by Rick Morton
We don’t need to wait for a programmed emphasis to care for those around us.
I think sometimes that many churches spend too much time waiting for the next campaign—the next “40-days-of-something”—and we miss out on the opportunities to live and tell the gospel that are passing us by every day.
Please don’t get me wrong. I value campaigns. I just don’t want us to miss all that God could be doing through us and our churches to care for the orphan, the widow, and the oppressed day by day. Nor do I want us to miss out on opportunities to spread the good news of Jesus in the simplest of things in our lives.
James 1:27 is a call upon every believer to visit or “shepherd” the orphan and widow in his and her distress, and God has given us some powerful clues for how we might accomplish this work in His Word.
In Acts 2:42–47, we are reminded that after Pentecost the church had its greatest impact for the gospel through small groups who met in each other’s homes. These groups met for meals, community, and study, and to help each other live out what they were learning from the apostles’ teaching.
Today your small group may be a group that meets in someone’s home, or it may be a Sunday school class that meets at your church. The principle is the same. With many small groups throughout the body of Christ doing specific things in the power of the Holy Spirit to care for vulnerable people, gospel-centered transformation can occur.
Here are a few ideas for how your small group can take action to help orphans, widows, and the oppressed:
1. Find a single mom or single dad with whom your group can develop an ongoing relationship. You can help him or her and the kids by providing resources at special times, such as the beginning of the school year (supplies, uniforms, etc.) or Christmas. Or maybe your group can offer help with homework or the opportunity to be another Christian adult presence in a child’s life. Many times the “functionally” fatherless in our midst slip through the cracks, but they are no less needy.
2. Have your group trained to provide respite care for foster families and volunteer to babysit for a local foster family. Families with foster children can’t leave them with just anyone because of regulations, and a few hours of relief can be a huge help.
3. Plan a group project to raise money to care for orphans. Our friends at World Orphans suggest a number of ways to raise money, including running a marathon or shaving your head! I’m sure you can think of many creative ways to raise the funds. Surprisingly, as little as $5,000 can fund an entire orphan care project that will meet the ongoing needs of 12 kids. Just a few dollars a month can make a huge difference in the life of 1 child!
4. Your group can throw a shower for a family adopting or fostering an older child. Many times we don’t think about showers for adoptive/foster families, especially those welcoming older children, but this can be a great way to bless the family.
5. Consider donating medical supplies, an appliance, or other items to an orphanage or women’s shelter as Christmas gifts. Instead of buying Secret Santa gifts for each other, pool your money and purchase a gift for an orphanage through a ministry like Promise 139.
6. Build a long-term relationship between your small group and a widow. Plan regular visits to check on her and take care of small tasks like grass cutting, changing light bulbs, or anything she might have trouble doing by herself.
7. Go Christmas caroling with your group to several widows’ homes and take a basket of holiday goodies. Invite them to be part of your group’s Christmas celebration. Fellowship at this time can be a real source of encouragement.
8. Speak up together for the oppressed, including widows, orphans, and others. As a part of your regular meeting times, pray regarding the issues of human exploitation, human trafficking, and other forms of oppression. There are many ways to take action. International Justice Mission is one resource with which I am familiar. You can find more resources, ideas, and ways to get involved through Project HELP (WMU), WorldCrafts, and New Hope Digital. (See especially Not in My Town and “Ideas and Resources to Join the Fight Against Modern Slavery.”)
9. Sponsor a child (or children) as a group. For little more than a dollar a day, you can change the life of a child by providing food, clothing, education, discipleship, and in some cases even a loving place to call home. Your group’s giving is a means of protecting these children from those who would exploit and oppress them as well. Some great organizations that give you the opportunity to both sponsor a child and to connect with them in relationship are Compassion International, World Orphans, and Children’s HopeChest.
It takes about 46,000 steps to complete a marathon. One step out of 46,000 doesn’t seem so significant, but in accomplishing the goal, no single step can stand on its own. In trying to care for the estimated 163 million orphans and countless widows of the world, the actions of our small groups may seem like small steps, but without them, we will never move toward the goal of ending oppression and fatherlessness to the glory of God!
Editor’s note: More ideas for orphan care can be found in Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care.
Rick, coauthor with Tony Merida of Orphanology, serves as discipleship pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He, along with his wife, Denise, played an integral role in the cofounding of Promise 139, an international orphan-hosting ministry. They have adopted 3 children.