10 years ago, FaithBridge Foster Care launched with the goal of providing hope, healing and unconditional love to Georgia’s foster children. The very first church to partner with FaithBridge was Mt. Bethel United Methodist. They helped start a revolution in the way churches supported children in foster care, as well as their families.
Since then, Mt. Bethel has cared for more than 60 children, with the help of more than 20 families. Their foster care ministry, Called to Care, currently has 13 foster families (11 of those are FaithBridge families), seven children in foster care and 41 volunteers.
“One of the co-founders and current board members of FaithBridge is Wayne Stolz who was instrumental in establishing the partnership between FaithBridge and Mt. Bethel UMC,” said Stephanie Watts, a foster parent and Mt Bethel’s foster care ministry advocate. “FaithBridge helped us re-launch our ministry three years ago as Called to Care, and FaithBridge’s leadership helped to identify new leadership and support through Mt. Bethel.”
For Stephanie as well as Mt. Bethel’s leadership, their foster care ministry allows them to live out James 1:27.
“God commands us to care for orphans, and we are fulfilling our specific calling to care for children in need of a family,” she said.
FaithBridge’s Community of Care is vital to Mt. Bethel ministry.
“I could not imagine fostering without it,” Stephanie said. “To know you are not doing this alone and that you will have breaks and support when you need it is huge. It makes the foster calling less daunting and also demonstrates how the body of Christ works together to care for these precious children of God.”
Throughout the last 10 years, Mt Bethel has engaged their church in a variety of ways to help spread awareness about Called to Care. Pastors have spoken about foster care and the need from the pulpit, they’ve recognized foster parents during worship services, shown videos in service and online, made and worn Called to Care t-shirts, hosted Encounters and training sessions and more.
“Having support from church leadership is very important and the more support we have received from the church when it comes to awareness, the more productive our launches have been,” Stephanie said. “We also have found it effective to specifically focus on whatever area is the greatest need for our ministry at that time whether it is volunteers, respite or foster families. Any personal contact you can have with people – whether that is speaking to a Sunday school class/life group or one-on-one conversations – has been more effective for us than written communication.”
For other churches wanting to start a foster care ministry, Stephanie offered this advice.
“While you do not have to be on staff at the church (I am not on staff), it is important to partner with your church staff and leadership to make sure they have your support,” she said. “Having a passion for foster care ministry will show to others as you increase awareness in your church body about the need. Some people respond to statistics and some respond to stories, so know your audience and brainstorm ideas that will work best specifically for your church body. Also, attend FaithBridge ministry team leader summits so you can connect with other ministry advocates with already established foster care ministries.”