Throughout Scripture, God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children is clearly proclaimed. God declares himself to be “father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), executing justice on behalf of the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 10:18). Approximately 153 million children worldwide are orphans. Many of these children are vulnerable to forced labor exploitation, human trafficking, lack of education, health crises, extreme poverty, and exposure to severe conflict. Over 400,000 children in the United States are in foster care. These vulnerable children face similar instability, severe trauma, and changes in family life, education, and housing.
This crisis is a significant opportunity for the church to “visit orphans in their affliction” (James 1:27). This mission is presented by and accomplished through discipleship in the church, resulting in care for orphans and vulnerable children both globally and locally.
Believers come to understand and obey the command to care for orphans and vulnerable children through discipleship. Discipleship is for all believers, happens in the church, and advances the gospel in evangelistic and practical ways. When Jesus instructed his followers to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19), the command wasn’t intended for “professional Christians” or those with superior theological education, but the entire church.
Discipleship relationships allow believers to help each other grow in faith, wisdom, maturity, and obedience to Scripture. This involves obedience to Scripture’s instruction to “visit orphans in their affliction” and care for the vulnerable across the globe. Obedience to this command honors God and advances the gospel globally in word and deed.
How to Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Christians can care for orphans and vulnerable children across the globe through the proclamation of the gospel, discipleship of new believers, and meeting tangible needs. This care transpires in adoption, child sponsorship, and community education and service.
Some believers answer God’s call to care for orphaned and vulnerable children through international adoption. Unfortunately, due to failing accountability structures, human trafficking, and geopolitical issues, some adoption agencies have been forced to close their international adoption programs. Other agencies, such as Lifeline, CHLSS, Holt International, and All God’s Children, have taken careful steps to continue facilitating international adoptions in an ethical manner.
When a family adopts a child, their dedicated provision for the child’s holistic needs opens a door to proclaim the gospel to the child, as well as to the watching world, testifying to God’s adoption of his children (Ephesians 1:3–10). International adoption allows the church to bless these children by financially contributing to the family’s adoption, offering childcare, and providing meals for the family.
While God does not call all believers to international adoption, there are other ways to care for orphans and vulnerable children, including child sponsorship. For less than $40 each month, individuals and families can sponsor children across the globe through organizations such as World Vision and Compassion International.
Through sponsorship, children are given access to education, clean water, medical services, healthy meals, and other basic day-to-day necessities that help prevent them from being exploited or abused. Many of these sponsorships take place within a community development context, where the gospel is shared in conjunction with building infrastructure and supporting the material needs of children and families.
Opportunities for Young Adults
For young people, in particular, the financial component of international adoption and child sponsorship is difficult. However, educational and service opportunities exist for young believers who desire to obey God’s call to care for orphans and vulnerable children. One practical aspect of orphan care is fundraising. International adoptions cost between $20,000-$50,000 or more. These costs can be offset through bake sales, garage sales, and pancake breakfasts.
Organizations such as the Christian Alliance for Orphans have a network of internships, programs, and conferences for young people who desire to learn about and serve orphaned and vulnerable children. The Pause Campaign offers students a one-week social media fast and accompanying devotional, which focuses on Scripture and orphan care.
Other organizations, such as A21 and International Justice Mission, focus on eliminating exploitation, human trafficking, and abuse of orphaned and vulnerable children. The time, energy, and passion of young people are necessary to mobilize and motivate the church to continue in its care, advocacy, and commitment to caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
There are many ways Christians can care for orphans and vulnerable children locally. Over 400,000 children in the United States are in foster care, and many birth mothers desire to place their babies for adoption. Christians can adopt, become foster parents, serve in respite care, or tangibly bless children and their caretakers through care packages, support groups, and meal trains. Agencies and non-profit organizations exist across the United States to train, license, connect, and equip families who desire to serve in these ways.
Discipleship in the Church Leads to Caring for Orphans
Discipleship should motivate believers to obey Scripture’s commands regarding the orphaned and vulnerable children in our world. Whether you are called to care for children internationally or locally, you, as a follower of Christ, can tangibly demonstrate your love for him, his Word, and his people by obeying his call to care for orphans and vulnerable children.
Like anything else, caring for orphaned and vulnerable children demands patience and wisdom that is guided by God’s Word and joyful obedience. No matter your age, relational status, or place in life, you can follow God’s call to care for orphans and vulnerable children as a tangible way of demonstrating your faith, continuing in discipleship, and Lord willing, making disciples of all nations for generations to come.