For of Such is the Kingdom: Tennessee Church Stands in the Gap for Children
By Carl Stagner
Jesus recognized the prevailing winds of culture were set against children; he didn’t just make an observation, however—he did something about it. In Englewood, Tennessee, a Church of God congregation’s insistence to walk in the way of Jesus has led them also to do something about it. Specifically, they’re standing in the gap for children caught in the complex weave of the foster care system. After a couple years of growing partnership with a local foster care ministry, the congregation upped their game on a special night in April that challenged church and community to take action.
You don’t have to be a big church to accomplish big things. As Englewood First Church of God has discovered, any size church from any size town (or out in the middle of nowhere!) can extend its reach through partnership. No need to have experts on hand; no need to have all the money or the volunteers—working alongside an existing ministry that knows what they’re doing means mutual benefit and kingdom impact! That’s why Englewood First Church of God chose a ministry called Isaiah 117. Through the Isaiah 117 House, the rural congregation began doing what they could not have organized on their own—coming alongside actual families as they receive foster children, and directly assisting actual children in the foster care system waiting for host families.
“The church has supported local foster families for a couple of years now by providing backpacks with clothes, toys, and necessities to families as they get their new child,” Pastor Chris Alexander explains. “Many of the families receive their foster children without any assistance at first. The Isaiah House is new to us because it is in the final stages of being built and will house foster kids who have not been placed in a home yet. These children have been kept at the local office of Child Protective Services. Our motivation was to see these children cared for immediately upon being removed from their family, instead of being kept at an office for extended periods of time while awaiting placement.”
On Saturday, April 12—the day before Easter 2022—Englewood First Church of God held an outreach event, dinner, and fundraiser at the church that took their level of partnership to a whole new level. Consisting of a meal, silent auction, and live auction, as well as the chance to purchase merchandise from Isaiah 117, the experience was wholly dedicated to propelling the cause of the Isaiah 117 House forward into a healthy, growing season of ministry.
“We saw the opportunity to partner with this wonderful ministry as a means of being the hands and feet of Jesus in our local community,” Chris reflects. “These children have done nothing wrong, and they are in a lose-lose situation. If we can share a bit of love and care with them, then we are fulfilling God’s mission to the church to love others.”
Throughout the process of partnership, the church has not only blessed the local organization, the children, and the families, but they have been blessed, themselves. In fact, God has deepened the church’s love and understanding of the challenges of the foster care system as a result.
“God desires that no one be forgotten but that all may come to know him through the sharing of his love and mercy,” Chris explains. “It has truly opened the eyes of those in our church to see the desperate need of the children in our community.”
Feature (top) photo: Crowds gathered for the special event at Englewood First Church of God.