At First Baptist Church of Woodstock, foster care awareness is a 360-degree approach. From foster families sharing their story during worship to personalized t-shirts for those involved in the foster care ministry, First Baptist creates awareness through a variety of ways.
“We are a church with many, many ministries but our foster care ministry – WeFoster – is at the top in terms of awareness,” said Craig Ormsby, minister of service at First Baptist. “Everyone here knows what WeFoster is and what it’s about.”
They’ve succeeded in building that awareness through using different approaches. For example, twice a year the church spends a month focusing on foster care, putting it front and center in their services.
“We will interview foster parents in our service or tell their story or highlight foster care in some other way,” Ormsby said. “This past May, one of the weeks Pastor Johnny interviewed foster parent Michelle Yeager. We wanted to remove some of the roadblocks surrounding foster care so Michelle addressed the issue of ‘We don’t want to foster because we can’t bear to think of falling in love with a child and then sending him back to his birth parents’.”
The week prior, First Baptist used a video to tell the story of another foster family who built a relationship with the birth dad.
“We do a little bit of everything. We also had a day where we took balloons on stage during the service – one for each child that had been through our ministry,” Ormsby said. “When we have a foster care emphasis month, we also have our foster families go into our Sunday School classes and share their story. That way our people have heard a story during Sunday School and then they go into worship and hear or see something WeFoster related as well.”
Baptisms are another tool First Baptist uses. If the parents are willing, the pastor baptizing the child tells how the child came into a WeFoster family and was adopted.
“We use that opportunity to share the significance of WeFoster in the lives of that child and family,” Ormsby said.
Ormsby and the rest of WeFoster were also challenged to celebrate reunifications as much as they celebrated adoptions, so they began a push this year to equally recognize both.
“Having our pastor involved and very much behind us in all that we do has been crucial to our success as well. Johnny Hunt is right on target with what he shares and how he supports us,” Ormsby said. “That’s extremely important at any church – the man who’s on stage all the time needs to be behind the ministry and knowledgeable about the ministry.”
Interestingly enough, Ormsby and his team have never asked for any money. The entire foster care ministry is supported by church members giving directly to it. WeFoster is not even part of the church budget.
“I believe that’s possible because of how we’ve built awareness and built the WeFoster brand. I don’t think you can ever substitute putting your families that have said yes [to foster care] in front of the church,” Ormsby said.
“We also had some great seed opportunities in the beginning of our foster care ministry. For example, one Mother’s Day, instead of giving all moms in service a trinket, we told them ‘On behalf of the mothers of First Baptist Woodstock, First Baptist is going to send all of its foster moms on a retreat’. And so the church gave that money to WeFoster for that purpose, which helped it grow.”
Ormsby also credits various volunteer opportunities with helping build awareness and growth.
“We provide many volunteer opportunities,” he said. “The easiest way to get involved is through our parents’ night out, which we do the third Friday of every month. Parents drop their foster kids and biological kids off for a few hours so they can go out and have some alone time. That’s a very easy way for people to serve and get to know the ministry.
“We are big advocates of finding as many ways as we can to introduce people to the ministry through acts of service – which is also a big help in raising awareness.”
For more on how your church can start a foster care ministry, visit www.faithbridgefostercare.org/get-involved/churches.