Leaders from Buckner International led a workshop at the 2022 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting entitled “How Your Church Can Impact Your Community.” The session focused on practical ways that churches can impact their local and global community through Buckner ministries.
President/CEO Albert Reyes brought greetings to attendees and opened the workshop with a word on meeting both physical and spiritual needs.
“We can talk about the Kingdom … but people can ignore our words. They can’t ignore our actions. So I say, lead with needs, follow with words. We’re the messengers of the gospel, and we must step into the mess and start fixing up things … and helping people. Then eventually they're going to ask you why,” he said.
Reyes emphasized that people providing physical and spiritual needs do not need to be in opposition but can and should work together in harmony, and that Buckner is an example of how to achieve this kind of holistic care.
Small gift, big transformation
Shawn Spurrier, director of Shoes for Orphan Souls, shared about the impact of this unique ministry, which has distributed more than 4 million pairs of new shoes and socks to vulnerable children in both the United States and around the world since 1999.
“Something very small, as small as a gift of a pair of shoes, can be an entrypoint to absolute transformation in the lives of a child, family, maybe even a village or community,” he said.
Spurrier shared several ways that providing shoes impacts children and families. They promote health as many diseases are preventable by having a sturdy pair of shoes to cover the feet. Having shoes also lowers barriers to education because many schools require children to have a pair of shoes to attend.
Providing a pair of shoes also meets a child’s basic need for clothing, which studies show leads to better outcomes educationally, relationally and spiritually. Put simply, a pair of shoes lays a foundation for children to reach their full potential, Spurrier said.
Lastly, he shared that shoes are also a touch point of hope, expressing to a child that they are valued and not forgotten. Every pair of shoes includes a note inside telling the child that they are loved by God.
“So many profound needs are being met through a really simple gift,” said Spurrier.
There are many tangible ways for churches to get involved in this ministry, like hosting a shoe drive, collecting shoes during Vacation Bible School, mobilizing students to host a drive in their schools or commemorating other significant events by collecting a special offering for shoes.
Finding forever families
“At Buckner, we’re dedicated to finding families who will open their hearts and their homes to care for these children … families who view it as a ministry. We look for families for children, not children for families. That’s a big difference,” said Debbie Sceroler, senior director of Foster Care and Adoption with Buckner Children & Family Services.
Buckner is a leading agency for foster care and adoption in Texas, operating in nine locations across the state to serve the 30,000 children in the foster care system and 6,000 children waiting for adoption.
While not every family is called to foster or adopt, every church is called to care for foster and adoptive families, Sceroler said. She shared that 50–60% of foster parents discontinue fostering after one year due to lack of support and limited resources. It is important that the church steps up to provide and minister to them, she said.
Churches can open their facilities to allow Buckner to provide education and host informational meetings. They can also identify foster care and adoptive families in their community and build support ministries to encourage them.
Other ideas include sponsoring a birthday party for foster kids, creating a resource room stocked with supplies for foster and adoptive families, organizing meal trains for foster families, adopting a family and committing to pray for them or offering extracurricular activities for foster kids through your church.
“Stronger families build stronger communities,” Spurrier said. “And the church is a part of building that foundation.”