Chris Shandrow will encourage you to get your church involved in serving the foster care community. Chris is the Lead Pastor of Compass Church in Normal, Illinois. Compass was planted in 2013 with the goal of connecting people who are unchurched to the God who loves them.
It’s not social justice—it’s about the love of Jesus working through his church. The church is God’s Plan A—there is no Plan B to reach the broken and hurting.
Compass and The Forgotten Initiative
One of the ways Compass found to build a bridge to people in need was through reaching out to the local foster care community. “Our experience with TFI really birthed one of our core values, and that is, to live open handed,” explains Chris. “We live with hands open to God—He can take or give as much as He wants. We want Compass to be known as a generous church.”
When looking to serve people in need at the relationship level, Chris Googled “non-profits” in Bloomington-Normal, and The Forgotten Initiative was one of the organizations he contacted. Compass provided Journey Bags, which enabled the people in his church to buy things for real, specific children in the community. This tangible way to express love to kids—“and we bought the best stuff to show the extravagant love of Jesus, rather than giving leftovers, because that seems to be what kids in foster care always get”—started Compass’s relationship with their local foster care community.
As Compass got more plugged in to the needs in their community, a local DCFS agency worker wanted to know if they would be willing to help buy gifts for teens in care—kids and infants had been taken care of, but no one had volunteered to get gifts for the teens. Chris took all eleven names and was shocked when he reviewed the request forms. “They asked for socks, a scarf, boots—these very basic things. It was sad to think that this was all these kids could expect.”
So he sent the lists back…and asked for updated requests. He wanted to know what their dream gift was. When he received the updated lists, the kids had asked for things any teen would want: Xboxes, iPods, iPads, Air Jordans. When Chris took both the original lists and updated lists to his church (which was only about 60-70 people at the time), he challenged them to show extravagant love to these teens who rarely, if ever, had received anything extravagant. He was shocked, and thrilled, that every gift was purchased.
The following year, there were 30 kids on the list. Again he challenged the church, and again every single gift came in—TVs, computers—all kinds of “dream” gifts. In fact, the gifts were so nice, Chris got a little bit of push back about it. “Some people were questioning, saying they weren’t even buying their own kids things this nice.” His response? “Our kids live in an environment of love—these kids don’t have that. We don’t know what they need, but we trust that the love of God will show through.”
And the love keeps growing: Last year, all three local agencies gave Compass the lists for all the kids in foster care—infants all the way up through teens, a total of more than 400 gift requests. This enabled Compass to take another step of faith and reach outside their church to provide the gifts. “We took it outside the walls of our church and encouraged our members to ask other groups, people at their workplaces, non-believers—anyone who could partner with us to show love to these kids in our community.”
The benefit was two-fold: Every child received the gift they requested and the people who partnered with Compass to meet the needs could see the value the church adds to the community in a non-threatening way. “We just said yes,” explains Chris. “We said here’s what we have and God took it to provide for the needs and wants for the kids in foster care. Our service to the foster care community highlighted the relevance of Jesus and the church.”
Project Renovate/Project Sunshine
Compass Church has also completed a Project Renovate project. These are service opportunities to help foster or vulnerable families with home projects. Service projects are another way to be involved, but instead of giving money, people can offer their time and talent. In addition, Project Renovate and other service projects enable real one-on-one contact. “Project Renovate allowed us to really get to know the people we were helping,” says Chris.
Similarly, Project Sunshine is a way to connect with the agencies by cleaning, painting and making a room at the agency office more inviting to children and their parents. “We’ve found the agencies have the same low expectations as the kids—it takes work to develop trust to allow us to come help.”
Serving the foster care community enables Compass Church to show the love of Jesus to kids in care, agency workers, and foster parents. “It’s not social justice—it’s about the love of Jesus working through his church. The church is God’s Plan A—there is no Plan B to reach the broken and hurting in our world.” Reaching out to kids and agency workers is touching them at the soul level—not just the societal level.
Getting involved with The Forgotten Initiative and the local foster care community has changed Compass Church. “We were a church adrift—we didn’t know how to get into our community. TFI created a bridge. Once you see the need, you can’t unsee it.”
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Chris Shandrow is married to Terri and together they have 3 beautiful kids. Chris is the Lead Pastor of Compass Church where their mission is to make God accessible to everyone. Compass Church starting partnering with The Forgotten Initiative several years ago and serves their local foster care community with a desire to show the extravagant love of Jesus to everyone they encounter.
Meet Our Host | Jami Kaeb
Jami Kaeb is a dreamer and a coffee lover! She is married to Clint and the mother of seven–five through adoption. It was through a difficult season of waiting, that Clint and Jami’s eyes were opened to the foster care community. They became foster parents to three siblings who they eventually adopted, and in April of 2011, Jami founded The Forgotten Initiative. Jami views life as a great adventure with Jesus and desires simply to know Him more and share His love with those who feel forgotten. Follow Jami’s personal blog for real life perspective on parenting seven children!