much as we’d like to think we’re in charge and should have total access to foster children the truth is – we’re not in charge and we don’t have total access. However, we can help the government want to allow you to serve the children. The church world is very different from the government services world. I tell my friends in Government that they eat Acronym Soup for lunch everyday! Their world is a world of rules and systems and acronyms. If you learn their rules, build relationships and keep your word they will let you help them. These folks have a huge amount of pressure to protect and limited resources of people to do it. Plus, those who have authority over the children want the same thing as you do – the children to be safe and to have a chance to go on to be productive people in the future. We play by their rules. We respect their rules and are honest about how we run our program and why we do what we do. We do not tell the government one thing and then do whatever we want and justify it!
- Yes, your church is awesome. But I tell you what. It can in no way compare to the Cathedral of the Outdoors! God has designed such an amazing and beautiful expanse. Getting the children (actually anyone) out of their normal environment, routine of sights, sounds, smells, taste and textures forces our brains to say, “hey – this is new” and we become more aware of our surroundings, our own thoughts and even others. There is something specific and unique about camp that you cannot get any other place.
- The relationship with a child of abuse starts with trust. That’s why we know a week of camp in the cathedral of the outdoors works. It is a five-day experience to build a loving, trusting relationship with a child. One day is built upon another and these God moments are woven together to create powerful memories. My friend, Joanne Feldmeth says, “the one thing a foster child knows about you as a an adult is that you will leave.” Everyone in the life of a foster child tells them they care and want to help but the child thinks that everyone in their life gets paid to say that. So keeping you your word is primary to building trust. Simple things like keeping a schedule, having regular meal times and snacks, and following though with simple plans. We train volunteers to be very careful when making even simple promises – a promise made is a promise kept.
- The children don’t want to be fixed they just want to have fun. The want the luxury of just being a kid, a chance to be normal, feel normal and doing kid things they missed out on. It is extremely important for the children to experience those “firsts” in life – first time to swim, catch a fish, ride a bike, and have a birthday party. If they don’t get the chance to experience “kid” things while they are kids they will be missing a childhood. And for children, love is spelled t-i-m-e. Especially for foster children, it’s important for them to be seen, heard and known. These children desperately need to belong and have an identity. They want to hear their name in positive ways and be affirmed for good decisions. So whatever you do as a program it needs to have a lot of positive affirming adults present. You need to be consistent and keep your promises. You need to think long term and about the process not just the goal.
- We have a phrase we often use in our community – “its about the process not the project.” What we mean by that is, focus on being present with the children not just checking off a task to be finished. This not only becomes important as an operational or programming element, like hosting a Bible time or an arts and crafts time. It also becomes important to think of process in terms of salvation or a child’s decision to follow Jesus. Foster children, in particular, have a chaotic understanding of God, the father. Not just for the typical “father-issues,” but more so because they have been surrounded by a mixed-bag of spirituality. Some of the children have never heard the gospel, but most often they’ve never seen it actually lived out. Some have come from religious or even Christian foster homes and know all about church or Bible stories. Some have come from abuse even within a Christian home or Bible believing church. And, most often they will accept Jesus just because they know that’s what you want and they want you to like them for that decision. In working with our Social Worker friends who try to “hold the line” to keep religion from invading government, they have placed all their concerns under the word, “proselytizing.” The dictionary meaning, “to convert or attempt to convert someone from on religious faith to another.” However, it has come to be generally accepted that the word means “to force” religion on someone (a child in this case). I would serious consider removing overt, group asks for salvation. I would seriously consider removing the sacraments and some practices of the church when working with foster children.
- How should we pay for this idea, this ministry? We should not expect the church to just “foot-the-bill” for every God-inspired idea. If the ministry touches the lives of children of abuse, asking people to help is just a matter of communicating the vision and personally asking for their financial help. Remember, in America, prayer always follows our money but not usually the other way around. Businesses, civic groups & other churches will want to be involved (even financially) but there has to be a plan to ask. We say, “oftentimes ministries operate on the hint, hope and wait method – but the Bible talks about knocking, seeking and asking.” And when it comes to asking for money, hope is not a strategy! We advise a four-tier plan to fundraising. The bottom (foundational) is to total up the cost of the ministry event and divide that by the total number of people involved. That number should include all volunteers and the children being served. Folks often ask for just the cost of the children attending the event (in our case, one week of camp or nine months of club) but that does not reflect reality. The reality is it takes a whole lot of adults (who donate their time) to make the ministry happen. So, factor in those folks. That final number is the amount of money you ask people to give to accomplish the vision God has called you to do. The second tier includes small group asks (civic groups, businesses and churches). The third tier includes fundraising events (Bake sales, Car Washes, Golf Tournaments). We caution folks to NOT build the ministry on the event ask. It is a lot of work, it takes a lot of volunteers to run the event and it can fail (date conflict, rain out). Sure, events are fun – we call them fun-raising. And yes, they build awareness. But events are not a sustainable model in the long run to fund your ministry idea for years to come. The last tier is grants and foundations. You need to know a few things about grants and foundations: 1) They are still based on relationship and the personal ask (if you want to receive long term gifts, 2) They require specific projects that match what the foundation wants to fund, and 3) Foundations normally want to fund startup ideas and then see your sustainable model to keep the ministry going.