Adoption: The Very Heart of Our Father

In celebration of the upcoming Father’s Day, I thought I’d share another blog I wrote for My Healthy Church: Kids. You can find a lot of other great articles and resources on their site.


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Adoption is the heart of God. I have always agreed with this thought, but I don’t think I understood it until I adopted my son. For those who have biological children and choose to adopt, the impact of adoption is no less significant than the impact on those who pursue adoption because of infertility. But I believe many of the emotional experiences are different. The emotional journey of deciding to adopt is vastly different when you cannot have children on your own. Different isn’t necessarily more powerful or meaningful; different is just different.

The adoption story for my son begins five years before we ever met him. Honestly, the lead-up to adopting my son had little to do with him and more with the emotion I had to process before he came into our lives.

My wife, Heather, and I had decided it was time to start trying to have children. It’s difficult to express the monthly disappointment associated with pregnancy struggles. At first, you walk through plausible explanations—perhaps work stress is causing an issue, maybe this is not right timing, possibly God doesn’t think we’re ready for kids. The list of possibilities goes on and on. The specific questions aren’t really relevant—it’s the lingering feelings of inadequacy, confusion, frustration, and sadness that are hardest. And the time associated with the process of determining what the infertility issue is does nothing to alleviate the tension felt personally and with your spouse.

It wasn’t until after we had gone through multiple rounds of testing and fertility treatments that we shifted our focus to adoption. Through these years of repeated failure and disappointments, I struggled with depression, anger, and a multitude of other feelings. It was one of the darkest seasons of my life.

Frankly, I needed the adoption process to rekindle hope in me. I had lost much of the optimism and positive expectations I had previously held. Yet the adoption process brought a whole new set of concerns and questions. “How long will this take?” “How much will this cost?”

As a side note, one negative side of adoption is the awkward, sometimes painful, attempts of others to sympathize with you. I understand folks are looking for common ground, but most do it in a horrible manner. It finally came to the point where we had to interrupt people in the middle of their “my ________ had this horrible adoption experience happen to them, but I’m sure yours won’t be like that.” They meant well, but adoption is hard to understand if you’re not walking through it. We did appreciate the attempted support, if not it was executed.

Then we adopted our son. We were blessed with the way his adoption happened. There were so many miracles in such a short time that I wish I had the time to convey them all. But I can say this—the amazing intervention of God helped me to find a place of hope in my life again. The lead-in was excruciating; the in-between was exhausting; but the finality of it has been the most rewarding time in my life.

My son is now 19 months old and I would walk through the same process with twice the difficulty for the opportunity to be his father. The reward of persevering through depression, fear, and other feelings is worth the joys of parenting. I feel closer to God through it. I can truly understand Romans 8:15: “the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.”

While the bond may not be biological, it is no less strong. That was a part I was unsure of through the process—would I feel like a dad when I adopted? The answer is a resounding YES! I am my son’s father, not his adoptive caregiver. He is my son, not my adopted ward.

You can read more about our adoption journey on my Facebook. (If you want to dig, I did a series of posts starting June 24, 2014 celebrating one year with my son.) Or check out my blog post about the day he was born at http://www.spencerclick.com/?p=536.

Making Space for Parents in #kidmin

Here’s a blog I wrote for My Healthy Church: Kids, you can find many great articles and resources on their site.

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There are many different models and philosophies for involving parents—Orange, D6, Tru, Legacy, or your own variation of family involvement. The big picture is the need for integration recognized by more and more churches. Honestly, the definition of family ministry is a bit up in the air—but the intent is clear. Parents, grandparents, and primary caregivers need to be considered when your children’s ministry starts making plans for their kids.

There is plenty of information available to you as a leader to help define family ministry. My intent is not to define family ministry. But to incorporate a healthy family ministry into your church, there are few keys I would like to highlight.

1. Change the view of your role

What do you think your role is as a children’s minister? Many children’s leaders think their role is to teach children and in many instances that is part of your job, but your job cannot stop there. How do you fulfill the Ephesians 4:11–13 element of training and equipping workers for ministry? One way you can do this is by seeing the other part of children’s ministry—helping parents become the priest in their home. This mean adding equipping parents to your ministry, not removing the teaching kids at church from your ministry.

2. Don’t assume you know what they need

Churches are great at telling. We aren’t so good at asking. Often we present ourselves as experts knowing exactly what children need in their spiritual development and what resources parents need to work with their kids. In reality, we normally have a plan and invite (expect) parents to come join us. If we want to make space for parents and caregivers, we need to make room for their input. Have you considered asking parents what they need? Perhaps a focus group with a cross section of parents to explore topics and resources they would find beneficial would be a good launching point for making room for parents.

3. One size doesn’t fit all

Parenting today looks different than it did 10 or 15 years ago. Single parents, extended family, adoption, foster care, weekend visits, and so on—we cannot expect one method of family ministry to meet everyone’s needs. We need to think of a variety of ways to involve families. Parenting classes are great, but parenting classes for whom? Moms? Grandparents? Uncles? The liberating thing is that there isn’t a silver bullet—no event can reach everyone, but by offering different options, you can develop an effective ministry to families. Carnivals and family movie nights will reach some; parent’s night out will reach others; classes meet a need; so does a shared family experience. I think if you can create a couple of broad events with one or two focused events throughout the year, you’ll touch far more families than you’ll ever realize.

It’s much like one of my professors said: “It’s not as important what system you have … It is important that you have a system!”

Connecting with Volunteers. #kidmin

Here’s a blog post I wrote for My Healthy Church: Kids, you can find a lot of good resources on their site.


 

FingerA good friend of mine shared a story about when he was praying for an increase in his ministry. He heard God ask him, “What are you doing with what I’ve already given you?” If we faithfully steward the volunteers God has entrusted us with, He will meet and exceed our needs! In order for God to do His part, we have to make sure we are doing our part first.

So, how do we properly manage and care for our volunteers?

The big word here is ENGAGEMENT. We must engage with our volunteers on a personal level. Engagement goes beyond starting a Facebook group for everyone to “connect” through; it goes beyond having a nice volunteer break room with snacks and coffee (although both of these are good things.) Engagement means taking time to be with your team. Engagement means living life together. Don’t read that wrong, I’m not saying you have to have everyone over to your house for a weekly dinner. But likewise, not all of your interaction with your team can be business related. Pray for needs. Invite volunteers out to a team lunch after church on Sunday (you don’t have to buy; the fellowship is sufficient). Facebook stalk people and ask them about events that happened that week. Show an interest in your team beyond just making sure they show up at their scheduled ministry time. Creating an environment that your volunteers find inviting and caring will fix your recruitment problems. If you make children’s ministry a place that people want to be, other people will also want to be there.

Once you have people involved, to keep them, you must make sure you are also keeping track of them. This goes to the stewardship I referred to above. There are many excellent resources for tracking volunteers. Currently, we use Planning Center for scheduling and e-mailing our team. This is a great tool, but not every church can afford it. The particular tool isn’t important; having a tool is! Never underestimate a good old Excel spreadsheet. Here’s what I make sure I have: Name, cell phone number, e-mail, address, birthday, wedding anniversary, and volunteer start date. With those seven items, I can manage my team effectively. Why? Because they give me key dates to connect with people (send a card on each of the dates to show your appreciation) and all the contact information I need to communicate clearly with my team. Communication is another form of ENGAGEMENT.

Now, make sure you use the information! Use E-mail, Facebook, postcards, handwritten notes, or letters; communicate with your team regularly. This is the biggest key to managing your volunteers—connect and engage with them consistently! You can’t manage what you don’t know. Connecting with your team lets you get to know them and better meet their needs. As Jim Wideman always says, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure and what you don’t measure, you will lose.” Engaging with your team is the key to effectively managing them.

Really, there’s only one outcome…

pic_1290275029_3Have you ever seen that episode of Friends? The one where Chandler admits he doesn’t know anything about relationships…so when given a quiz by his friends as to what he should do when Janice returns from a flight, he fails…because he missed secret option #3 – meet her at the gate! (This kind of dates the show, since this isn’t even an option any more.) He didn’t even realize there was a secret option #3! Those secret options get you every time!

Over the last couple of days, my friend Josh Simpson and I have texted back and forth talking about different events and activities. Josh is a pretty positive guy – he usually sees a bright side to things. I’m more subdued in my response to uncertainty – I’m more of a pragmatist. Yesterday as we were texting, he responded to one of my texts with “could be a good thing.” To which I said “Then again, it could be a bad thing. Or it could be no thing. you just never know.” Those seem to pretty much be the options for most events – good, bad, or neutral (or some composite of those.)

This morning Josh and I were again texting back and forth. He gave me the same response “could be good” and I gave him the same response from yesterday “then again, it could be bad. Or it could be nothing. Those will always be the three options.” And can you believe it, he disagreed with me!

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:27–28 NIV)

There you go. There’s secret option #3. And it’s not really a secret. Our life of love, dedicated to following his purpose really ensures a single outcome…not three. Pragmatists, like myself, need to be careful. We can discount God’s promises without intending to. Josh’s last thought was good – “the truth will always be that if we follow God, it’s always for our good.”

Let’s make that our focus. Let’s worry less about the outcome. Let’s leave that to God. Let’s focus on following God in obedience and trust him to fulfill his promises.