Common goals in orphan care–The gospel according to soccer: Part 4

Last week, in part 3 of this series, we discussed the first lesson we can learn from soccer–All great soccer teams are unified by common, well-defined goals and success measures. In this post, we’re going to take a look at how important that foundational lesson is and how it actually plays out in the real world of church ministry. We’re going to focus on orphan care because it is the area that I’ve been working in the past five years.

First, we need to agree on a couple of key premises:

  • All Christians involved with orphan care are a team.
  • We need to work as a team if we’re going to have any chance of loving the orphans in our world as God loves them.

define your termsSecond, the orphan care movement needs to clearly define the terms and success measures that are critical to its mission.

All involved need to agree on terms like “orphan”.

And “family”.

And “orphanage.”

CAFO Summit 2014 buttonAs it stands today, we simply don’t have clear and agreed-upon definitions for these foundational terms. If you don’t believe me, just hang out at an orphan conference or two and really listen. You will hear these terms being used by many people to mean many different things.

A recent study comparing children’s lives when they are raised in “orphanages” vs. “families” highlights the lack of clear definitions. The study defines “orphanages” to include anything from a state-run institution with 100 kids in a room to a family-model home with a married couple raising the children as their own (though not legal, adoptive parents). The study’s “definition” of “family” is just as cloudy.

That same study shows that we have a long way to go in creating agreed-upon success measures for our work in orphan care. That study used measures such as height-to-age ratio and caregiver-reported physical and emotional health over a three-year period to conclude that quality of care is as important or more important than the setting for the care. Without getting into details, I’d argue that those measures don’t really measure the things that I’d use to define success in raising those children.

Whether or not you agree with the study’s conclusions, I hope that you agree with me on this: Ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding these key terms and success measures is not good.


We’ll pick up on this important topic next week. Until then, I’d love to hear your answers to “Why Not”, and any other thoughts you have on this important topic, through the comments.