March 7, 2015

We are a Family

As each child’s face flashes across the large screen in the front of the auditorium, each picture more adorable than the one before, everyone in the congregation oohs and ahhs.   The picture of little girl with the pink bow, the bow that attempts to contain her blond curls.  The photo of the sleeping baby boy wrapped in a hand-knitted blanket.   The image of the twins lying end to end like two peas in a pod.  Someone from the tech team had added a beautiful soundtrack to the slideshow – a sweet song about children being treasured gifts from the Lord.  It is so stirring and tender, that a few people here this Sunday have to brush away a tear or two.  There are few creatures more precious than an innocent child.  Few people more proud than a new parent.  Few moments more solemn than when a parent stands in front of the Church and dedicates that child to the Lord.   

When the slideshow ends, the new parents bring their children forward for the dedication ceremony.  These sweet children in real life are even more adorable than their pictures!  Families make their way towards the front of the auditorium.  Grandparents sneak into the aisles to snap pictures.  Others in the audience crane their heads to get a better look.  The children themselves are oblivious to the significance of the occasion.  They are just content to be held in their parents’ arms.

The pastor gives a brief message, explaining clearly that this service does not guarantee a child’s salvation.  These few moments are for the parents, offering them an opportunity to declare publically, we are a Family.  We take our role as mother and father seriously.  We acknowledge that these precious children are a valuable gift, and we are stewards who have been entrusted with the task of raising them.  What a hallowed privilege!  We are making a commitment to guide and protect them and raise them “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”1  We will structure our homes and our lives in a way that will honor Him.  We will treasure God’s Word in our hearts, and will diligently teach it to our sons and daughters at every opportunity.2

The extended family members in the congregation are asked to stand as well.  There are many, many people who have come today, some from far away and some from right next door.  There is the grandfather who is proudly video-taping every moment of the service.  The grandmother who hand-stitched the sweater her little granddaughter is wearing.  The aunts and uncles who are shushing the gaggle of cousins, trying to keep them quiet.  This is an opportunity for them to say, we are here today to stand behind these little ones as they grow up.  We will surround them with love and affection.  We will do everything we can to encourage them to be all that God has created them to be.  We are a Family, their extended family.  We will be the ones who are clapping the loudest at their birthdays and milestones and sports teams and talent shows and music performances and award ceremonies and graduations.  We will love them whole-heartedly when they succeed and will love them whole-heartedly when they fail.  Throughout their entire life, no matter where they go or what they do, they can always depend on us to be their biggest fans.

The dedication service this day is also an occasion for the Body of Christ to publically make a commitment to the families.  To say to the parents here, we will be the community that supports you and prays for you and encourages you as you embark on this sacred calling to parent these children.  We will be the teachers of their Sunday School classes, the directors of their children’s choirs, the leaders of their VBS programs, the counselors of their summer camps, the chaperones of their youth groups. We will love your children as if they were our own.  We are a Family, your Church Family, and we will walk alongside you.

It is indeed a beautiful and touching service!  A visual reminder of how much these children are treasured and loved.  How the people in their lives will surround them as they grow up, inspiring and strengthening and cheering them on into adulthood!

Meanwhile . . .

Just down the street, in the shadow of the church’s steeple . . .

And just a few blocks away, in yet another foster home . . .

And just on the other side of town, in the children’s wing of the state-of-the-art hospital . . .

There are thousands of children in our own community who are waiting for a family to love them.3  The little girl with the dirty hair.  Who will brush her curls and put a bow in them? 

The baby boy who is sleeping fitfully in a strange bed, wrapped in a frayed blanket that has been used by many children before him.  Will he ever know the feel of a hand-knitted blanket, one that has been lovingly made just for him? 

The twins who are lying side by side in matching hospital bassinets.  They are ready to leave the hospital, but because their mother may have infected them with HIV, the social worker is having a hard time finding a family who will take them.  Who will look past the stigma and resolve to love?

There are no portraits of these children anywhere.  No proud grandfather video-taping or snapping pictures; in fact, the only pictures that anyone has taken are the snapshots that their social workers keep in the files, the photos that were taken on the day they became wards of the court.

No one is oohing and ahhing over these children.  No one has added a beautiful soundtrack to the slideshow of their lives.  No one is straining to get a closer look.

But these children!  What about these innocent children who, through no fault of their own, were born into tragic circumstances that led them to where they are today?  Aren’t they every bit as precious, every bit as valuable to the One who created them?  Don’t they need a Family too?  A mother and father who will see them as a gift from the Lord?  Who will make a commitment to guide and protect and raise them?

And not just a mother and father, but oh, how they need an extended Family as well!  Grandparents and aunts and uncles and the gaggle of cousins who will stand behind them as they grow up.  Who will do everything they can to encourage them to be all that God created them to be.  Who will, no matter where they go or what they do, will always be their biggest cheerleaders.

And a Church Family.  What an untold, unfathomable difference a Church Family would have on the lives of these children!  A whole community of adults and peers and other families who will support them and pray for them and teach them and love them as if they were their own.

When we open our hearts and lives to these children and welcome them into our homes, we are giving them an immense, infinite gift.  We are letting them know that they are treasured and loved.  We are giving them an opportunity to be surrounded by people who will inspire and strengthen and cheer them on into adulthood.  We are saying to them the words that will forever change their lives:  We are a Family!

Similar posts:  

Every child worthy of love:

The importance of extended family:

1.             Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” -  Ephesians 6:4

2.             These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. - Deuteronomy 6:6-7

3.      According to statistics, there are 100,000 children in foster care today who are legally free for adoption.  To see a photo listing of some of them, visit

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