One of the many things that I’ve learned in the last 12 years is about how churches should care for orphans.    And my thinking on it has changed 100%.

I used to think, “We need to get more kids adopted – there are way too many orphans in the world.”   At one point, I even had a T-Shirt that said,  “147,000,000 Orphans” on the front and “feed one” on the back.

And guess what – there are way too many orphans in the world.    There are way too children who don’t have families.     And we need to find families for them.

Absolutely 100% that is true and I still believe that to be true.

But I stopped wearing the 147,000,000 orphans shirt.

Why?   Because there really aren’t 147,000,000 orphans.    A substantial number of those orphans aren’t really orphans.

They have at least one living parent who is willing to love and care for them.     But in many cases, that living parent can’t take care of them and that’s why they are at an orphanage.

“The Church” (huge generalization) seems to want to ignore that fact and look at it in a way that says, “There are 147,00,000 orphans in the world that need families.”  “If every church in North America would adopt ____ children, the problem would be solved.”

I don’t think so.

Estimates are that only 8 to 13 million of them are true orphans who lost all family and need a new family (or for a variety of reasons, there family is not willing to care for them.)

What’s up with the rest?    The rest of them are “poverty orphans.”

These are children who have a family.   They have someone who wants to take care of them, they have someone who is related to them who wants to keep them.    But they are struggling and need some help.

But that help is messy.   It’s hard to measure, it’s hard to quantify, it’s hard to see.    If you have two cute little girls from Ethiopia in your church every Sunday morning, you can see, talk to and watch the difference.   It’s not so easy with orphan prevention.

It’s hard to see how a job training program helps prevent orphans.

It’s hard to see how a recycling program can provide food and medicine for children.

It’s hard to see how……..

It’s great that many churches have “adoption ministries.”     But using the numbers above, that’s only 8/147th’s of the problem.   For every 8 children who are actually orphans, 139 more have family, they just need help.

Remember what Jesus said about the cup of cold water?   Yeah, that.

To 139 million children.    That would be true orphan prevention.

Is it easy?

I don’t think so.

But it’s important.   Because these children and their families depend on us.

I used to think that adoption was the whole answer to the problem of children who are “orphans.”

I don’t think so any more.   Now I think it’s part of the answer – but God calls us to so much more.

And families depend on us.

Churches – change the name of your adoption ministry to an “orphan care” ministry.   Because adoption is part of the answer.

But it’s not the whole answer.

Tom