Theological foundations

Engaging in the Out-of-Home Care space is a weighty undertaking, inspired by a clear biblical mandate and full of potential for healing and restoration. It can however be complex and challenging, full of both joy and pain.

We need to move far beyond good intentions, wishful thinking, or any quick fix solutions. A sturdy theology is needed to inspire, inform, outwork, and sustain our efforts to serve vulnerable children and families.

The following provides a summary of key theological ideas that relate to both the motivation for and the design and approach of The Homeward Project.

The King Jesus Gospel.*

An understanding and an experience of the gospel is the basis and fuel for a ministry serving vulnerable children and families. Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension is at the centre of God’s story in the world and of our story (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 2 Timothy 2:8; Acts 2; Acts 10). The Kingdom of God has a King, Jesus, who rules by redeeming and governing a kingdom people who are under His lordship and following His ways and will in the world.

Our identity is in Christ and what He has done for us. We are recipients of, and participants in, the gospel that is good news to us and to others. We love because He first loved us and we know what love is because of His sacrifice (1 John 4:19; 1 John 3:16-18). We are called and compelled to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel, following Jesus’ way, seeking first His kingdom, and collaborating with Him as we pray “your kingdom come” (John 12:26; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 6:10).

We are to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23), love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40), care for the least of these (Matthew 25:45), serve others with humility (Philippians 2:3-4; Mark 10:45), do good works (Ephesians 2:10), be salt and light (Matthew 5:14-16), lay down our lives and love with action and truth (1 John 3:16-18). To be able to do this, we need to remain in Him (John 15:4-7), operating from a place of intimacy and rest, learning to live freely and lightly in the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Care for vulnerable children.

Care for vulnerable children has been a defining mark of Christianity since its earliest days, motivated by clear biblical directives. The people of God are called to look after the orphan and the fatherless – children lacking the protection, provision, and care that God intends families to provide (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18, 24:17, 27:19; Isaiah 1:17; Zechariah 7:9-10; Jeremiah 22:3). “Pure religion” – the outward expression of an inward truth – that is acceptable to God, is looking after orphans and widows in their distress and remaining uncorrupted by things that aren’t of God (James 1:27).

The call to serve vulnerable children also reveals the nature and character of God himself, a defender of the fatherless who sets the lonely in families (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 10:14, 68:5-6, 146:9; John 14:18). Jesus welcomed children and taught that they should not be hindered or caused to stumble (Matthew 18:6, 10; 19:14).

Family & adoption.

Scripture and research both affirm the importance of family. Relationships within family and community are part of God’s design for protection and growth, vital in ensuring that people are taken care of.

The idea of family is central in the Bible, used as a picture of who God is and what He does on our behalf. The Trinity includes the familial language of Father and Son. God is our father and loves us as his children, regardless of our culture, status, or background and He invites us to come close (Psalm 68:5-6; John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-6). The church is referred to as the family of God and His household, united by Christ. We are to love one another with brotherly affection, show honour, and do good to one another (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:10).

While the doctrine of adoption is used powerfully to explore an understanding of our relationship with God – illustrating that we are welcomed into the family of God through the work of Jesus on our behalf and can relate to God as our Father and He relates to us as His children, having the rights and privileges of being known and loved as His (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-6; John 1:12-13) – we must be mindful of the present-day practice of adoption and the nature of the Out-of-Home Care sector,** to avoid misapplication of theology, or marginalisation of those involved with types of Out-of-Home Care as distinct to adoption.***


We serve an incarnational God, who took on flesh and blood human form and moved into the neighbourhood, making His dwelling among us. He is Emmanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:14; Gal 4:4-5). Jesus entered the mess and suffering of the world and as Jesus was sent into the world so His followers are sent into the world (John 17:18). The gospel compels us to step towards and enter hard places. The idea of incarnation relates to a perspective and posture towards others (Philippians 2:5-7).

God prioritises presence. From the moment of creation, we see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit prioritising presence – with Adam and Eve, promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, throughout the Exodus journey, in the tabernacle, and in the life of Jesus who lived in relationship with others and within community. Jesus paused to connect with individuals amidst crowds, spent intentional time with his disciples, and promised the greater presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). We therefore prioritise presence and connection, necessary for life-giving, healing relationships.


The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). This fellowship, or “koinonia”, is layered and rich in meaning – togetherness, commonness, partnership, an authentic sharing of every part of our lives with others. Learning more about Jesus changed how the early church lived, how they spent their time, how they welcomed others, what they owned and what they gave to anyone who had need (Acts 2:44-45). We should be devoted – enthusiastic, dedicated, and faithful – to being together; known as Jesus’ disciples because of our love for one another (John 13:35).

Koinonia goes beyond the experience of a Sunday service or gathering. It is marked by generosity and hospitality; it rejoices with those who rejoice and mourns with those who mourn (Romans 12:13-15). This kind of fellowship helps carry another’s suffering, bearing each other’s burdens and in this way fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). As the church, we can help carers bear burdens that are too much for any one person or couple to carry alone. We’re not all called to be carers, but like different parts of the body, each member of the church has an important role to play (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:14-16).

Suffering & lament.

Following Jesus and knowing Him in an intimate way involves encountering suffering. Paul wrote about sharing in Christ’s glory and His suffering; he wanted “to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship (‘koinonia”) of sharing in his sufferings” (Romans 8:15-17; Philippians 3:10). We don’t desire suffering, but we trust that in challenges and trials, God is with us, comfort can abound through Christ, and good can come of it for us and for others (Genesis 50:20; Romans 5:3-5; Colossians 1:24). We acknowledge pain and suffering, we recognise it’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and we know this is not the way it will ultimately be (John 16:33; Revelation 21:1-5).

Children and families involved in the Out-of-Home Care system have experienced brokenness and welcoming them into our homes and lives means inviting and sharing in the pain with them. Trauma impacts lives and relationships in many ways. Caring for children and young people impacted by trauma doesn’t only take time, it brings significant challenge. We are called to share the weight and walk through the challenges together.

Lament – an honest expression of sorrow to God – is found throughout Scripture (most notably Psalms and Lamentations) and was modelled by Jesus. When we are at the end of ourselves, facing dark moments and witnessing injustice, lament provides an important way to come before God with our honest cries of complaint, appeal for a response, and confess our trust in Him.


We are guided and inspired by the biblical vision of “shalom”, a picture of multidimensional, complete wholeness and flourishing due to all relationships – with God, self, others, and creation – being right. This is the vision created in the garden of Eden and a picture of the Kingdom.

God’s good creation is damaged by sin and distortion of these key relationships results in inequality, injustice, brokenness, and damage that can spread across generations. However, God is a God of restoration and renewal. God restores health, joy, relationships, time, prosperity, strength, soul, and spirit. He can restore and heal broken people and families and He invites us to participate in His restoration work. We desire responses to brokenness that address root causes (not just symptoms) and bring about lasting restoration and we know that true healing happens in the context of relationship.

The hope is that children in Out-of-Home Care return to their biological family. We know that often this cannot happen but it’s the hope. Love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7) and no one is outside the reach of God’s redeeming and restoring love. We have hope for the healing of families, of intergenerational trauma, and of heartbreak for those who say goodbye to children they’ve invited in and poured their love into. We desire that our attempts at bringing God‘s love to hard places would serve as signposts to the ultimate restoration and reconciliation of all things (Acts 3:21; Colossians 1:19-20; Revelation 21:1-5).
* We borrow this term from Scot McKnight, author of The King Jesus Gospel: The original good news revisited, Zondervan, 2011.
** The number of adoptions in Australia is very low. Foster care, in contrast to adoption, is temporary, does not include change of legal identity, and can involve movement between families and care situations (as opposed to a clear ‘before’ and ‘after’ of a legal adoption decision).
*** Tim Davy, Theologian in Residence at Home For Good UK provides some helpful reflections on theology of adoption and foster care. You can access the blog here.