It means that a church congregation or fellowship group makes a serious commitment to do all they can to reach their adopted people group by working in partnership with the mission agency of their choice. All adopting churches agree to provide informed, concerted prayer for their people. Depending on the mission agency chosen, a church may also be asked to help fund the effort to reach their people or supply personnel to help reach them.
Adopt-A-People Terms and Definitions
People Group (or People): A significantly large ethnic or sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another. For evangelistic purposes, it is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.
Unreached People (sometimes called "Hidden Peoples"): a people group which has no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to finish evangelizing their community without further outside/cross-cultural assistance.
The terms and definitions used above are commonly referred to as the "consensus definitions." These were the result of a meeting held in Chicago in March of 1982 at which most of the mission agencies working among unreached peoples were represented.
Terms and definitions used based on the above definitions
Stage 1-"Reported" The people group is brought to the attention of a Christian research group which strives to verify them as unreached and lists them as such.
Stage 2-"Selected" A denomination or mission agency, capable of reaching the group, accepts responsibility to reach them and mobilize churches and Christians to adopt this people group so that a church may be started in their midst. They are actively recruiting churches and fellowship groups to adopt this group and partner together to reach them.
Stage 3-"Adopted" One, or several, churches or fellowship groups (could be a mission fellowship, student group, Sunday School class, etc.) has made the establishment of a strong church among the unreached people group their personal goal. They agree to support the work with prayers and finances. This is done with their denomination or in partnership with one or more mission agencies.
Stage 4"Engaged" The work has begun and cross-cultural workers are
"on site" with the goal of establishing a "viable,
indigenous church-planting movement."
A people group may already have been engaged when a church or fellowship group chooses to adopt. The church then commits itself to partner with the "on site" workers.
Stage 5-"Reached" A strong, indigenous church-planting movement has
been established that is of sufficient size and strength to evangelize
the rest of the group with no (or very little) outside help.
"Reached" does not mean the work is done, but the missionary thrust is closing and the evangelistic phase has begun which is now the responsibility of the indigenous church. They have moved from unreached to unevangelized.