Christians throughout history have often been known for their special service to orphans. The latest ECFA “State of Giving Report” spotlights a resurgence of this ancient commitment with eye-opening numbers.
Overall, charitable giving by Americans grew by a strong 4.1 percent in 2015, according to Giving USA. In that same period, support for Christian orphan care grew at more than three times that rate, rising 12.4 percent. Christian giving to support adoption grew significantly as well, rising 8.4 percent over the prior year. Other investments in serving vulnerable children, including child sponsorships and children’s homes, also saw strong growth, with 7 percent and 9.8 percent increases respectively.
“We’re seeing a strong trend of deepening commitment to children the world often overlooks,” stated ECFA President Dan Busby. “Christians aren’t only talking about how the Bible calls us to care for orphans. They are truly putting their money where their mouths are.”
This commitment to orphans is not new. Christians in Roman times earned a reputation for taking in children left abandoned and exposed by pagan neighbors. Early church documents even required that candidates for leadership be known as “lovers of orphans.” This reputation has followed Christians over two millennia, from people like Afra of Augsburg in the 3rd century to George Mueller in the 19th.
Recent years have seen American Christians – and increasingly, believers around the world – rising to this role again. Over the past half decade, the consistent growth in Christian giving to aid orphaned and neglected children has been dramatic. Since 2010, charitable giving by Americans – who give away the largest portion of their income of any Western nation – rose by roughly 28 percent. That’s a significant boost. But in that same period, giving to Christian orphan care rose by more than 87 percent and giving to adoption by more than 73 percent.
Of course, this commitment is lived out in a myriad of other ways also. Its 21st century expressions began with a special focus on inter-country adoption, which became a major catalyst for other ways of caring as well. Steadily, the vision has grown to encompass a full spectrum of responses to the Bible’s call to “defend the cause of the fatherless” – including family preservation and reunification programs, support for local adoption within developing nations, health and education projects, as well as U.S. foster care and foster-to-adopt, mentoring and much more.
All of this gives strong evidence of a vibrant and growing movement. Across the U.S. and around the world, Christians are indeed re-earning their historic reputation as a people deeply committed to caring for children the world often forgets.
Why this remarkable resurgence now? Many factors likely play a part – including our “shrinking” world due to the speed of technology and travel, the advent of global AIDS, and the strong re-engagement of evangelicals with human need issues in recent decades. It is also worth noting that the field of orphan care, foster care and adoption enjoys a rare unity and strategic leadership – led by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). CAFO facilitates shared initiatives involving many of the best organizations in the field, all working together to inspire and equip Christians for effective response for vulnerable children. Unified efforts like that bring far greater impact than when organizations work in isolation or competition.
But at its core, leaders in this work describe a spiritual movement. “Scripture tells us that God is a Father to the fatherless and loves to set the lonely in families,” explains CAFO President Jedd Medefind. “The Gospel says that’s exactly what He did for us, too. So when Christians embrace an orphan or child in foster care, we’re just giving a small, humble reflection to the way God first loved us. When that happens, no one is left unchanged.”