We are not in a season that we are able to host children in our home. However, God has been clear that this is the work I am to have my hands busy with and He has shown me that there are multiple ways that I can help without hosting.
I am the Together for Good ministry coordinator for our church, and I am committed to serving the children by serving the host families. We have a small team at our church, but we are mighty because our church family has been receptive and available to providing wrap-around care.
Here are a six ways you can serve vulnerable children by coming alongside a host family.
Do not call and ask if you can bring a meal. Call and tell the host family you are bringing a meal. “Hi, Christy, I am making you dinner tonight. I was thinking half-spice white chicken chili, because I know that Jenny is gluten free, Tommy cries when food tastes like anything, and I’ll add a giant bag of tortilla chips because I know that Sally won’t eat anything that has to go on a spoon. Do you need me to bring sour cream or do you have some?”
This is not the time to try out culinary adventures (but totally throw in some fresh cilantro if you are compelled to be fancy). I promise these host moms are not judging your cooking skills and want only one thing: the kids to eat it.
If you can’t cook, bring over a rotisserie chicken and a Caesar salad kit. Even if your friend has been hosting for a while, and it seems like they are over that hump, they still want the meal. Meals are not glamorous, but meals give margin. Margin is everything. Meals give these moms an extra hour to read a book to their child or fold some laundry or take a shower.
Drive Kids Around
Someone who is hosting should cut back on activities, but that’s often not an option. Keeping bio and hosted kids in their normal routines as much as possible is a way to preserve stability. Do both ways on the carpool for a while. Maybe there’s a park by the guitar lesson that her child needs to get to and you can load up your preschoolers, drop her child off at the lesson, play at the park, and then bring her kiddo back home. If the hosted child has visits, be the one that takes her on the visits, you’d just need a background check to make this happen. As a bonus, lots of good conversations can happen in the car.
Help the Family Make it to Church
Do whatever you can to help the host parents to be able to attend church service. When a child comes into care, everything new can be scary. Sometimes a church nursery or Sunday school class is terrifying. Or sometimes these kids have behaviors that the three moms volunteering in the preschool class don’t have the training to deal with. A host mom might be able to miss church one week while she gets the child acclimated to a new place. But week after week is detrimental.
If you are a leader in Children’s ministry, schedule someone to be on-call for the weeks that there’s a child in care. Take a training about providing trauma-informed care. Maybe you could even commit to being the hosted child’s buddy during church? Maybe you would be the one that walks with them to class, stays with them if necessary, helps them if they need extra attention. (Sometimes our tweens or teens do really well with this for the littlest ones!)
One of the biggest blessings we experienced recently was walking by the preschool room and seeing the teacher’s husband sitting alone at a table with our little one and rolling out play doh with him so that our child was able to better focus on the teaching. The willingness of that Sunday school class team to think outside of the box to meet his needs meant that we could stay in church service.
Wrap Around The Marriage
Give them money for a night out. Give them a GrubHub gift card for a night in. If you know the kiddos, babysit (you’ll need an easy background check for this if you’re babysitting hosted kids). If you are a close friend to the family, ask the awkward question of how their marriage is doing. Men, this means you, too…ask your host dad friends how you can be praying.
Stability for these kids means that the marriage has to be stable, and the friends that have chosen to keep watch for blind spots for us have made all the difference over the years.
Wrap Around the Host Kids
When we started hosting children at our church, I attended a children’s ministry meeting to teach some of the ways we can be smarter in loving the hosted children. But, I also pointed out that the trusted Sunday school teachers, who already have relationships with our kiddos, would take an extra minute and look them in the eyes and say, “How are you doing with all of this? How can I pray?” my momma bear heart would be blessed.
If your child is already friends with a host “sibling,” be a respite for your child’s friend. Invite them over to play a few extra times (do the transportation!). Host siblings are doing hard, hard work…they need their friends and support just as much as the host mommas do, if not more.
Pray and Encourage
And lastly, throughout all of this…pray and encourage. Put your hand on host mommas shoulder as you walk by at church and say, “Keep going, momma, God is working mightily here.” Pray the on-your-knees, searching through scripture, begging for God to intervene kinds of prayers. Send a note with scripture He brings to your mind. If you’re close to the family, ask if you can swing by and visit or pray with them. Be okay with not knowing specifics, sometimes the specifics can’t be shared, but God knows them all.
And while you serve, open your eyes and watch for God to move. Rejoice that you get to be used to be part of the process. He is the one who ultimately sustains the family. He is the one who can transform situations and circumstances. And He uses all of us! He will graciously knit you into this work as you earnestly serve and seek Him on behalf of these kiddos and families.
– Katie Brown, TFG Church Ministry Coordinator