Open Hearts/Open Homes – Foster Care & Adoption Initiative

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Guest post from Tom Troth, KBC Legislative Agent: HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STUDY GROUP ON ADOPTION

On March 10, 2017, Governor Bevin and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services held “A Summit to Save Our Children” in Frankfort. The summit was Governor’s official expression of his ongoing commitment to streamline the Foster Care/Adoption process in the Commonwealth. This initiative should be particularly exciting for Kentucky Baptists. At that summit Governor Bevin issued a call to mobilize a network of non-profits, faith-based organizations, and loving families to “take a stand to ensure all children in the Commonwealth are safe, cared for and loved.”

Our Executive Director, Dr. Paul Chitwood, gave the invocation for this important event, and he and his wife Michelle’s experience in providing Foster Care was a featured video at the Summit.

As a part of this initiative, the Health and Family Services Cabinet has commissioned an in-depth study of the Adoption/Foster Care process by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Recommendations from the Foundation to make the entire system more efficient by the removal of barriers to foster care and adoption will be forthcoming. This study will result in a legislative package to be considered at the 2018 legislative session.

As Kentucky Baptist’s representative at the Capital, it is my intent to be as helpful as possible to the Health and Family Services Cabinet as the legislative package is developed for introduction at the 2018 session. The streamlining of the adoption process will also be studied by a working group made up of legislators in the Kentucky House of Representatives. I intend to speak out to members of the House and Senate to express our support for these efforts to make the Foster Care/Adoption process more flexible and efficient.

WHAT CAN KENTUCKY BAPTISTS DO IMMEDIATELY?

It was pointed out at the Summit, that there are children in Out of Home Care that don’t always have safe and appropriate places to sleep at night. One of the suggestions made by the Cabinet was that churches and other non-profits purchase portable cribs (Pack N. Plays) and provide them to the Cabinet to be issued to families as needed. That is certainly something that almost any size church could do immediately.

Providing a portable crib to families that need them is just one small way we can be involved, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. According to the data provided at the Summit, as of February 6, 2017, there were 7,917 children in Out Of Home Care. While it was pointed out that there is an ongoing need for additional Foster Care families in all categories, the Cabinet outlined specific areas of need, including:

  • Homes accepting sibling groups
  • Homes accepting children ages 19 and up
  • Homes with African American Parents
  • Homes with Hispanic Parents
  • Homes accepting medically complex children

Other areas of need associated with the provision of Foster Care include:

  • Recruitment of Foster families
  • Respite services
  • Training supports (sites, childcare, flexile locations and hours)
  • Visitation services
  • Transportation
  • Provision of goods
  • Supports to those aging out of care
  • Mentoring to biological families
  • Fatherhood engagement
  • Supports to kinship, foster and adoptive parents

James 1:27 tells us: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans … in their distress.” How can we not be involved in fulfilling this Biblical mandate?

Please make our involvement in the Governor’s Foster Care/Adoption initiative and the House of Representatives’ study group a matter of prayer. Pray that the goal to “ensure all children in the Commonwealth are safe, cared for and loved” would be achieved.

If you have any questions about the Open Hearts/Open Homes initiative or the House of Representatives study group, feel free to contact me at [email protected], or call me on my cell phone at (502) 330-5024. I would be honored to speak with you.

Posted in Adoption, Culture, Family, Foster care, Government, Kentucky Legislature, Prolife, Public Affairs | Leave a comment

Lives at Stake

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It’s been nearly 12 years since an uninvited guest appeared at my office and asked for an opportunity to visit with me. Little did I know that visit would so dramatically impact my life.

After introducing himself and stating that he was there to talk with me about a pressing subject, the man asked if I would view a few minutes of video. He warned me of graphic and disturbing content as he opened his laptop, tapped the mouse pad, and gazed at the screen along with me.

He was right. The images were both intensely graphic and deeply disturbing. And they were immediately and permanently etched upon my memory. The video showed abortions being performed. I watched in horror as, one after another, tiny babies were dismembered and extracted, piece by piece, from the shelter of their mother’s womb. Early term. Late term. Horror.

As he closed the laptop and placed it in his satchel, I sat speechless. The sanctity of human life had been for me an annual sermon topic and a cause for which I was glad to offer tenuous support, never wanting to heap guilt upon those who had abortion in their past nor be associated with the extremists burning and bombing abortion clinics. But at that moment, I felt condemned by my unwillingness to mount a passionate defense of the lives of unborn children. And I knew that had to change.

On Jan. 7, 2017, I celebrated the victories won for the unborn in Kentucky. I thanked God for courageous leaders in the Kentucky House and Senate, the convictional leadership of Gov. Matt Bevin, and those who had worked, hoped, and prayed for far many more years than I. While the murderous scourge of abortion hasn’t completely disappeared in our state, the new restrictions set in place have surely preserved the lives of many little boys and girls who would have otherwise died. Some of those children have quite possibly already been born.

Yet, on March 23, 2017, in the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse in Louisville, the American Civil Liberties Union argued before U.S. District Judge David Hale that, contrary to Kentucky law, an expectant mother considering an abortion should not have the opportunity to see ultrasound images from inside her womb to understand fully the risks and consequences of her decision. While Kentucky’s new law provides protection for both mother and baby, the ACLU believes the U.S. Constitution provides no such protection. Ironically, the ACLU essentially argued that our state’s most vulnerable class can be discriminated against based upon their age, sex, race, or for no reason at all, subsequently declared unworthy to exist, and have their lives extinguished without as much as a passing glance from those who hold the child’s life in hand.

Because of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear’s timid position on the ultrasound law and his outright refusal to defend Kentucky’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks, Gov. Bevin asked his general counsel, Steve Pitt, to ensure strong representation against the ACLU and a strong defense for the unborn. Andy Beshear didn’t attend the hearing and his staff sat in silence. But, thankfully, Steve Pitt spoke with boldness to represent the interests of the unborn, expectant mothers, and our state lawmakers.

While we await Judge Hale’s decision, pray with me that he will have eyes to see that life in the womb is no less sacred than any other stage of life and leave in place a law that Kentucky wants and unborn children deserve.

Posted in Abortion, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Government, Health, Kentucky Legislature, Personal Reflections, Prolife, Public Affairs, Social Justice | Leave a comment

Reaching our Judea

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“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

I was recently asked, “What does the Kentucky Baptist Convention do with its part of the Cooperative Program and state missions offering?” While I love to answer that question, because so much is being done in our Judea it’s not a short conversation nor is this a short post!

Currently, fifty new church plants in Kentucky are supported by every church that gives to cooperative missions. While no church, working on its own, could fund and assist 50 new church plants, working together, the impossible becomes possible. Since these church plants, as well as existing KBC churches, represent the most ethnically diverse denomination in our state, cooperative missions present a unique opportunity both for reaching every tribe and tongue and for being a part of gospel-centered racial reconciliation.

Support is also provided for ten fulltime campus missionaries who share the gospel on college and university campuses in Kentucky and help churches develop strategies to reach students on middle school, high school, and university campuses. Working with the campus missionary at Kentucky State University, Millville Baptist Church began sponsoring a women’s Bible study. A female student struggling with same-sex attraction and active in a relationship attended and then met with the campus missionary. Hearing the gospel, she placed her trust in Christ.

Through the support of cooperative missions giving, KBC Disaster Relief teams are trained and ready as first responders to help the hurting in times of crisis by ministering to their physical and spiritual needs. Approximately 900 volunteers were trained this past year and deployed not only in Kentucky but Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia.

More than 100 missionaries in the state receive varying levels of support for their work. These missionaries represent Kentucky Baptists as they share the gospel in jails and prisons, serve in pregnancy resource centers, homeless shelters, and meet needs in food and clothing ministries, literacy education, job skills training, and a host of other ways. Cooperative Program dollars help create a vast network of mission endeavors across the state and give churches from Kentucky and throughout the nation the opportunity to know about and get more involved in these Kingdom ministries in our state, resulting every year in tens of thousands of volunteers serving in Kentucky on short-term mission projects.

Every cooperative missions dollar represents the investment a large church makes in small churches or a small church taking advantage of the opportunity to partner with larger churches. This investment means that a team of trained and experienced consultants is available to assist any KBC church in strengthening every aspect of local church ministry, at no cost. For example, we help churches with evangelism training, worship ministry, legal questions, salary and benefits issues, senior adult ministry, Sunday School and discipleship ministry, etc. KBC staff members conducted consultations and presentations to more than 10,000 Kentucky Baptists this past year alone.  KBC helps churches in conflict, trains pastor search committees, provides a resume service for ministers and churches, and helps strengthen marriages of ministry couples through the annual Shepherding event. These are but a few examples, among many, of how churches in Kentucky are investing in other churches through cooperative missions giving.

Cooperative Missions gives Kentucky Baptists a voice in state government. The work of the Public Affairs Committee and the ministry of a Kentucky Baptist chaplain in the state capitol are supported by every church that gives. Churches also benefit from lobbying work on issues like prolife legislation, religious liberty, and other matters of importance to Kentucky Baptists. In just the past few weeks, we have seen new prolife laws enacted that have already saved the lives of unborn children. What a great investment! The Western Recorder and Kentucky Today help keep Kentucky Baptists informed, not only on public affairs and Baptist news, but on all of the news.

When we include the work of KBC entities, all supported by the CP, we see that every cooperating church is involved in orphan care through Sunrise Children’s Services, where Kentucky Baptists touch the lives of more than 1,100 hurting kids. Thousands of students from Kentucky and literally the world over are benefitting from a Christian education through Oneida Baptist Institute, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and University of the Cumberlands. And thousands more students hear the gospel every summer at camp through Crossings Ministries. Mission education through the WMU and estate planning and investment services through the Kentucky Baptist Foundation are also of great support to KBC churches.

Believe it or not, I’ve left off a long list of ministries and mission work every church is supporting as it gives to cooperative missions in Kentucky. What is the result of this generous and sacrificial giving? Together, Kentucky Baptists are reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ.

Posted in Christian Education, Church Planting, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Collegiate Ministries, Cooperative Program, Crossings, Crossings Ministries, Denominational Life, Disaster Relief, Education, Eliza Broadus Offering, Evangelism, Great Commission, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Kentucky Baptist Foundation, Kentucky Legislature, Kentucky Today, Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union, Leader Training, Multiethnic ministry, Pastors Search, Public Affairs, Religious Liberty, Western Recorder | Comments closed

Great Commission Math

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If your church is like the average Southern Baptist church, more than 90 percent of its resources are invested in reaching your community and less than 10 percent goes to reach the rest of the world.  How much should we send to be obedient to the Great Commission?

In Acts 1:8, Jesus declares to His followers, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Based upon that declaration, churches sometimes talk about an “Acts 1:8 Strategy,” whereby we seek to be intentional about sharing the gospel in our town/city (“Jerusalem”), our state (“Judea”), our country (“Samaria”), and overseas (“ends of the earth”).

How much of your church’s resources are invested in gospel work in your Jerusalem? How much of those resources are invested in Great Commission work in the rest of the world? How can you even know?

Try this: From your church’s annual receipts, calculate how much your church gives through the Cooperative Program, special missions offerings, and to help fund mission trips, independent missionaries, mission partnerships, and church plants. Include everything that goes outside of your community. The remaining amount is what your church spends on its Jerusalem. That money is probably budgeted to pay for items like the pastor’s salary, utilities, building repairs, insurance, Sunday School materials, outreach programs, local ministries, etc.

What did you discover? Does your church have an Acts 1:8 budget? If you have doubts, I suggest your church do the following.

First, every church should carefully study what God’s word says about God’s heart for the nations and God’s missionary call on Christ’s church. Scripture is not silent on these subjects. Study will prove that a disregard for missions beyond our own community is nothing short of disobedience. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Jesus also loves all the children of the world.

Second, every church should evaluate how it can be most effective at gospel work beyond local evangelism? How can the church best multiply itself through church planting? How can the church minister to the sick, imprisoned, orphaned, and victims of disaster? How can a church help prepare the next generation of gospel ministers? Depending on the church’s size and strength, some of these ministries can be undertaken by the church on its own but, oftentimes, cooperative missions is the most effective approach and the best stewardship of the church’s resources.

Third, every church should be intentional in praying for God’s leadership in the budgeting process. As we are exhorted to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and assured God will hear and answer our prayers (1 John 5:14), how we use the resources we steward is a matter for prayer.

Our communities need the gospel and so does our state, our nation, and our world. Might God find us faithful in the Great Commission!

Posted in Great Commission, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention | Comments closed

Thoroughness, mindfulness & leading of God’s spirit are keys to filling ministry positions

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The Kentucky Baptist Convention was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. One of the ways we help churches is by assisting them in times of pastor/staff transitions. A host of KBC staff members are equipped to train search committees and assist churches in various ways during interim periods, including giving them access to a large database of résumés. If you are a church seeking to fill a new ministry position or a minister seeking God’s direction for your next assignment, don’t hesitate to call on us and learn more about how we can assist you.

I’m often asked if I have any personal advice for search teams. Beyond stressing the need to bathe the entire process in prayer, thankfully, I usually point to a host of good resources available from the KBC. I also share some of the more helpful things I have learned from others and from having a part in several search processes over the past 30 years. Here are a few.

First, don’t overlook what have been termed “the three ‘C’s.” They are character, calling, and chemistry. Make sure the candidates being considered have strong character, give clear evidence of God’s call on their lives, and are the right fit for the church and/or leadership team.

Second, if red flags appear in the interview and investigation process, paint the wall red. Small issues in the interview process often become huge issues later. Good hiring requires search team members to be deeply discerning and brutally honest about what they observe, resisting the urge merely to be persuaded by an individual’s personal charisma or likeability.

Third, put little faith in references you don’t personally know. We can all find something good to say about a friend, and it’s easy enough to leave a long list of concerns unspoken. Moreover, the fear of litigation, especially from former employees, can leave most organizations hesitant to communicate anything – especially anything that could be perceived as negative – about a former employee.

Fourth, the most important question to ask every reference, especially if that reference is a former employer, is: “Would YOU hire this person at YOUR church today if you had an open position?”

Fifth, closely observe the people skills of the candidate. Keep in mind that most ministry roles require working with and leading people. Regardless of how smart, gifted, educated, or theologically sound a person may be, if that person isn’t especially good at working with people, he or she likely will be a bad fit for local church ministry.

Lastly, you CANNOT be too thorough as you explore a candidate. Make no assumptions and leave no questions unasked nor unanswered.

Keeping these things in mind, being patient, and remaining sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit, a search process can be richly rewarding and result in the kind of outcome for which the church is praying.

Posted in Churches, Pastor, Pastoral Resources, Pastors Search, Transition | Comments closed