The most recent issue of SBC Life highlights our Hope for 100 campaign for churches. In the article ‘Adoption Ministries Thriving in SBC Churches’ David Roach looks at what God is doing through the campaign at Green Acres Baptist Church and another church in the SBC with a strong adoption ministry. If you would like more information on how your church can do a Hope for 100 campaign visit our website or contact us here.
Adoption Ministries Thriving in SBC Churches
by David Roach
At its annual meeting in June, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution “On Adoption and Orphan Care” that urged Southern Baptists to “join the Father in seeking mercy for orphans,” “pray for guidance” regarding adoption, and teach on adoption in their churches.
At least two congregations are taking those admonitions to heart.
Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, and Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, have thriving adoption ministries. And according to their adoption ministry leaders, embracing adoption is helping believers understand their own salvation in a new way.
“The day our pastor began to introduce it (adoption) to the church, he said, ‘Is there anyone that’s adopted?'” said Kevin Burdette, minister of adult impact at Green Acres. “And, of course, just eight or ten hands went up of those that were adopted into a family. Then he said, ‘No. I want to ask that again. If you’re a child of God today, then let me ask you, are you adopted?’
“So that was a lesson for our church to think of it that way — how God adopted us and we can in turn adopt another child and give them a Christian home and a great hope and a future like Jeremiah 29:11 says.”
Green Acres is in the midst of a campaign to adopt one hundred children into the families of its members. The campaign, known as Hope for 100, stems from one family’s experience adopting a daughter from China. Following that adoption, the father, Rocky Gill, started a ministry within the church to care for orphans. Pastor David Dykes enthusiastically supported the ministry, and the church launched Hope for 100 in January 2009.
“It’s become a really incredible thing,” Burdette said. “Our whole church is talking about it and wanting updates and constantly asking about it. It’s been a really exciting thing to watch it happen.”
Partnering with the Abba Fund in North Carolina, Green Acres is helping its members secure interest-free loans to adopt children. After the adoptions take place, families receive federal tax credits with which they can repay their loans. Using this system, families have adopted children from places as near as Fort Worth and as far away as Africa and Russia.
Many families in the church began the adoption process in January and started to bring home their children during the summer.
“We’re just now to the point where we’re going to start having some children come in,” Burdette said in July. “We haven’t had a whole lot of that yet. But we’re to the point now where a lot of children are probably about to start coming in. So that’s really exciting.”
Green Acres is approximately halfway to its goal of one hundred adoptions. The campaign has generated such excitement that even non-members and local media are supporting it.
“We have not used any budget money on this,” Burdette said. “Everything that we’ve done has just been through the generosity of the people and a lot of folks just from within our community. In fact, our community has really bought into this with us. A couple of local television stations have picked up on this and it’s been in the newspaper.”
Looking forward to reaching the goal, he said, “The day when we can have all of our families stand up there with all one hundred kids and say, ‘Look what God did,’ it’s going to be an amazing Sunday.”
At Highview, enthusiasm over adoption runs similarly high. Several years ago, members Tera and David Melber started a five-week class called “Considering Adoption.” The class, which has been offered twice a year ever since, explained the Christian responsibility to care for orphans and explored the logistics of different types of adoption. The response was overwhelming.
“Some of (the couples in the class) did not adopt, but yet they have given to other couples who are adopting or they’re supporting an orphan through a sponsorship program,” said Tera Melber, who serves as Highview’s director of adoption ministry. “But overall we saw a vast majority of the couples we’ve taught in the class decide to start the adoption journey.”
To help adoptive parents, a donor gave the church money to start an adoption fund. That fund, combined with consistent teaching on the subject from Pastor Kevin Ezell, has created a culture of adoption. At three of Highview’s campuses, there are maps with pictures of adoptive families and updates regarding where they are in the process of bringing home children from across the globe.
Ezell and his wife Lynette are adoptive parents themselves and have led several staff members to adopt children as well. Once a year, Highview sets aside a special Sunday to celebrate adoption.
Other adoption ministries at Highview include support groups for adoptive parents, fellowships for mothers waiting to adopt, and gatherings of families who have adopted children from the same continent.
“Adoption has become a culture at Highview and not a subculture,” Melber said. “It’s a part of who we are. And much of it stems from the fact that Pastor Kevin is very passionate about adoption and the plight of the orphan and he lives it out.”
Russell D. Moore, teaching pastor at Highview and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said adoption ministry is fundamentally about the Great Commission.
“Several weeks ago Kevin Ezell and I sat on the platform at Highview Baptist Church, surrounded by children at a special Sunday night service,” Moore, who has two adopted sons, said. “We had invited all of our children who had been adopted to join us on the platform, and they carried flags of the states or countries from which they had come.
“The platform was swarming with children, including many toddlers and infants. The thing that struck me was how few of these children seemed to recognize the flags in their hands, but they all knew the words to Jesus Loves Me. Adoption and orphan care is, quite simply, both Great Commandment and Great Commission ministry. When congregations adopt, foster, or minister to orphans, people are saved.”
While some Southern Baptists may think that only large churches can support adoption ministries, Burdette and Melber say congregations of any size can help their members embrace God’s plan for orphans.
“I get phone calls a lot from small churches and big churches,” Melber said. “And I think the biggest deal is not to jump too far ahead. Even if we had not had the money for the fund, we would have started by teaching the class. And that doesn’t cost a dime.
“Or we would have started with a support group where adoptive parents or people considering adoption can get together, and that doesn’t cost anything. I always tell people, ‘Just pray and seek the Lord because for the longest time our adoption ministry was really small.'”
Burdette stressed that churches of any size can begin adoption ministries because the cost of adoption is lower than most people realize. In Texas, for example, adopting a child out of foster care is nearly free because the state covers so many costs, he said.
“Even on top of that, the state — at least here in Texas — will continue to pay for education, will pay for college and all that because it’s cheaper for them to do that than to pay for foster care,” he said. “There are a lot of different options that are available to families that are very low cost.”
Green Acres wants other churches to use and customize its Hope for 100 concept to adopt as many children as God leads. Burdette hopes sister churches will launch Hope for 20, Hope for 50, and Hope for 200 campaigns in the days ahead.
In the end, both churches agree with the Southern Baptist Convention resolution’s prayer that “what God is doing in creating an adoption culture in so many churches and families can point us to a gospel oneness that is determined not by ‘the flesh,’ or race, or economics, or cultural sameness, but by the Spirit, unity, and peace in Christ Jesus.”
David Roach is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Kentucky.