3 ways your church can participate in orphan care and prevention

November 8, 2018

Many will recognize this Sunday as Orphan Care Sunday. In many churches across our nation, congregations will be discussing how ordinary people can be used by an extraordinary God to meet the needs of at-risk and orphaned children in our cities and world. Discussing this issue during National Adoption Awareness Month is a great way to shed light on the conversation, but my prayer is that our churches will be involved in orphan care throughout the calendar year.

In order to keep the conversation going, here are a few practical steps that will help your church participate in orphan care and prevention year-round.

1. Create a culture of orphan care and prevention in your church.

The first step in making sure that your church is involved in orphan care year-round is to create a culture where caring for the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, the single mother isn’t a once-a-year thing.  

There are a few ways you can do this, but if you do not already have a culture that is actively pursuing these things, consider partnering with an organization to help train and educate your staff and ministry leaders. CAFO, the Christian Alliance for Orphans, partners with churches to train and equip your people, and they have a multitude of resources and initiatives to help develop a culture of orphan care and prevention in your church body.

If you do have a group already interested in orphan care and prevention in your community, start meeting regularly and praying. Become experts on the nonprofits and government agencies in your community that are already working with at-risk children and families. Another great way to grow this culture is to identify the families in your church or community that are already actively engaged in adoption and foster care, and ask them how your church can come alongside them.

Taking time to pray, identifying and supporting organizations, and walking beside adoptive/foster families is a wonderful place to start developing a year-round culture of orphan care and prevention.

2. Use adoption and foster-care-friendly language.

Another way you can help create this kind of culture within your church is to use correct terminology and tone when discussing orphan care and prevention. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The way we discuss the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, the outsider, the birth mom, and the social worker matters. Our words matter because they truly have the power of life and death.

There is a lot of stigma in the way the world discusses orphan care, but it is my hope that the church can lead the way in speaking about it ethically and with respect. Using positive and correct language to discuss adoption and foster care is critical in order to respect the dignity of all parties involved. I have written more about positive adoption language here, but this is another list that includes positive language about foster care as well. And I would encourage churches to learn and use correct terminology in order to bless the adoptive, foster, and birth families in their congregations.

A church that talks about orphan care and prevention must not only be invested in word, but in deed.

Although using correct terminology is important, using a healthy and redemptive tone is just as vital. It’s necessary that every word and tone honors the dignity of each person involved when discussing orphan care and prevention. Because of Jesus, all parties involved in the orphan crisis are equal at the foot of the cross. The child being adopted or placed into foster care isn’t a “poor and helpless” child. The biological family in crisis who has their children placed into foster care are not “horrible people.” The birth mom who places her child with an adoptive family isn’t heartless. And adoptive and foster parents are not the saviors of any child or situation. The good news of Jesus Christ proclaims that every image-bearer involved in orphan care and prevention is in great need of a Savior. This is good news for us all!

For many years, our culture has elevated and praised families involved in orphan care and prevention while shaming birth parents or families with children in foster care. This isn’t helpful, nor is it true. We should never lift ourselves up on the backs of families in crisis. Our words matter, but our tone and posture are just as important.

3. Put your money where your mouth is.

When I look back at the season when we were trying to raise the funds to adopt our son, I get teary eyed. Faces and names come to my mind as I recount God’s faithfulness seen in the generosity of others. The truth of the matter is, we could not have adopted Jude without the financial support of our families and friends. Our faith family rallied around us, and I remember the day we got a text from close friends telling us that they were donating the final amount that we were praying for.

A church that talks about orphan care and prevention must not only be invested in word, but in deed. And the church can support those ministries, families, and individuals who are on the frontline of this battle by creating a budget line to help fund the work that is already being done.

In many communities, there are pregnancy support centers that are ministering to single moms and birth moms who find themselves with unexpected pregnancies. There are adoption agencies that not only care about the children being placed into families through adoption, but they also care about the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the birth families. There are nonprofits who come alongside at-risk families in our communities, hoping that their work will prevent children from being separated from their biological families. There are organizations in every town that could use not only volunteers, but generous financial backing. A church that budgets money to invest into adoptive families, foster care families, and these nonprofits is a church that is putting their money where their pro-life words are.  

So this Sunday, as our churches gather to pray and discuss how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus by caring for the orphans and at-risk children, I am asking you to consider being a part of an ongoing conversation—a conversation and ministry that is close to the Father’s heart. Will you pray about taking action on one of the above-mentioned ways to participate in orphan care and prevention throughout the year?

“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

Brittany Salmon

Brittany Salmon is a professor, writer, and Bible teacher. She is the author of the book It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Cross-Cultural Adoption releasing in April, 2022. She has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Teaching from NC State … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24