Adoption is a commitment made by a church or fellowship group to see the establishment of a strong church among an unreached people group.
The Adopt-A-People program is a church-to-field partnering program designed to develop strong identification and involvement between a church and a mission agency which is working with or plans to work with a people group.
People Group (or people): A significantly large ethnic or sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity with 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 Question: Which of the unreached people groups of the world that are to stand before the Lamb (see Rev 5:9) is God asking your church to accept responsibility for via an adoption involvement?
The following information has been designed to assist local churches in knowing the basic aspects of a healthy and sustained unreached people group adoption.
I. GET INFORMED
Adoption usually begins with local congregations gaining an understanding of unreached peoples and a vision to reach the world through focusing on them as "people groups." This typically has resulted from church members taking one of a few strategic mission appreciation courses: "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement," "Vision for the Nations," or another such frontier/unreached peoples oriented missions curriculum.
From this people-group understanding of missions, often an individual who becomes acquainted with the Adopt-A-People strategy believes his church or fellowship should seriously consider and investigate involvement. This may be a "lay" person, mission committee member, pastor, or other missions-minded person. Historically if Time has proven that this person who has becomes burdened by God and excited to pursue an adoption within his church and now as its promoter is the key individual for the success of the program.
The advocate, along with the church, would begin by:
1. Praying for God's direction concerning how he wants you and your church to be involved.
2. Gaining a general understanding of, and a personal commitment to, frontier missions and the unreached peoples.
3. Becoming informed about the Adopt-A-People strategy.
II. INVOLVE CHURCH LEADERSHIP
Communicate with the church leadership and secure their involvement. In most churches this would be the mission committee, the elder or deacon board, and the pastor. There are tools to help in this process.
III. CONTACT MISSION AGENCIES
The adoption process begins by contacting a mission sending agency or a denominational mission board: request from the agency information about their adoptable peoples. A denominational church would normally begin by communicating with its own mission office. Information is available on agencies that are part of the AAP Program in print from the USCWM Mobilization office or on the web at: www.uscwm.org. Ask for information about groups available for adoption. The mission agencies should be able send to you a list of unreached groups for your consideration and assist you in the adoption process. A successful adoption will also involve relationships with all other missionary personnel on the field. The earlier more missionaries and mission agencies are involved in the adoption, the smoother it will go.
IV. SELECT THE PEOPLE GROUP
Select the people group that you believe God wants you to adopt. This should entail:
1. Extensive prayer as to which unreached people God would choose for your group.
2. Look for the natural bridges that exist in your congregation to a particular people or area of the world. What already exists in your congregation which might be a natural connection for your adoption? Some factors to consider are:
a) Missionaries that the church already supports or may support
b) The vision or burden of the pastor
c) Denominational loyalties
d) The mission agencies the church already has relations with
e) People of other nationalities that God has brought to live in the vicinity of the church
f) The country or people-group interests that already exist in the church
g) Where the church has already gone on short term mission trips
3. Seek counsel:
a) Of the pastoral staff and leaders of the congregation.
b) Of a church that has a successful program. Talk with a church that has already done an adoption.
c) Security: What are the security problems related to communication, traveling to, or beginning a church in the group?
4. Select a group for your church to partner with, giving full consideration to the opinions of the leadership and to the natural bridges that may exist to the group. In making this decision, there needs to be a real unity in the church with a resulting feeling that, "Yes, this is the group that God wants us to adopt.
V. NOTIFY THE MISSION AGENCY AND FORMALLY ADOPT
When the decision is made concerning which group God wants the church to adopt, notify your mission agency of the decision and in cooperation with the mission agency set a time to have a formal adoption ceremony at the church. Include the signing of a formal adoption covenant between the mission agency and the church. The adoption certificate should be posted in a public place as a reminder of the adoption. Also notify the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and AD2000 of your adoption.
VI. SERVE THE PEOPLE GROUP
A. Basic Adoption. Things essential to an ongoing AAP Program.
1. Appoint a person as the people-group advocate who will become the point person for the people-group ministry in the church. A people-group committee should also be formed which would work with the people-group advocate.
2. Establish a regular prayer fellowship for the group. Regular prayer meetings should be scheduled for your people group. This could be led by the people-group advocate as the person who will have current information on what is happening in the group. ( Experience has revealed that the most effective prayer groups are those that exist as "frontier missions fellowships", which typically meet weekly or monthly for prayer, praise, mutual accountability, study and giving.)
3. Involve and inform the congregation regularly at every possible level with what is happening in the group.
4. Network with others who relate to your people group
a. Join or initiate a network of other churches or groups which may have also adopted your group.
b. Join with the larger cluster group partnership which includes your people group.( There may be field or evangelism partnerships or home resource partnerships which coordinate with work on the field or at home.)
c. Network with mission agencies.
d. Begin relationships with the workers on the field.
5. Become informed about the adopted people group. Become an expert on everything that relates to the people. This would include: religion, culture, history and the country(ies) the group is located in. Grow in the knowledge of missionaries, churches, relief agencies, and schools that are involved with or in the area of the group.
B. Advanced Adoption. Things that could be done if resources or interest were available.
1. Recruit other churches to adopt this people group and to partner with you.
2. Send church members on short-term mission trips to minister to your people group.
3. Look for and discover members of this people group in the United States--or in your country, if you live outside the United States--and reach out to them.
4. Send the church's own permanent missionaries to this group.
5. Assist in seeing specific projects begun through the mission agencies and missionaries on the field. Among these might be: Bible translation, the JESUS Film being translated into the language or dialect of your people, regular Bible teaching broadcasts in the dialect of your people.
6. Raise funds to support missionaries on the field and for their special projects.
7. Involve the members of the church. The more the members are involved, the more it will impact them and make a difference in their lives. This should be all groups of the church, especially the children, both in their homes and in the church classes.
VII. ADOPTION RESULTS
A. If AAP is working effectively in your church, you will see the following:
1. An informed and motivated congregation.
2. Increased prayer for the ministry of your church and for your people group.
3. Increased financial giving overall.
4. People raised up as missionaries from your congregation.
B. The people group is reached. Rejoice in victory!
Through the commitment of your church and the work of the Holy Spirit, there will be established a growing, spiritually healthy church movement in your adopted people group. It will be a self-supporting, self-directing, self-propagating church sending its own missionaries to still other peoples.