Starting and Conducting an Adopt-A-People Program

The Seven Aspects of Adoption

(Long version)
Starting and Conducting an Adopt-A-People ProgramAdopt-A-People is a mission mobilization strategy that is gaining momentum in mission agencies and churches worldwide. What makes this strategy different is its focus. Historically, mission agencies have focused their attention on countries with boundaries, i.e.India, China, etc. Churches, on the other hand, have focused their attention on individual missionaries. But the Adopt-A-People method of evangelizing the world focuses on what the Bible refers to as nations, peoples, tribes, and languages. (“Nations” here means ethnic groups.)

The Purpose (Issue): God created man to worship and to serve Him. Man chose, in Gen. 3, to rebel against God, separating himself from God. But God will fulfill His purpose for creation. The Bible is that story of God winning back His creation to worship and serve Him. Beginning with Abraham in Gen. 12, God has a plan to redeem His creation. See: Gen. 12:1-4, Psalm 97:1, Psalm 67, Isaiah 49:6, Matt. 28:19-20, and Rev. 5:9

The Problem: Today, though there are 6 billion people in the world, 2 billion are linguistically, culturally, or socially separated from the gospel. These people speak 6,800 languages, and are divided into 24,000 social cultural groups of which 8,000 are unreached. The issue is so big—how can we ever do the job?

The Plan: In Gen. 11, God divided the world into people groups that He might win them back to Himself one by one. If every church in the world would focus its efforts, thus “adopting” one of these people groups, this would result in a church being planted in every people group of the world. With every church being responsible for its part, this vast task could be easily accomplished.

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—one group via an adoption involvement?Helping the churches get directly involved so that all of the tribes and ethnic groups (nations) in the world can hear the gospel—that is the goal set forth in this booklet.

First, let us define some of the terms that will be used in the booklet.Adopt-A-People is a long-term relationship with a particular people. Some mission agencies prefer to use different terms: “Focus On A People,” “Serve a people,” “People group partnering,” ministry partnership, etc.There are different kinds of programs that various groups promote, such as, prayer adoptions, assigned adoptions, and other types of people-group focus. These are different varying degrees from Adopt-A-People.

The Adopt-A-People program involves a church-to-field partnering program designed to develop strong identification and involvement between a church and a mission agency which it is working with, or plans to work with, a certain people group. Adoption itself is the commitment of one or several churches or fellowship groups (this could be a mission fellowship, student group, Sunday School class, etc.). The goal in this commitment is to see the establishment of a strong and growing church movement among the unreached group. The adopting group agrees to support this work with prayer and finances, plus further involvement as the Lord may lead. The mission agency they partner with must have the needed resources and team to begin to carry forward the church planting process.

Adoption: An adoption takes place when a church makes a long-term commitment to help evangelize a specific people group. The Holy Spirit must guide the adoption. The adoption continues until both the church and the mission agency see a growing, evangelizing church movement established within that group, in whatever time this may take.

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 own community without further outside/cross-cultural assistance.

These last two definitions are part of what is referred to as the “consensus definitions” agreed upon at the missions executive meeting sponsored by the Lausanne Committee in Chicago in March of 1982.

Any community group, church, class, fellowship, family or individual can adopt a people group. But because the most effective way to do so is through church fellowships, the principles taught here are primarily for churches.As increasing numbers of churches and fellowship groups desire to join the Adopt-A-People program, assistance is needed to clarify how they should proceed. This booklet is designed to help your group set up a viable, effective and productive Adopt-A-People program. Practical ideas and steps are given so that all the people groups in the world can be reached for Christ.An adoption is most successful when it has at least one monthly (preferably weekly) prayer fellowship group meeting to support it. This is a gathering of people committed to learning about and praying for frontier (unreached people group(s)) missions. The adopted group becomes a central part of their total focus toward the frontiers and the unreached. It is proposed that every congregation in America form a fellowship of this nature.How can a person, group or church get involved in the Adopt-A-People program? What should they do?

Adoption usually begins with local congregations gaining an understanding of what God is desiring to do in His world, and also gaining an understanding of unreached peoples with a vision to reach the world through focusing on them as “people groups.” From this understanding of missions, often one or more individuals become acquainted with the Adopt-A-People strategy and believe their church or fellowship should consider and investigate involvement. This may be a “lay” person, mission committee member, pastor, or other missions-minded person.

I. Get informed

All people involved should become knowledgeable in the following: the Biblical basis of missions, the history of the world from a missiological perspective, and considerations of culture and strategy as they relate to missions.Programs are most likely to run successfully when launched by informed leadership. To become informed one needs to do the following:

1. Pray for God’s direction as to how He wants you and your church to be involved in this program. What does God want you to know and consider so that you will honor him and fulfill his purpose through your church or fellowship?
2. The church needs to gain an understanding of missions in general and of frontier missions in particular. And this needs to be done with a particular focus on the understanding of people groups.To assist in gaining this understanding, the following video-based missions study courses have proven very helpful: “Unveiled God’s Heart for His People,” produced by Frontiers—“Stars, Sand and Dust,” by Don Richardson, distributed by Gospel Films(For contact information, see appendix.)It is recommend that the Adopt-A-People promoter enroll in the life-changing course, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. This is a college-level class that provides a new perspective and understanding of the world, the Bible, and a Christian’s involvement in world mission. For a current listing of classes across the country, call, write or check the web site of the Perspectives office at the U. S. Center for World Mission. (For contact information, see appendix.)
3. The promoter needs a basic understanding of the Adopt-A-People program. This material has been produced for that purpose. If not already obtained, the promoter needs a list of mission agencies involved in the adoption program, and also a description of the videos and books available for a church to promote “adoption.” These can be obtained from the USCWM Adopt -A-People office or by checking their web site at “USCWM.org”.To help people understand the concept of unreached peoples and to help present the concept to a group, Caleb Project has prepared some educational skits which effectively promote a church’s understanding of missions. We especially recommend “The World View Demonstration” which can be acquired in printed form or on video at a minimal charge from Caleb Project Resources.
4. There needs to be an understanding by the leadership of the church or fellowship group as to how decisions are to be made. This should be an understanding between both the formal and the informal decision makers in the group.
5. What is the world view of the congregation? What is the primary nature of the group? How do the people in the group view the world, and what motivates them to get involved in missions? Each generation in America from before WWII has viewed the world differently and responded to it and to the church differently. These different generations have been generally labeled the Builders, Boomers, Busters, and Xers. The more information that can be discovered about the nature of one’s group and their views of the world and the things that involve them, the greater chance the program has for success.
From the very beginning, the church leadership must be fully involved and supportive. This includes their interests and advice on every step of the way. Everybody in the church responsible for education, implementation, and development in missions needs to be supportive and involved. This would be the mission committee, the elder or deacon board, and the pastor. One or more of the church’s decision makers need to be a part of the AAP planning group.

II. Involve the Church Leadership

Is the leadership willing to consider the possibility of the church taking on the program? Will they give their approval for the interested parties to continue learning about the project and gathering information?Sometimes there is an insufficient understanding of missions by the church and its leadership to proceed without a time of teaching and growth.

Some programs that may be helpful in this information process are:
1. Make mission resources available. This could be mission books and videos given to the leadership and also placed in the church library.
2. Provide mission study programs for members of the church. It would be helpful to offer the Vision for the Nations course during a quarter at your church. Key leaders and interested members should be encouraged to take the Perspectives course.
3. The pastor and key leaders could be sponsored to go on a vision-building short-term mission trip. Your denomination or mission agency may sponsor just such mission-vision trips specifically designed for pastors and church leaders.
An evaluation of the church is helpful at this point. What are the church’s strengths and weaknesses? What has been consistently true about your church over the years? As you understand how God has made your church, you will be able to determine more accurately which people group would be best for you to select. Every church has personalities, experiences, and traditions that have shaped its ethos—who it is, and how it sees itself and its reasons for existence. These can express where the church is going and how it will relate to adopting a people group.

Contact your denomination’s mission department or a mission agency in which you have confidence. Express your interest in adoption and request from them the names of people groups they have available for adoption. Your denomination’s missions office or a mission agency that you are already relating with may have an excellent program and be very desirous of beginning this relationship with your church. They may be available to help guide you through the adoption process.

III. Contact Mission Agencies

If your church is not a denominational church or doesn’t have an agency that it is already working with, it could select an AAP mission sending agency from the list provided in the introductory AAP mailing by the U.S. Center for World Mission. (For contact information, see appendix or this web site under “Who with.”)How do you find the agency best suited for your church? Look for an agency which reflects your churche’s theological, philosophical, and ministry beliefs for a group with which your church can have a close, long-term, working relationship. The agency you choose should be able to send you a list of unreached groups available for adoption which they are currently working with or are targeting for future engagement. We recommend this as the first step in actually choosing a people group to adopt. As adoption progresses, you will expect to have continuing communication with your agency as to work on the field, and hopefully also have communication and cooperation with all the missionaries in the area of your people group. The earlier in the process there is a relationship with the field missionaries and the greater number you are communicating with, the smoother the program will go.

1. Give time to extensive prayer asking for God’s direction in which there is careful consideration of the names of the people groups provided by the mission agencies.

IV. Select the People Group

How does your church select the people group that God wants you to adopt? This selection should entail the following:

People profiles describing these people groups are available from your mission agency. They should include descriptions of people groups—including their customs, current spiritual condition, an estimate on the number of people in the group, the area where they live, and their economic, ethnological, and political situation.

2. Look for the natural bridges that exist in your congregation to a particular people.

The following describes the possible “bridges” that already exist in your congregation with a particular people or area of the world that might be a natural connection for your adoption. If prayer is combined with search, the church is likely to see God’s providential guidance to the people of His choice.

A. The Missionary Bridge:

1. Missionaries that the church is already supporting who are working among an unreached people group and who may want to strategize together with the church.
Are any of the church’s current missionaries or potential missionaries working with or anticipating working with an unreached people group?

2. Missionaries that have contact with the church but who are not (yet) supported by the church, and have a vision for a specific people group. For example: A church in Indio, California, was praying about what God was saying to them about which people group He wanted them to adopt. As they prayed and planned, they were divided between the great need of India and the great need of the Islamic world. They felt a burden for both but could not see how they could minister in both of these worlds. As they were wrestling with this decision, they were approached by the niece of one of the members who was going to India to work with Muslims. This met their criteria of both Muslim and India, and believing this was God’s will, they adopted her group. She then became their primary contact with the people group.

3. The vision of new ministries from a current church missionary: what vision has God already given your missionary of people groups close to the present ministry, among whom the missionary would like to begin work, if the church provided the prayer support and resource.

B. The Pastoral Vision Bridge:

What ministry vision has God given the pastor for the world? Has God showed the pastor that the church is to have a ministry in a particular place in the world? Is this a bridge to a group in that area? Could adopting a people group and focusing on them in this area of the world be God’s way of fulfilling the pastor’s vision? The enthusiasm of a pastor for a particular people goes a long way in building the enthusiasm level of the whole church.

C. The Church Member’s Vision Bridge:

Does a member of the pastoral staff or do some active church members have a mission vision that may give direction to what God wants for the church? This could be a person or group that would be in a position to give leadership to the adoption program if the church determines this is the way God is leading.

D. Denominational Bridge:

What loyalties, connections, and partnerships do you have to a denomination that are important to what God is doing in your church? Is there a strong commitment to the denomination and its missions program in the church? In churches with strong denominational connections, this may be the primary factor in deciding what agency to work with. Being part of the missionary program of a missionary-minded denomination is a tremendous asset in a successful program.

E. Mission Agency Bridge:

What current or past relationships to mission-sending agencies does your church have that would be a link to a people group? Such relationships give leadership and direction in your adoption with people already working among them or planning to work among them. Has the church always gone with a particular agency for their past short-term missions trips? Have many in the church served as missionaries with groups to which they have strong loyalties? The present commitments and loyalties of church members may be primary indicators as to the direction the church should go.

F. Church Membership Bridge:

What unreached people groups may be represented in the membership of the church already that could form a natural connection to their home group?

G. Church Vicinity Bridge:

What unreached people groups has God brought to live in the vicinity of the church that are a natural bridge for the church’s mission?

H. Language or Cultural Bridge:

Would the language and culture of the members of the congregation be a natural connection to a particular part of the world or to an available unreached people?

I. Successful Sister Church Adoption Bridge:

Is there a sister church that has a successful adoption program that would be a natural connection for the church to partner with?
Has any other church already adopted a group in which you may be interested? Would your church be willing to partner with other churches on your adoption? To select a group that has already been adopted means there is a team in place which has done initial spade work and will be able to assist you with knowledge and information.

J. Short-Term Mission Trip Bridge:

Have members of your church gone on short-term mission/vision trips that have given them vision and passion for an unreached people? Perhaps they have already established relationships with missionaries and programs that could provide a natural bridge for an adoption.

K. Accessibility Bridge:

Consider the location of a prospective group. Could a people group whose primary location is reasonably accessible to the church be an indication of God’s direction for the church? Some churches have adopted groups in Mexico because these groups were accessible.
Also, how accessible would the people group be? If the people are in a highly restricted access country, you may find travel expensive and entry difficult. However, these shouldn’t necessarily hinder involvement, especially if God is clearly expressing this as His heart for your church. On the other hand, many of the world’s most needy people groups have seen a portion of their people migrate to other more accessible countries, including the United States.

L. Occupational or Geographic Bridge:

Could the primary occupation and setting of the people group be a natural link to the occupation and setting of the congregation? For example, a church with a number of people working in the cattle industry may want to select a people whose primary occupations are with cattle, or an urban church may want to select a people the majority of whom live in an urban setting.

If your church desires to adopt a people where no Christian work is as yet in progress or which no other group has adopted, very extensive research must be done. Several churches who thought they had adopted such a group discovered, as they progressed in their adoption, that it had already been adopted by others and Christian ministries were already in existence in the group. Research into people groups is not complete: omissions have been made, especially in remote, isolated parts of the world.

M. Consider the Need

1. Degree of need: Would the church want to focus on one of the least evangelized peoples or least accessible to the gospel? The “People Information Network” keeps a continuously updated list of people groups showing this information. (For contact information, see appendix.)
Is your church familiar with the concept of the “10/40 Window”? This is the area of Africa and Asia which lies ten to forty degrees longitude north of the equator and contains the most spiritually and physically needy of the world’s people. If your church is informed about this area, it may be strongly committed to seeing its peoples reached with the gospel and wish to consider adopting a people from that region. (For information on the 10/40 Window, contact “Christian Information Network.” See appendix.)
Some groups may be slow to be adopted because they are small in size, declining in members and heading toward extinction—-perhaps being absorbed into a primary culture around them and soon to exist no longer as a distinct culture.
2. Christian groups in great need of outside help: Perhaps your church would want to select a group that may have just become Christian and is in great need of outside help. They may need people to disciple them, translate the Bible for them, and defend them against external Western forces working to destroy them, their land, or their culture. The group may be in the process of being “ethnically cleansed” by their government or exploited by corporations seeking to exploit the natural resources of their land. Wycliffe Bible Translators have some of these groups in their “Bibleless People Project” which could benefit from being adopted.

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. Ask the mission agency for the name and phone number of the contact person at a church whose adoption is progressing successfully. Contact this person and ask his/her views on your selection, thus obtaining insights to help make your adoption a success.

If you are going to partner with another church which has already adopted your group, contact that church and obtain their people group profile and the information they have on this country and people. Perhaps they have sent their own research team to the field, and they may be willing to speak at your church to relate their adventures. Be careful that you will not be duplicating work that has already been done or miss information compiled by workers on the field who have spent years attempting to understand the people.

C. Security: What are the security problems related to communication, travel, or beginning a church in the group? What dangers exist for a missionary going to evangelize them? What are the risks to a newly-planted church and its members? Would your church have problems communicating with workers in this area? How would the security threats to the missionaries and new converts affect your church’s ability to be involved?

One of the reasons many groups are still unreached is the existence of strong opposition in their land to the gospel. Many areas of the world today have militant groups functioning to prevent Christian workers from openly preaching the gospel and to hinder the people from changing their religion. The largest number of unreached groups are among the Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist peoples. In some of these groups, militant gangs or governments threaten and often carry out physical attacks against Christians. People in such places are often the most neglected and most hungry for the gospel’s liberating power.

Our time in history is the age of Christian martyrs. 160,000 people per year (1996 statistics) give their lives for Christ. A good number of these martyrs are in the groups that are unreached and just beginning to come to Christ. For countries closed to missionaries, there is the requirement of creative ways both for access to and evangelization of their unreached peoples. Christian workers may not be known publicly as evangelists, nor can the adopting church publicly acknowledge it is working with these people groups. Satan does not give up his territories easily. Many such peoples risk being beaten, thrown into prison, even being killed by coming openly to Christ. Those who adopt such a people need to understand in advance that there will be limitations on the publicity of their adoption.

4. Make the decision as to which group God wants you to focus on.

After you have gathered a significant amount of information (and at this stage, you should continue to gather), compile a list of people groups which your church might be interested in adopting. Careful consideration should be given to the names of the people groups provided by the mission agencies.

Be careful about selecting a name which hasn’t been offered by a missionary-sending agency. Some unreached people group lists contain names of peoples who do not exist or have become extinct. In some cases the name listed has, by mistake, been that of an affinity block; this is a group that is made up of dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller people groups which have some common affinity to each other, and because of this have been looked upon as one distinct people group. On occasion, a group is listed as more than one group because they are separated by national boundaries and thus classified as more than one people. However, a people group is defined as having a common affinity, regardless of what national boundaries have separated them or where some of them may have moved. By considering one group as two, we may confuse the strategy for reaching a single people group.

Distribute the information about the people groups being considered to all those who are in leadership and have an interest in the selection. If you are going to partner with other churches, indicate this fact on your list of the groups. Ask all of these interested persons to pray over the names so that the Lord can give direction as to which your church should adopt.

Select the group for your church to adopt. There needs to exist a real unity in the church with the resulting feeling that, “Yes, this is the group that God wants us to adopt.” Don’t rush this. Come to a clear unity and agreement: for adoption to succeed it is important that the selection process be such that all members feel an ownership of the program.

It is important to consider the stages in the path to adoption that can cause the program to become an enthusiastic part of the whole church and not just a program involving its present missionary motivated people. These stages are:

A. The Visionary Stage This stage begins when a person or a small group forms with the vision of what the church can or should do in relation to the adoption of a people group. It is important that at least one person from the power core of the church be part of this group. One of the questions to be asked is: who are the decision makers in the church that have been empowered with the responsibility for this kind of decision and are they represented in this groups
B. The Critical Mass Stage There needs to be a growing body of church members who support this program, including those who are influential in the church. Education about unreached peoples and the adoption program are important at this point. It is important to have a sufficient number of people in the congregation who understand and support such a program to say that the church as a whole understands the issues. Often a team/task force/committee can be formed at this point to move the program forward.
C. The Emerging Consensus Stage There needs to emerge in all parts of the church an understanding and support of the concept of adoption—that is, an emerging consensus that this is what the church needs to do.
D. Formal Momentum, General Acceptance Stage This stage is reached when there is a general acceptance by the whole congregation of the idea of adoption, and agreement that this specific group is the one for the church to focus on. There is a consensus that says, “Yes, we should go ahead. This is something the church is committed to do.” Now it is time to act.
The formal decision is then made to adopt a specific people group by the appropriate governing body of the church.


Once the decision has been made as to which people group God wants the church to adopt, it is important to notify your mission agency. Please also notify the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse of your adoption. (For contact information, see appendix.)

V. Notify the Mission Agency and Formally Adopt

A time should be set for a formal adoption ceremony at the church. Seek to have a representative of the mission agency present to sign and present an adoption certificate to the church. A copy of the certificate signed by the church should go to the mission agency.This formal adoption ceremony can be performed in various ways, but it should take place at the primary meeting of the church. Normally, this would be during the Sunday morning service. The representative of the mission agency should be present. The concept of adoption should be explained again to the congregation. Some groups have structured their adoption program in such a way that individual members of the congregation are given an opportunity to come forward and sign a covenant, committing themselves to the adoption. The adoption certificate can be constructed in such a way that families and individuals can sign as a personal commitment to pray regularly for the people group and to do what they can to see it reached for Christ. The adoption certificates should be posted in a public place as a regular reminder to the membership of their commitment.Consider the Church’s Involvement or Strategy At the time of formal adoption, after the choice of the people group has been made and the adoption begun, many churches have found it helpful to think through their involvement—that is, a plan or a strategy. This plan or strategy must include those who have been promoting the program: the pastoral staff and whoever will be the church’s people group advocate (described in the next section). This strategy must be an ongoing program, constantly being revised, updated, and improved—depending on what is being learned, the people involved, and the field conditions.Four issues to consider in this strategy are:

1. What Are the Opportunities among the Adopted People Group?
What are their real and felt needs? Would these needs be health, educational, or economic issues like learning English? How will the church go about engaging the people? What can we learn about the group that would be an effective bridge to communicating the gospel to them?
2. What Are the Strengths of the Church?
What vocational expertise is existent among the people of the home church? What uniquely spiritual gifts have been evident in the lives of people of the church? How has God led the church up to now? How might these experiences and gifting come into play in reaching the unreached people group?3. What Are the Threats to This Program?

What might hinder or derail the program? What are the issues on the field, among personalities, or in the church that might hinder or prevent the program completion? Where might the enemy’s attacks most likely be directed?4. How and through Whom Are You Going to Get the Help That Is Essential if the Program Is to Be Successful?

How is the church now connected with the greater body of Christ—through a denomination, other organizations, or mission agencies? What kind of partnerships are we going to need? One of the problems in American churches is that when they make plans, progress is measured in terms of money, time, and numbers. The adoption of an unreached people group is a program that is going into the unknown, and the strategy will often radically change as the real conditions are experienced and overcome. Progress is normally not in terms of money, time, or numbers of personnel involved.
A. Basic adoption. Things essential to an ongoing AAP program, the big five:

VI. Serve the People Group, Live out the Adoption

Important Factors for a Well-Functioning AAP Program

1. Acquire leaders, designate a people group advocate. Appoint a person to be the people group advocate in the church. He/she will become the point person for the people group ministry in and by the church. This person needs to feel called by God for this work because the success or failure of the program often rests on his/her shoulders. This person will regularly communicate with the mission agency and those on the field and will also keep the members of the church informed about activity in the people group. (It is recommend that this person take the “Keys to the Nations” seminar, published by Caleb Project for “people specific advocates.” ) It is recommended this person not be the pastor or one of the pastoral staff. Such people usually have too many commitments in the church to focus on this program and are not able to give the energy and enthusiasm needed. A people group committee should be formed to work with and assist the people group advocate. It should be made up of persons who want a hands-on involvement in missions. It is highly recommended that the members of this committee enroll in the course “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” offered by the U.S. Center for World Mission. (For contact information, see appendix.) It is the people group committee, led by the church’s people group advocate, which will communicate with the agency and the field and then share the vision and information with the church and seek ways to promote the involvement of the whole church.
It is important that the advocate have one committee person working most closely with him/her and sharing in all the aspects of the people group program. This person could take over leadership if the advocate were to move or be unable to continue to carry this responsibility. This provision is important to keep the program prospering and not faltering. One of the wonderful results of advocacy is that God often calls these persons to the field themselves. Desirous as this is in itself, the church’s adoption program should not be left to falter for lack of advance planning.u

2. Establish a regular prayer fellowship for the people group.

The prayer fellowship could be led by the people group advocate and his/her closest associate, since they will have current information on what is happening in the group. The people group committee would also naturally be included, but this prayer fellowship may well extend far beyond this committee. Some churches have mailed cards or letters regularly to praying supporters, with the latest prayer requests and praise reports. Those who receive these notices have committed themselves to regular prayer for the people group, even though they may be unable to attend all of the prayer meetings.

The most effective of these prayer groups is a “Frontier Fellowship” which meets regularly—weekly or monthly—for prayer, praise, mutual accountability, updating, and giving. The members pray daily for the unreached people group and for frontier missions using the “Global Prayer Digest” personally and with their families. Ideally, they also save and bring to the monthly meetings their loose change for frontier mission or for ministry to their adopted people.

The “Global Prayer Digest” has been designed for prayer groups like these. It is a monthly publication with a daily prayer guide produced by the U.S. Center for World Mission. Write for a complementary copy to: Records, USCWM. (For contact information, see appendix.) The church can subscribe to enough copies not only for the members of this fellowship but also for other members of the church who desire to use them. Each day’s GPD has a brief story about a different unreached people group, which helps the reader focus prayer daily on a specific need in Christ’s harvest field.

3. Regularly inform and involve the congregation in what is happening in their people group. This is an ongoing education program for the congregation at large, for their prayers, involvement, and interest. This program can include the following:

a. Having a missionary moment during the regular church service to report on the people group, the progress being made, and issues about which to pray.

b. Notices should appear in the church newsletter, regularly updating the readers.

c. If the church service includes a pastoral prayer, the people group should be regularly remembered in it.

d. Produce a dramatic reading or brief drama about the group.

e. A people group bulletin board may be put up in the church—with pictures, maps and recent news, and prayer requests for the group.

f. Short-term Mission Vision Trips.

It can be vision building and motivating, after the adoption, to go on a vision and prayer trip to the area of the people group. The purpose of a Mission Vision Trip is not to minister, as it is too early for that, but to gain vision and pray against the forces hindering the group from accepting the gospel. Such a trip is a great way to involve and mobilize the congregation. The team going on the trip should include the pastor, or a member of the pastoral staff, the people group advocate, and interested members of the congregation. They should first study and learn about the people group before going. Then, if it will not compromise the Christian ministry already being carried on, visit the missionaries, Christian workers, and native Christian people on the field. In visiting and contacting the missionaries and Christian workers, it is important not to impose on them by expecting to be entertained while there. In some cases, such workers have had so many visits by well-meaning outsiders that they have been hindered from doing their work.

In certain countries, Christian workers have had their ministries badly compromised or even ended, or Christians have been imprisoned, because of imprudent visits, or due to just being contacted by outside people. So, while visits may be very desirable and valuable for vision, inspiration and insight for people from the adopting church, consultation with and approval from missionaries on the field is a must. The best procedure is to go on a trip planned, organized, or led by one’s denomination or mission organization.

g. Recommitment service

As a program progresses, the people involved can become ingrown. This is particularly true when a specialized body of information is generated and security issues are involved.

In order to continue to involve the total congregation, and especially the people who have joined the congregation since the initial adoption, some churches have conducted a recommitment service every few years. This would be a full adoption service—with an explanation of what a people group adoption is, why the congregation felt that this was the people group that God wanted for the church, and a re-signing of the adoption covenant by the leadership of the church along with the primary missionary agency. In this adoption ceremony, the church invites its members to personally commit themselves to the adoption, and in so doing, to come forward in the service as family units, and also sign the adoption covenant.

Continue to be creative and provide many entry points into involvement in the program.

4. Network with any church, missionary, or person that has knowledge of, has interest in, or could become interested in your people group.

a. Join or initiate the networking with churches and groups that have also adopted your group. Churches around the world are adopting people groups. It is important to learn who these churches are and develop an ongoing communication with them.

b. Join the cluster group partnership which includes your people group as a member. There may be field or evangelism partnerships and home or resource partnerships. These coordinate the work on the field and at home to see that these efforts are conducted in a cooperative and effective way to reach the unreached people groups included in the cluster. A good resource for information on such partnerships is Inderdev. Also Caleb Project of Littleton, Colorado, can be very helpful here. (For contact information, see appendix.)

c. Network with mission agencies: the networking, at first, will be with the primary mission adoption agency; but as the adoption matures, there will be communication and networking with the other missionaries and mission agencies involved with your group’s cluster group.

d. Establish relationships with the workers on the field through your primary mission agency. Then, as the adoption develops, communicate with and establish relationships with all the missionaries who are involved with your people group or those in the areas near your group who are working with other people. Also, develop ties with those who hope to work with your people group.

5. Continue becoming informed about the adopted people group.

This is an ongoing research and learning project. The church and the people group advocate in particular could become expert with regard to the things that relate to the people group. This might include:

a. Missionaries whose work may be related in any way to your people group, in the geographic area of your group, with a similar group in a different area, or a group with a similar language. Such missionaries, including those from Third World agencies, can be a valuable source of information about your people group.

b. Churches may already exist in the people group or in a neighboring or similar people groups. Though such a group is listed as having no churches or few Christians, upon careful research, churches or Christians may be discovered that are not yet included in known people group lists.

c. The country of the people group—its history, geography, government structure, and current government: The church should become an authority on the country and countries in which the people reside in all aspects that relate to the group.

d. Religion of the group: Particular emphasis should be on the specific form of the religion the group practices. Do the different parts of the group practice different religions? If the group practices one general religion, are there different forms or expressions of it practiced by different parts of the group? Are different religious leaders followed by different peoples in the group?

e. The history of the group: Where have they migrated from? What are the important events in their history that may distinguish the group? How has their language developed, and what language is it related to.

f. The different agencies, ministries, or humanitarian services that may exist in the country, or the area of the world of the people group, in related Christian programs such as: medical clinics, relief and development programs, and Bible or theological training schools. Even countries that are hostile to the Christian faith, like Sudan and China, have Bible/theological schools that the minority peoples in the country can attend.

g. Christian relief and development and the agencies doing it, particularly as it relates to the people group: How has this advanced or hindered church growth? What is the economic situation of this group? How could it be most effectively helped? What is the impact of outside economic aid on the people and the growth of the church?

h. Don’t depend on only one person or agency or only upon printed material available in the U.S. for information. Much material is in preliminary stages of research. What may have been true when the material was written in the past may be quite out of date today. The best information comes from those currently or recently on the field.

i. Become educated about missions in general. What general mission education materials are available for the education of the church? Answer: Materials for both adults and children.
Great books on missions today can be acquired, at discount, through the Mission Resource Catalog of William Carey Library. (For contact information, see appendix.) One book each person should have is “Operation World,” by Patrick Johnstone. It is literally an encyclopedia of what is happening in every country of the world, updated every six or seven years.


B. Advanced adoption:
Additional things that can be done if resources or interest is available.u 1. Recruiting other churches to get involved and adopt this group as your church has done: Develop a group of churches working together to see this group reached. Be a people group advocate, encouraging other churches to join in this effort!u 2. Sending members of your church on short-term mission trips to visit and minister to your people group. Be careful here, however! To have an effective short-term ministry with one’s people group requires developing an understanding of the conditions on the field and an awareness of the possible effects of attempted short-term mission service, both good and bad. As noted before, for an unreached people group, the presence of Westerners may even cause serious damage to the existing mission work. Early in the adoption process, short-term trips may not be possible until the missionaries on the field have sufficient time to develop the ministry and identify situations where specific help is needed. This should be the kind of help that can be supplied by short-termers. These short-term mission trips should be at the invitation of the people on the field, who would spell out the specific talents and skills that would be helpful. These trips must be for the convenience of the missionary on the field, not the convenience of a group wanting to visit. How can the adopting church utilize the special skills of its members to be a blessing to the missionary and the national church? Does the church have doctors, English teachers, computer experts, building contractors, videographers, ranchers, agricultural experts, engineers, pollution specialists, water specialists—those whose skills may be uniquely needed by the missionary and people? One church discovered that some of the ranchers in its membership had just the expertise in the modern technology that was needed by their agriculture-based people group. This matching of the unique talents in the adopting church and the needs of people and of missionaries on the field can be one of the exciting blessings of an adoption. At this stage in an adoption, sending the senior pastor to visit the people group can be vision-building for him and motivational for the church.u 3. Looking for and discovering members of this people group in the United States, or in your country, and reaching out to them: These may be students studying in your home country or immigrants who still are not comfortable with your culture or language. Some churches have even found churches of their adopted people group in their country, whereas there were few if any Christians of this group in its home country. One of the most marvelous things about America today is that people from all around the world are coming here. It is a matter of discovering who and where they are. Often people of a country or people group cluster in one city or area of the country. Examples of this factor would be the people from Cambodia who have come to live in Long Beach, California, and the Vietnamese people who have moved to Garden Grove, California.

Upon finding people in the U.S.A of one’s adopted group, nothing could be better than to pray for them, promote fellowship with them, and reach out to them. The adopting church could focus on the goal of planting a church among them. If the people are not geographically close to the church, this goal may take creative work to accomplish. For example, this project could include mobilizing other churches close to them to reach out and show hospitality to them, with the focus on planting a church among them. Such a new church fellowship of believers could be the best of bridges with whom to cooperate in reaching the group in its homeland.u 4. Sending the church’s own members as missionaries to the adopted people. From the involvement of members, God will raise up those who themselves will desire to go to your group as missionaries.

Nothing is more satisfying and edifying than for a church to see its own members called and then working with its people group on the field. Ordinary churches become great missionary sending churches, and ordinary Christians become great missionary-hearted world Christians in just these ways.u 5. Assisting and encouraging initiation of specific projects through the mission agencies and missionaries on the field. The church could recruit and provide the funds and staff to see the project carried out. Examples of this could be the following: Bible and “Jesus” Film translation, and the initiating of regular Bible-teaching broadcasts in the local language or dialect.u 6. Raising funds to support missionaries on the field and their special projects: People get excited about missions when they see specifically where their money is going and can see the results of their giving. Christians worldwide are only giving 2% today to ministries of all kinds. This is down from 3.2% during the Great Depression. Those who claim the name of Christ need to learn to give and leaders need to teach people to give and experience the blessings of giving to the Lord’s work, especially to frontier missions.u 7. Involving the members of the church: The more the members are involved, the more it will impact them and make a difference in their lives. Some ideas that have been used are as follows:Ideas to involve people:

Provide members with a world map on which the homeland of their people group has been highlighted, the map to be mounted in a prominent place in the home as a daily reminder to pray for the people group. This also gives an opportunity to explain about the people group to visitors in the home. The children in the home should be able to explain to their friends by pointing to the map where their people group is and tell who the people are and why they want them to hear about Jesus.Research and acquire recipes for the foods of the people. Make these available. Serve these foods at home or at a special meeting providing a unique cultural experience assisting people to understand the group.Discover restaurants that serve the food of the people group or similar food; Organize and promote visits by church to eat together at the restaurant and in so doing to begin to experience something of the group’s culture. Pray and plan that this might initiate an outreach of the church to the restaurant and its patrons.
It is important to involve all groups in the church particularly the children. This can take place both at home and in church classes. Ideas here are:
Each of the children’s classes in the church should have a map posted showing where the people group is in the world. The children should be led and encouraged in regularly praying for the people group.Children can learn the activities that the children of the group participate in, the songs the people sing, and the games the children play.

Encourage the children to look for children in their neighborhood and school from the part of the world where their people group is located, and to reach out to them in love and friendship. When they know them as friends they may ask them about their culture and ways.


Two results of a successful adoption program are its effect on the church and its effect on the people group. The local church itself will be blessed, mobilized, and made to rejoice in seeing God work; while the people group will have an active, committed and growing church movement in its midst.

VII. Adoption Results

A. If the AAP program is working effectively, the following developments will be seen in the church:
1. An informed and motivated congregation. The congregation will be looking forward to the ongoing information coming from the field concerning their people group. Members of the church will be increasingly enthusiastic about God’s work in the world.
2. Increased effective prayer to God for the ministry of the church and for the unreached people group.
3. Increased financial giving in the church and for the unreached people.
4. Missionaries who have been raised up from the congregation.B. The people group reached! Rejoice in victory!
Through the commitment and prayers of the church and the work of the Holy Spirit, there will be established a growing, spiritually-healthy church movement in the adopted people group—with self-supporting, self-directing, self-propagating churches, sending their own missionaries to still other peoples.
Normally this means that 10%-30% of the people of this group come to consider themselves followers of Jesus and participate in church fellowship.
This is a full and extended process of faithful service by the adopting church. As with adopting children and seeing them grow, there are great joys and fulfillment; and in the process there are struggles, sorrows, pains, disappointments, and sometimes the pain of separation by death. So with a people group adoption: Years are involved, and there are both great joys and great sorrows.
A group is considered reached when a strong, indigenous church-planting movement has been established which is of sufficient size and strength to evangelize the rest of the group with no (or very little) cross-cultural assistance. grin

Jerome Hannaman
Mobilization Division
Fronter Venturs
1605 Elizabeth St.
Pasadena, CA 91104
626-398-2204