Life in church ministry is normal for husband and wife Kyler and Lauren Smith. Kyler just celebrated 10 years at Hickory Grove Baptist in Charlotte where he has served since 2012. His first day on staff was particularly special—it is the day he also met Lauren whom he would marry two years later.
As the Smiths, now parents to four-year-old daughter Eliza, served the Lord together, God began igniting conversations between them that would take them beyond their familiar church ministry life.
“As followers of Christ, we have long been aware of the orphan crisis,” shares Lauren. “I spent some time serving outside of an abortion clinic and that is where our hearts for the orphan crisis really began.
“Foster care, for us, seemed like a good way for our family to engage.”
The couple needed assistance getting started. They discovered that help existed within North Carolina Baptist life.
“We learned one of our own entities provided help—provided resources—to assist us,” says Kyler who took on a new role in 2021 at Hickory Grove as senior associate pastor. “We learned about Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) in this process and our experience with them has been a God-sent gift”
BCH trains and licenses couples, like the Smiths, to be foster families through the EVERY CHILD Foster & Adoption Ministry, a partnership between BCH and NC Baptists.
“BCH has proven to be an invaluable resource to Lauren and I,” adds Kyler. “They’re continuing to be there with us day by day.”
Once licensing is complete, BCH provides a case manager to its foster families to give them ongoing support and assist them with child placements. The children come from the state foster care system where there are approximately 17,000 boys and girls in its custody. These are children who have been removed from their family homes for their safety.
“Once we were exposed to this ministry, once we reckoned with the need, we took a step of faith and, I’m telling you, the Lord has been gracious to us,” shares Kyler.
The Smiths soon opened their home—and their hearts—to a pair of toddlers.
“Our foster boys have been with us for several months now, and they have settled right into our home,” shares Lauren. “There’s a lot more craziness in our house, but it’s been a blessing to serve them and their family and to walk alongside of them.”
Caring for the boys has also opened a door for them to minister to their parents.
“It is been an opportunity for us to practice sacrificial love as we love people who are different than us,” divulges Lauren. “We are able to love on their boys and encourage their parents to fight and do what it takes to be reunited with their (children) again.”
Hickory Grove is taking steps forward, as a church, to support foster and adoptive families.
“We are in early stages of developing a ministry to help resource families engaging in adoption and foster care,” says Kyler. “It’s not only through material and financial support, but through encouragement.”
As both a foster parent as well as a pastor, Kyler has a message for fellow pastors regarding the vital role churches can fill.
“From one pastor to another, I just want to plead with you to just consider anew the opportunity—the stewardship—you really have as a leader of your local church,” he says. “I trust there are countless families in your congregation that could be well resourced by you to meet the foster care crisis need in your community.”
And for those praying about fostering, Kyler has a message for them as well.
“I want to encourage you to take that step,” he shares. “Ask God to use you and receive His children into your home. I trust you will see Him do things in and through you and in spite of you. He surely has for us.”
Message to Pastors: Kyler shares with fellow pastors why it is essential for the church to be involved in foster care and adoption as well as how partnering with Baptist Children's Homes and NC Baptists makes it possible. Kyler is the senior associate pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist in Charlotte.
Learn more at every-child.org.
Written by Blake Ragsdale, Managing Editor of Charity & Children