Westside Family Church feeds 3,000 kids daily in four countries. Families from the church have adopted more than 100 children in the United States and internationally. The church helps fill backpacks with food for hungry children and teenagers, and it is a regional support and training center for foster care and adoption in the Kansas City area.
Yet, the Southern Baptist church’s executive pastor, Dan Chaverin, says there’s a bigger picture to the congregation’s ministry to children.
“We’re very focused on making disciples,” Chaverin, says of the Lenexa, Kan., church. “Our mission is loving Jesus, becoming like Jesus and sharing Jesus. That’s the best definition of a Christ-follower that we can muster. The service we’re doing [for children] is very integrated into that discipleship process.”
Westside’s involvement in this ministry has been a gradual process, initiated in large part by many in the church’s leadership being personally involved in adoption. Chaverin, whose family adopted a daughter from China, says many of the church’s pastors were heavily impacted by encountering orphans on mission trips to India, Thailand and South Africa. Several have adopted children of their own. One of the church’s pastors was involved in the foster care system as a youth.
But the most important trigger for Westside’s work among children came from observing where God was moving in the church’s ministry efforts — particularly internationally.
“It seems a little obvious, but for us, we started noticing that where we were seeing fruit had to do with orphan care,” Chaverin said. “That really focused us on the fact we were going to help these kids — not just short-term with relief, but long-term with their education, with their health and with their spiritual walk with Christ –and even in community development. So that theme emerged, and it was all God’s working.”
As church leaders and church members returned from mission trips to help orphans internationally, they began to notice similar ministry opportunities not far from home. The church had already been partnering with an inner-city ministry in nearby Kansas City, Kan., and could discern a growing passion among volunteers and leaders to minister to inner-city children and youth in need of help. The church began filling up backpacks with food for kids to have during the weekends, when students are unable to rely on school-provided meals.
“We began to realize that if we’re going to make a difference, we’re going to have to move beyond our ministry outreach,” Chaverin said. “We’re going to need to take some of these kids into our homes.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press