Saying Yes to Being a Safe Church for Foster and Adoptive Families


Shannon Dingle shares a story about her four children adopted from two different countries and she encourages believers to make the church a safe place.

I never planned to have a large family. I never expected to have six children from three continents. I would have laughed in your face had you told me we would adopt four children from two countries in less than 18 months.

But that was our reality, adding Zoe to our family from Taiwan in 2012 and Patience, Philip, and Patricia in 2013, joining Jocelyn and Robbie, born to us in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

When my husband and I launched Access Ministry, our church’s inclusive ministry for children and youth, we had no idea that our family would be served by it. We didn’t know then that special needs adoption would be part of our lives or that one of our biological children would be diagnosed with a couple of special needs.

Now, seven years later, our lives are drastically different. Our children’s pastor once said, “You didn’t realize you were creating the ministry that your family would one day need.” He’s right. I didn’t.

But as more and more Christians adopt children in need and more and more adoption programs are designed to find families for children with special learning, medical, or behavioral needs, I get a little worried. I see us, as a church, cheering at announcements about pending adoptions and then not knowing what to do when the child arrives and eventually joins in children’s ministry programming. I listen to friends who have had to change churches after the welcome mat was pulled away when it became too hard to include them. And I also hear church leaders saying that they want to help but they just don’t know how.

I’m convinced the first step is being willing to say yes – both to God and to these families – before having a perfect plan in place. I know that’s hard for those of us who are planners. Trust me, I know. God called our family to a reality that shattered all my plans, and I don’t have words to quantify how unbearably hard that felt at times.

But? I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Our kids are worth it.

Just as I never expected that our family would be what it is now, our church didn’t know what the future held either back when two newlyweds entered Providence Baptist Church for the first time in the summer of 2005. Yet they’ve shown great love for us by being willing to serve, adapt, and learn so that all of our kids can be involved in the body of Christ. They’ve joined us in believing our kids are worth it.

What love! What sacrifice! What radical commitment to living, breathing people rather than static, dead plans on paper!

So now I ask you: what would it look like for your church to do the same?

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