Working together towards a common goal can both be extremely rewarding and incredibly challenging! Like my husband said recently about parenting, “We are imperfect humans, raising imperfect humans; why are we surprised when it doesn’t go well?!” It seems to apply to working with people too. This is why we must show up with humility and understanding.
Our children in foster care rely on us to work together as a team, and in the foster care space, this team is made up of foster parents, biological parents, and agency workers. My guest, foster dad and ministry leader, Peter Greer, helps us understand how we can come together on behalf of our children and navigate the complexities of foster care as allies rather than adversaries. Ooh, this is a good one!
HERE ARE MY 3 TAKEAWAYS FROM OUR CONVERSATION:
1. Compassion must drive our conversation even when we disagree.
We want what’s best for children. The problem comes when our idea of best doesn’t line up with someone else’s idea. Our ideas can be at opposition with one another, yet we don’t have to be at opposition as people. We can’t control other people. We can choose how we respond when conflict or disagreement arises. I love that Peter pointed us back to Jesus, the one who was gentle and lowly in spirit. He fully displayed his humility in being willing to be hurt for the good of others. As followers of Jesus, we can enter the conversation with a deep love for those we disagree with. There are complexities to navigate, but I think we can start by remembering that we’re disagreeing with other people who have stories and who, most importantly, were created by God. When we begin with a heart of compassion, the way we interact in disagreement changes.
“You can strongly disagree. You can strongly have perspectives of what you think is best, but is there that element of gentleness, of love, of care, of compassion, not just for the child but even for the county worker that you might be disagreeing with or even the court decision you might be disagreeing with?”
2. Refuse to have an “us versus them” mindset.
If we succumb to the lie that this is an “us versus them” battle, there is no place to work together. Collaboration can’t happen. In times where our passion is welling up in anger or resentment, Peter asked us to pause and evaluate whether our focus has drifted off course. We tend to think of ourselves, and it’s easy for us to be blinded by our ideas and not give grace or assume positive intent of the other people involved. This is the battle we want to make sure we’re having—the battle to make sure this doesn’t become about us and our way. We have to be willing to be teachable and acknowledge the limitations of our own experience. I’ve seen this in my own life as I walk alongside other families. I want to make sure that I’m not just trying to make their family look like my family. That’s not the aim. I find that when I’m willing to listen and am vulnerable, the process of working together starts on better footing.
“The tendency is always to focus inward, and I think we have to fight against that, constantly pushing our focus and giving ourselves the gift of getting over ourselves.”
3. Advocate with the right perspective—that God is wholly loving and capable.
I don’t think the answer is to do nothing, to step aside and stop advocating for the needs of our children for the sake of agreement. We have to have discernment about when to push and when to extend grace. This work is too important to not advocate to the best of our ability. I felt freedom though when Peter said that sometimes you have to let go. By the end of the case, if you’ve done everything possible to love and serve well, then you have to give yourself that permission. You have done enough in approaching the team with humility and compassion to advocate to the best of your ability. This is messy work. We also have to remember that for as passionate as we can be about the children in our care, God is much more passionate. God is capable of going and doing what we cannot.
“It’s this weird mixture of saying, I’m going to do everything to advocate, to love, to act, and I’m going to trust in the much more loving and capable hands of the Almighty God that we serve.”
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