I love the way the New Living Translation (NLT) version of Bible scripture translates Ephesians 1:5 when it says “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.” It’s a very profound and even enjoyable thought to think that my adoption into God’s family brings Him pleasure. It’s humbling to think about as I did nothing to deserve God’s love—God’s favor—or God’s adoption.
As Christians, we have an amazing opportunity to follow the example God has given us by extending adoption to children and teenagers who are in desperate need of a forever home. And while God may not be calling every family to adopt, there is a good chance that if you are reading this article, He may be calling you. And if He is, where do you begin?
Let me try to answer that for you by suggesting eight questions you can ask yourself that will get you thinking about what an adoption journey could look like for you and your family. If you take the time to truly think through and even pray through each question, it could provide you with a strong directional foundation as you begin this incredibly complicated, difficult, and wonderful journey.
I. WHAT DOES ADOPTION MEAN TO YOU?
Adoption is one of those words that we hear a lot these days. You can adopt a child. You can adopt a puppy. You can even adopt a philosophy. But in the context of vulnerable children and teenagers, what does adoption mean to you? When you think about being adopted into God’s family, what does that mean to you? As you think about what it means and what it looks like to permanently bring someone into your home, what are the full ramifications of that decision?
As Christians, when God adopted us into His family, it was fully, and it was forever. Are you willing and able to extend that same offer to a child or teenager in need? Adoption is never meant to be temporary, and it is never meant to be partial. In other words when you adopt, you are bringing a person in to be a full and complete member of your family. He or she becomes your son or your daughter. You become her or his father or mother. You are a family.
So as you begin your journey, be sure to truly think through what the idea of adoption really means to you.
II. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE GOD IS CALLING YOU TO DO?
James 1:27 tells us that “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress . . . .” For many of us, our call to care for orphans has come in the form of adoption, but it doesn’t necessarily always mean adoption. In other words, there are countless ways individuals and families can care for orphans, most of which do not include bringing them into your home forever. There are so many incredible ways, beyond adoption, to care for children and teens in need. Have you considered being a foster parent or a CRR (Community Residential Rehabilitation) treatment parent? What about volunteering as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) or helping out your local orphan care organization. Maybe a Big Brother type program or a church orphan care ministry? The point is certainly not to try to talk you out of adoption (quite the contrary) but to remind you that there are countless ways we, as Christians, can fulfill God’s calling to care for orphans in their distress.
Adoption is a wonderful thing, but we are not necessarily all called to adopt. But I believe we are called to care for orphans. Is God calling you to care for orphans through adoption? If so, great!
III. WHAT DOES YOUR SPOUSE BELIEVE YOU SHOULD DO?
Not everyone who adopts is married, and that is great. There are thousands of single parents out there who make incredible adoptive parents. But to those that are married, it is so important to have a full understanding of what your spouse thinks you should do. I can’t even imagine what it could look like if a couple moves forward on adoption, but only one of them is truly on board with the idea. The potential for significant problems is great.
So what does your spouse believe? How much have you discussed it? How much have you prayed about it together? Are you on the same page? If not, what are the specific areas of disagreement? What are the specific areas of alignment? What does it look like to eventually come to a unified decision?
These questions may sound simple, but they can be quite complex as you and your spouse discuss whether or not to adopt a child. Let me encourage you to take your time—be patient. This decision could take weeks, months, or honestly, even years in some cases. You don’t want to move forward on a decision to adopt until you and your spouse are in full agreement with that decision.
IV. WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR ADOPTION?
There are countless reasons why a person or couple may desire to adopt—most are good, healthy reasons. Some are a bit questionable; some want to grow their family through adoption. Others want to help a child in need. Some are unable to have a child biologically and believe adoption is the only way to have children. Some are choosing to adopt children that are already part of their extended family (grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc.). But regardless of why others are adopting, why are you interested in adopting? What is your motivation?
The point of asking yourself this question is not necessarily for you to judge or evaluate your answer but rather to gain clarity and insight as to the reasons why you want to adopt. In other words, what is your “Why”? Be careful not to rush to an answer. This may seem like a simple question, but perhaps it’s one that you need to spend some real time with. And again, it’s not to bring judgment on your motivations, and it’s not to talk yourself out of adopting. It is all about bringing clarity of motivation, and that is very important as you decide if you are going to move forward.
V. DO YOU WANT TO USE A FAITH-BASED ADOPTION AGENCY?
For Christians, this can be a big question as they move forward on adoption plans. Do you want to use an adoption agency that embraces the Christian beliefs that you hold dear? Fundamentally, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question. It is all about what you desire moving forward. There are dozens of factors to consider when choosing the adoption agency that is right for you, but for Christians in particular, deciding if you want to utilize a Christian agency or not may be one of those factors.
Some of the potential pros to having an adoption agency that shares your faith is that you may have caseworkers who pray for you and with you. You may be partnering with an organization that shares your beliefs about faith and religion. Your caseworkers may be more open to you speaking the Gospel to your adopted children both before and after the adoption. The agency may work with therapists and support organizations who also have a Christian background. If all of that is important to you, then you may want to consider working with a Christian adoption agency. But that said, there are also plenty of Christians working for non-Christian agencies, so it’s possible you will have some of the above things happen regardless of what adoption agency you decide to work with. It’s really up to you and what you want. There is no right or wrong answer here.
VI. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCIPLE YOUR CHILDREN WHO WERE ADOPTED—ESPECIALLY IF THEY COME FROM AN UNCHURCHED BACKGROUND?
I believe strongly that Christian parents should be the primary discipleship influence in the lives of their children. Organizations like churches, student ministries, and Christian schools should be a support for the parents as together they work to develop children who desire to be followers of God. It’s a huge responsibility for parents but also a great privilege.
So what will that look like in your home? As you consider bringing a child or teenager into your house, presumably one who has little to no religious background, what does it look like for you (and your spouse) to take on the primary discipleship role in your child’s life?
VII. WHAT SUPPORTIVE ROLE WILL YOUR CHURCH PLAY IN YOUR ADOPTION JOURNEY?
Don’t leave your local church community out of this process. They can be one of your greatest supports, one of your greatest advocates, and honestly, one of your greatest fundraising avenues (adoption is expensive). Let your church know what you are considering regarding adoption. Talk to your pastor; talk to others in the church who have adopted; talk to those who lead the orphan care ministry of your church (if you have one). At the right time, make your journey public to the church body—make your needs known and be willing to accept help, in all forms, from various people in your church.
I believe God designed the church to be a unified body of believers who love Him and love each other. What greater place could there be than a church to seek the love and support of fellow Christians? Start making some appointments now to meet with key people in your local church. You will definitely want their advice, their support, and their friendship as you begin this adoption journey.
VIII. HOW CAN YOU USE THIS ADOPTION JOURNEY TO HONOR GOD?
Scripture tells us that we have all been created in the image of God with the express purpose of bringing glory and honor to Him. That should be our goal and our mission in all things. So part of our motivation for adopting is exactly that—to see God glorified in our lives and in our family. Sounds easy enough, right? Maybe. When everything with your adoption goes smoothly, it’s fairly easy to glorify God, right? But…
Adoption often is not a smooth process. Often, things change at the last minute. It does not always end how we thought it was going to. Sometimes, adoptions even fall through at the last minute, leaving great devastation. It’s in those moments of hardship that we may struggle to honor God. But perhaps that is the most important time to praise Him. As people see what you are going through, they will also see how you are responding to it. Are you responding with public bitterness and anger or are you giving God the glory in spite of the situation you now find yourself in?
As you begin this adoption journey, let me encourage you right now to make a commitment that no matter how hard it gets and no matter what the outcome is, you will give God the glory and honor He deserves. That’s easier said than done, but He is worth it.
Adoption truly is a wonderful thing—both the adoption we have experienced into God’s family and also the adoption we can extend to those who are in desperate need. Adoption is an amazing example of the love that God has shown us, and in turn, the love that we can show others.
So as you consider whether or not to adopt, prayerfully think through these eight questions, and if you are married, discuss them with your spouse. Be committed to do what God is calling you to do and give Him all the glory along the way. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
May God truly bless you on this journey.
Arthur C Woods is an experienced speaker, teacher and writer, covering topics related to orphan care, adoption and foster care. He holds a Masters Degree in Student & Family Ministry and in his spare time volunteers as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) – working with teenagers in the foster care system. Additionally, Arthur serves on the Board of Directors of Camp Orchard Hill, a large youth camp in Pennsylvania. He and his wife (Liz), and their two amazing daughters live in Lancaster Co. PA with their Siberian Husky, Jadis and their adorable cat, Epi. For more information on Arthur visit www.ArthurCWoods.com or shoot him an email at [email protected]