Adopt-A-People A way to love the missionaries and the people they work with
ADOPT-A-PEOPLE A Mission Strategy Adopt-A-People is a mission strategy that is gaining momentum in mission agencies and churches worldwide. What makes this strategy different is its focus. Historically, agencies have focused on countries and churches have focused their attention on missionaries. Adopt-A-People focuses on people groups, or what the Bible refers to as nations (Psalm 67). For 10 years, my wife and I served as missionaries to the Yalunka people of Sierra Leone, W. Africa. Our denomination referred to us as Sierra Leone missionaries, revealing a country focus. Our churches faithfully prayed for our family and supported us financially. Then, in 1988 we were unable to return to the field because of health reasons, and were assigned to serve at the U.S. Center for World Mission. Thankfully, our churches continued to pray for and support us in this strategic ministry. We also had the privilege of serving on the mission committee of the church we attended while serving at the U.S. Center.
I asked our mission committee members if any were still praying for the Yalunkas. Their reply was no, we are praying for your family and your ministry in Pasadena. Our church had "adopted" us, and not the Yalunkas. Yet the Yalunkas are the ones in desperate need of prayer for release from Islam and animism. We went to this tribal group to bring men and women to Jesus. Our goal was to see a church-planting movement started so that all Yalunkas would have the opportunity to know God and give Him the glory He deserves. Yet, I'm afraid our supporters did not fully share in this goal with us. Why? They had a different focus.
Now, I'm not saying that praying for missionaries is wrong; we need it! But what happens when a missionary family returns because of poor health or the educational needs of their children? Is the people group on the field forgotten? I'm afraid in most cases the answer is yes, because of an adopt-a-missionary focus.
ADOPT-A-PEOPLE Defined What then does it mean to Adopt-A-People? It means committing yourself as an individual, fellowship group, local congregation, denomination, or mission agency to pray for and commit resources to starting a church- planting movement within a specific people group. This commitment is continued until the believers in that people group
are capable of reaching the rest of their people without outside (cross-cultural) assistance. We are not "adopting" them into our congregation, denomination or mission agency. We are agents of God praying, giving, and serving to see a people adopted into His family. This is the true meaning of Adopt-A-People. One day this will be accomplished and every tribe, tongue, people and nation will give glory to God around His throne (Rev. 5:9).
Think Strategically about the Task Is it really possible for a church- planting movements to be started in 10,000 unreached people groups by the year 2000? With a little calculation, it can be shown that church- planting movements, in five different unreached people groups, will need to be started every day from now until AD2000 to make this happen. Sound impossible? Then think about it in another way.
There are an estimated 600 mission-minded churches in the world for every one of the unreached people groups. If 10,000 groups of 600 churches each were to band together, link up with a mission agency, and give five years to start a church-planting movement in one unreached people group, the task could be completed. Now does that seem possible? Yes! when we consider the resources. Obviously, it does not take 600 churches to reach one people group. Your church, adopting one people group and linking up with one of the agencies that are participating in the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse, can have a significant impact toward the completion of the Great Commission by the year 2000 AD.
How Does Our Congregation Select a People for Adoption? The heart of the Adopt-A-People Strategy is the linking together of a local congregation which has "adopted" a people group with a mission agency that has "targeted" that people or even engaged them in ministry. Some information regarding where mission agencies are working is available from the AAP Clearinghouse.
It has been interesting to see that many churches are already helping to reach an unreached people group and do not even know it! Adoption of an unreached people group in our church could take place with just a change of focus from the Yoders to the Yalunkas. Maybe your congregation just needs a change of focus too. Check to see if one of the missionaries you are currently supporting is working among an unreached people group. You might be surprised! If you have questions concerning the "reached" status of the people groups your missionaries are working with, give the AAP Clearinghouse a call, and they will assist you.
For others, we recommend that you contact the mission agency you are most familiar with and see which unreached people groups they have targeted. Some churches have asked the AAP Clearinghouse for a list of unreached peoples from which to choose. This seems to add confusion and delay to the selection process for the local church. I know of one church that has been trying to decide for two years which people group to adopt. They have too many choices. I know of another group that has received a list of 36 people groups from a mission agency, and they cannot decide which groups to eliminate. I suggested that they ask their agency for the top 3 groups on the list according to priority for sending a church- planting team. It is much easier to pray over and choose from a list of 3 than 36, or 10,000!
Are There Some Practical Resources to Help Our Congregation? Yes, you may contact the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse or the Mobilization Division at the U.S. Center for more information. But call your mission agency first. Some of them have resources specifically customized for your congregation. Then, as your mission committee, fellowship group, or congregation works through these resources, you will better understand what it takes to Adopt-A-People.