the foster kid

when i was a kid i had a good bud who lived in a foster home. as i look back, i would have to say he was not what i would call a "happy guy." sure, we had a blast growing up, but he spent more time at my house then his own. one day, while we were at my house getting ready to head to the beach, i started to complain about how my dad always got drunk. he looked at me and said, "yea, but at least you got a dad who loves and cares." i looked at him like he was crazy, he then added, "being a foster kid i don't have a home, sure i have a place to live and a roof over my head, but i don't have a home. when i go to bed, i hear my 'mom' say to me 'good night bob' as i walk down the hall to go into my room. when her son says good night she says, 'good night sweetheart' and gives him a big hug and a kiss. i get the smaller portions at dinner and am usually served last; i get the hand-me-downs from their younger children or my clothes are bought at the goodwill; when i get a skinned knee i get handed a band-aid and am told to 'go wash it off and put it on,' yet when my 'brother' gets a skinned knee my 'mother' takes him into the bathroom and washes it off, kisses him and puts the band-aid on. when i need a hug, i get a pat on the back, when i need to be punished i am ignored. in their house i am welcomed, i am not in the way but i an very much not loved. while i live there, i know i live their until they do not want me any more, or i get old enough to move out of the system. they will never offer me college, a car, help in finding work or anything else offered to their kids - i'm just the foster kid."

i could not believe my ears. how could a person belong to a family and not feel loved? how could a person be viewed as "just a foster kid" and never really part of the family? how could any person not give as much love to one child as they did another - that i could not understand [and by the way, i still don't understand it]. all this came to me because i have been processing what it feels like to be in a faith were you are defined by your "lineage," being "born into the faith." it's true, for all the talk of being "evangelical" and "being children of God" people who claimed to be christian are seen as "more" christian when they come from a christian home, have christian parents, can show a christian heritage that goes back to the birth of christ or at least one of the main apostles [not one of the minor ones]. people who are new to the faith are viewed as "foster kids" - you know, you take them in because at some level you have too. sure you have a "love for children" but you never really see them as your kid, or your siblings. besides, the state kicks in a few bucks to help cover the costs - so the "out of pocket" is not that bad. so, what brought this "hidden emotion" to the surface?

over the past few months i have been openly seeking a dialog with different denominations to see where we could find a "theological" home [not only me, but also bring the church i serve into their fold]. the leadership team at our church asked me to call a few denominations to see how "the water was" - and i have to tell you, the water is rather cold, shallow and still. out of the four i had contact with [the american baptists, the presbyterians, the episcopal, the lutherans and the methodists], two never returned my call [i called four times]; i had a meeting with two, one of the leaders did not remember our meeting [which lasted over two hours]. while the other kept promising me that they would be sending me something to help explain the process - and nothing has ever come. the fifth, well we just started to call [our desire was not to play one against the other, so we contacted them one at a time] and they are now at an annual meeting and will be getting back with me next week - maybe?

why are we looking? the same reasons my friend was always searching for a home - we desire a love in community greater then the love we have for each other in our local community. we desire accountability, greater then the accountability we have with each other. we are seeking to belong to something bigger then who we are that will not stop us from being who we are. we desire a connection that is larger then the local church, and smaller then the kingdom of God.

the impression i received from the different groups? they were amazed that we would even ask to join. in fact, many did not even have any idea how to take us in; as one of the bishops old me, "this has never happened before." yet, the overwhelming response was "you want to join us? but you were not born a ________ [you fill in the blank]." the impression i was left with was that because i was not born into "the family," [the denomination] the best i could ever hope for was to be a "foster kid" [kind of welcomed, but with no real family ties to speak of] - sure, they would give us a roof over our head, but would they love us? they would feed us, but how would they introduce us at the family pick-nick? they may say "good night" but would they add "we love you" and give us a kiss? so i wonder. i have not tried to contact any of the denominations after the fourth call, i figured four calls was enough to get the ball rolling. i kind of feel like my friend, looking to be in a loving home and not finding it in the places we look and simply waiting to "age out of the system." now, don't get me wrong, of the two groups we have spoken with [the episcopal and the lutherans] we have been please with the people we have meet at the local churches, the ones who gave us contact info for the "higher-ups." they have been very supportive and i see a relationship that will continue over time. but that impression was not one we felt at a higher level.

i wonder how these groups accept those who simply desire to join the local church? i am amazed at how closed many christian denominations are, and how closed many churches are also. many claim to want new people, but many simply do not know how to welcome new people into the fold. some see new people as a threat to the way of doing things. in one conversation i had with one of the denominations [the presbyterians], the conversation never went past the women who answered the phone. she informed me that they did not "need" us, and that if [a very big if, mind you] they welcomed us in it would be a favor to us and we would need to change our ways. needless to say, they never called me back, i wonder if she even passed on the message? well, while our hope is always in chirst let us see what happens when the united methodists give us a call next week - i guess our saving grace would be that i have a mdiv from drew [united methodist] and served in the united methodist church for a few years - but one never knows.

but if anyone knows of a denomination looking to help a growing emerging gathering let me know - who knows, we just might find a home.

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Rich said...

have you considered the evangelical free church?

Jeffrey said...

"...the water is rather cold, shallow and still"

What if the answer isn't in the water at all? Its something I've been thinking about for several months now. I wonder if the current "denominational system" is even healthy for the body of Christ.

Growing up a "good ole' southern baptist" guy, I was never really invovled in "denominational life". I always felt a certain uneasyness, but didn't know why.

Anyway, like I said, its a question I've been pondering in recent months and just thought I'd throw it out there, for whatever its worth ;-).

Darrell said...


Here's a church network to which we belong. They have been a great source of help and connection to our church.


Craig said...

The home church that I go to is working with the brethren in Christ http://www.bic-church.org/

David Ketter said...

Ever consider the Assemblies of God?

friend said...

Ok, below are links and info on being adopted into the vineyard churches. The vineyard USA has a wide variety of church styles from emerging, to home churches, to kinda normal looking evangelical/Holy Spirit empowered types.

But, you kinda would want to have a certain DNA to feel like you were really part of the family, and not be uncomfortable, because there are just certain values of the vineyard family that they are non-compromising on. The Vineyard is uncompromising with a commitment to worship, servant evangelism/social justice, acknowledging the Kingdom of God is here in part: meaning they fully intend to take to heart the command he gave to his disciples and apostles which was to command them to do "everything," I taught you: preaching, teaching, healing, being missional, etc.

My home church was one which was adopted in.

The link is here:


And here are some answers:

Church Plant Adoption Q&A's


What if I've already started a church plant but now want to be affiliated with the Vineyard?


Fill out the application and recommendation forms and be assessed,

Develop a relationship with a Vineyard pastor who is willing to coach you,

Meet with the people you have gathered and talk about the hoped-for change from whatever their affiliation was, if any, to Vineyard, and work it through and vote on it. Presuming the congregation approves by at least the proportion mutually agreed upon,

Your coach must send around the 5-signature release form, replacing the "sending pastor" name with his name, and the APC and CPC must be able to sign off on it. (This assumes that the you have been meeting and developing a relationship with the APC in that area as well as the CPC and his coach.) If this team can all agree, then the plant becomes a Vineyard plant.

friend said...

Being in a family is a good thing...like you said. And all families are a little screwy...but being in one is beautiful beyond description especially if the vine is planted deep in the Holy Spirit, the son of God, and Father God.