By Rick Morton, Vice President of Engagement
Today’s post begins the series entitled “10 Things That Will Kill Your Church’s Orphan Ministry.” This series is born out of several years of consulting with and observing many churches across America develop orphan care ministries. Over time, I have noticed some common mistakes that cause these ministries to struggle and even fail. Over the next few weeks, I want to share those observations with you in an effort to help and to stir a discussion about the good things being done to minister well in orphan care.
So, the first thing that will kill your orphan ministry is…
#1 Disconnect from the Gospel
“The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.” —John Piper “The Gospel in 6 Minutes”
The Gospel is the Answer for the Orphan Crisis:
God entered human history to destroy the power of death, hell, and sin, and to restore what has been broken by the curse of sin. We can’t ever lose sight of the fact that children are orphaned because we live under the effects of the curse of sin. This world is broken, and sin and death still reign, but the reign of sin is temporary.
There is a King who has come and has done the good work that brings hope, and, that King is coming again. One day, He will return and establish His Kingdom and complete the work He has begun. He will restore what has been broken. Sickness, death, and indifference will be gone. Our work will be over. There will be no more orphans!
We Live in a Great Paradox
Right now, we are living in a great paradox. It’s what I remember my New Testament professor in seminary calling the “already but not yet” tension of the Kingdom of God. On the one hand, as Christians we are already citizens of the Kingdom. On the other hand, we are citizens living in an alien land. We are living in a broken world struggling with sin and death until Jesus completes the establishment of His Kingdom. It’s that tension that defines orphan ministry.
Here’s the thing, in our urgency to deal with the very real and pressing suffering of the millions of orphans across the world, we mustn’t be satisfied to only deal with their earthly suffering. We have to remember that they like the rest of the world suffer at a much greater level. They suffer in their need for the gospel and its ultimate promise of rescue. The gospel demands that we not forget their spirits as we try to care for them as people.
Jesus Met Physical & Spiritual Needs
The moment we take care of their material needs without regard for the spiritual, we have ceased to be like Jesus. Jesus was concerned with both and gave rescue both physically and spiritually. To go in the name of Jesus, we too should not dichotomize the two.
Meeting only physical needs will draw us away from God and His power. Meeting only spiritual needs lacks compassion and credibility and gives an inaccurate picture of who Jesus really is. We can afford neither. Disconnecting from the gospel will kill our orphan ministries in effectiveness and ultimately in substance.
At some point without the power of God, the crisis is too large. It is just too overwhelming, and without the gospel as a mission and a “true north,” we can expect that our efforts will dissipate.
Far too often, mercy ministries “jump the tracks” by gravitating toward an extreme. We can afford neither the extreme of gospel proclamation without meeting physical needs or meeting physical needs without gospel proclamation. Our only extreme should be the extent we are willing to sacrifice to do both together. In that, we will follow the example of Jesus.
Do you find it challenging to keep the gospel in focus? We would love to partner with your church to help challenge and equip your members to share the reality, communicate God’s call, and find practical ways to respond. We also have created a resource page that we hope will bring momentum to your church in caring for the fatherless. Visit lifelinechild.org/orphan-sunday for more information.
#2 Too Much, Too Fast
This is the 2nd post in a series entitled “10 Things That Will Kill Your Church’s Orphan Ministry.” This series is born out of several years of consulting with and observing many churches across America develop orphan care ministries. Over time, I have noticed some common mistakes that cause these ministries to struggle and even fail. Over the next few weeks, I want to share those observations with you in an effort to help and to stir a discussion about the good things being done to minister well in orphan care.
So, one more thing that will kill your orphan ministry is:
Too Much, Too Fast
The scope of the global orphan ministry crisis creates a healthy sense of urgency in us all. Recognizing the enormity of the challenges posed by the needs of of orphaned and vulnerable children particularly the scores of children that will “age-out” of institutions this year, we can easily fall into the trap of rushing headlong into ministry without enough care or consideration.
We have to balance the urgency of the need with our capacity to do ministry well.
As I have observed church orphan ministries, there are several common errors to avoid in doing too much too fast. Here are a few:
Alerting the church to the crisis with no plan for how to address it – Remember the old adage, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” If you pour on the statistics and videos during Orphan Sunday but don’t give the church a way to respond, all you are going to do is stir emotion and frustration. Moreover, you are teaching the church it is acceptable to be emotionally moved but inaction is equally acceptable to God.
Failing to choose partners well – I will talk more about this in week 5, but suffice to say that beginning to work with an ethically questionable partner because you rush into a ministry relationship because you “just have to do something quickly to respond to the orphan crisis” will eventually lead to problems (and possibly disaster).
Missing opportunities because the church’s bandwidth is maximized – We can’t do everything, and no single church is going to solve the orphan crisis. You have to be strategic about growing in doable increments. If you stretch your people and resources to their absolute maximum, you leave no freedom to respond to great unexpected opportunities for ministry that come up along the way. Always leave a little wiggle room.
Contributing to the notion that orphan care is a fad – Orphan care is a marathon not a sprint in every way. We have to be committed for the long haul. If we begin with a big splash that gains a lot of attention but is not sustainable, we reinforce the notion that orphan care is the evangelical cause of the moment. Fatherless kids have been disappointed and abandoned enough. We can’t be guilty of contributing to their hurt. What we begin, we must be able to maintain.
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
How are you building orphan care ministry for the long haul? We would love to partner with your church to help challenge and equip your members to share the reality, communicate God’s call, and find practical ways to respond. We also have created a resource page that we hope will bring momentum to your church in caring for the fatherless. Visit the Orphan Sunday page for more information.