International (MNN) — A pastor can easily set the tone for a church. Very often, what a pastor values, the church body will also value. What a pastor doesn't value, a church may quickly forget. So when it comes to adoption, a pastor can become an open window for a congregation's opportunities, or a closed door to put it far from their minds.
Clearly understanding the strong influence a pastor has on his church body, the Southern Baptist Convention began a grant system to encourage pastors to do more than just suggest adoption as an option.
"It's one thing to talk about [adoption] and preach about it," says Johnny Carr, National Director of Church Partnerships for Bethany Christian Services as well as a former Southern Baptist pastor. "It's another thing to actually do something tangible to help people."
To create even more motivation for pastors who are called to adopt, Bethany has agreed to provide a $1,000 grant for each of the first 25 pastors in the SBC adoption program who choose to adopt with Bethany.
"We know that for many folks, especially with inter-country adoptions, the finances can be one of the biggest hindrances," explains Carr. "We just want to see as many children in good Christian homes as we possibly can get there."
This initiative will not only encourage pastors to adopt, but it will hopefully soften the hearts of entire congregations toward taking in orphans.
"When a pastor does this, it really can change a church. [It] can change the culture of a church, how it views orphan care ministry, and how it views adoption."
Carr has experienced this sort of church change firsthand. His family adopted while he was a Southern Baptist pastor. The life-altering experience even affected the way he preached.
"The whole idea of taking care of an orphan really came alive for me," says Carr. "It became part of my life. As I preached on Sunday, this would come into almost every sermon.'"
Adopting had a great spiritual impact on Carr as well, as he suspects it will for others who choose to adopt. "The more I experience horizontal adoption or physical adoption, the more I understand my vertical adoption," notes Carr.
For any Southern Baptist pastors who wish to change the life of a child for Christ through the Biblical call to adopt, visit www.Bethany.org/sbc and apply for these grants today. For those who don't fit this description, you can still help! The Southern Baptist Convention would love for those who care about adoption to help fund their own grant. To help pastors financially as they seek to save a life, click here.