Lessons Learned in Launching a Ministry Pilot Program
Inspiring greater Houston area faith-based congregations to engage in adoption and foster care ministry is the passion that drives Rev. Amy Bezecny to help children and families find each other. From vision setting to rallying support, she shares leadership lessons she’s learning as a Scholar in Residence at The Hope and Healing Institute.
Adoption and foster care needs provide churches with incredible opportunities to offer real-life bridges to their communities. Having been through the challenges of the adoption process, Rev. Amy Bezecny recognizes that a new approach to equipping congregations for this ministry is necessary for this new day. Many congregations want to offer this ministry but do not know where to start. Amy has therefore set her focus on equipping congregations and coming alongside them to provide advice, resources and connections that will enable the congregations to offer support groups, foster and adoption classes, parenting classes, awareness events, and many more opportunities for their families and communities. The inaugural “pilot groups” are starting now and open to all.
Here are the lessons she’s learned thus far:
- Begin with a clear vision - It is the clarity of my vision that sparks the interest of funders, congregations interested in participating, and collaborative partners wishing to join in the development of the ministry. By the same token, the ministry is in development and there are areas that are not yet defined. This is a difficult step in the process and requires holding fast to the vision.
- Form your Advisory Council as soon as possible - Be selective about the people you invite to the council. It is my desire to surround myself with people from all aspects of my ministry including adoption and foster parents, former foster children, adoption agencies, congregations, related organizations, and therapists and attorneys familiar with adoption foster care challenges. I am learning that well-defined individual roles and a well-defined group purpose is essential for producing worthwhile advice and direction.
- Constantly communicate why, what, how, and where you are in the process - In today’s world, it is necessary to convey a message within one to two minutes or one to two lines in emails and texts. I’m not there yet but I’m working on it. Ministry leaders need to be concise and compelling.
- Why - My 10-minute video explains the “why” behind this ministry. After viewing it, most people may not be ready to foster or adopt but they want to help in some way, so I am developing a list of options to have ready when individuals are most motivated to help.
- What – The ministry I’m developing is different than any existing approach to engage congregations in adoption/foster care ministry (A/FCM). Others seem to offer a bit of training and leave the ‘newbies’ to figure it out from there. I am committed, on the other hand, to come alongside and mentor churches in an ongoing relationship while they get their support groups and ministries started. As with any vision, it is critical to be very clear about what the ministry is and what it is not.
- How – The vision is big because the need is great. I’ve learned to break it down. My vision is to engage as many congregations as possible. However, I have begun with eight congregations launching five to eight key A/FCM groups, classes or events.
- Do sweat the small stuff but don’t let it weigh you down - Intellectual property agreements, memorandums of understanding, dead-end grant and collaboration trails are all are necessary and extremely time consuming. I’ve learned to hold fast to my vision while at the same time, trust that I’m learning a valuable lesson. Even in these cumbersome tasks, I’m finding valuable relationships and new directions.
- Finally, pray constantly – I’ve learned to have faith that God called me to this ministry and that God will equip me to bring it to it’s full potential.
- Refer friends and relatives interested in adoption/foster parenting to one of the new Pilot Congregation Groups.
- First UMC, Katy is offering a "Relatives as Parents" group Wednesday evenings. Dinner is served from 5:30-6:30 and class runs from 6:30-7:30 PM. This group offers support, resources, and study to help families in this special life situation. For information, visit the FUMC website or contact Lisa Gill at firstname.lastname@example.org.?
- St. Luke's UMC, Houston offers an Adoption Support Group each third Thursday from 6-7:30 pm. After a light dinner and "catching up" with each other, parent’s meet for Adoption Support Group. Adopted Children (ages 5+) meet for crafts, games and other activities that foster meaningful interaction with other adopted children. RSVP to Erica at email@example.com.??
- Servants of Christ UMC offers a weighted blanket ministry. Do you know a foster or adopted child with sensory processing challenges? Often, a weighted blanket helps these children to calm themselves. However, they can be expensive.
- Help promote and pray. Sign up for a devotion-a-day throughout November as Adoption Awareness Month. To receive a daily devotional in November, contact Jan Bierwirth at firstname.lastname@example.org.