Why I Started Safe Families?

Twenty years ago, I believe the Lord put a calling on my life. After working in ministry, launching a church, and then running a child welfare agency, I believe the Lord gave me the mission of Safe Families.  It was driven by an incredible sadness regarding the suffering children have to endure related to child abuse and retraumatizing in the child welfare system. Research shows that children who remain at home even with marginal parents have better outcomes than those children who are forcibly removed and experience the placement disruption of foster care.

That’s where Safe Families came in. My passion was to help the most vulnerable children and their parents. These are families that are on the edge of going into foster care. These are families that had no one to call when facing a crisis or dealing with unmanageable circumstances. However, how do we help them? At the same time, my heart was burdened with the mission of the Church, and its unique calling to change agents in society. As I continued to pray, the Lord birthed a powerful vision for the Church to answer the call to support vulnerable children and families through biblical hospitality.

Instead of guarding and protecting the family unit, what if parents believed that we should empower and unleash the family to sacrificially love and serve others? I believed that parents have lost the real and life-changing purpose of their family and that parents and children (when aligned and on a mission) can be powerful forces of hope, mercy, and compassion. When we do so together, we can change the world. But often, many families are driven by busy schedules and activities and get easily tempted and wrapped in materialism. This movement of hospitality was meant to challenge families and give concrete ways to focus outward, rather than inward.

That’s where hosting comes in. We bring the need to the family and the Christ-filled family lives out its purpose in a radical way that grabs the attention of the world. The key is the entire family serving together in their home, living out their values and gifts to benefit the most vulnerable. I believe that families of faith needed the opportunity to host nearly as much as moms and dads needed their children to be hosted. Without hosting or supporting families, there are few opportunities for the family to serve together. What better way to live out the gospel than opening one’s heart and your home to love the stranger?

The key to unleashing the family is what I like to call the theology of radical hospitality. In identifying ancient hospitality as the engine, we tied into a practice of the church that has been in place throughout its history. More importantly, the practice of hospitality (loving strangers in our homes) was periodically the key strategy for how the Church engaged culture. When thousands of homes are open and inviting to strangers in such a radical, counter-cultural manner, the gospel is on display. Radical hospitality (opening one’s family and home to strangers) has set the church apart throughout history. My desire was to revive this ancient tradition at scale, calling thousands to live this radical lifestyle. Radical hospitality involves holding all we have (home, family, possessions, even ourselves) in an open hand and leads to a level of generosity that is not often seen in our world.

This was the calling the Lord put on my life. This was my vision for Safe Families. Now twenty years later, my heart is still stirred by unleashing the family to practice radical hospitality. My wife Karen and I have personally hosted over 100 children over the years and firmly believe we are all called upon to open our hearts and homes to keep children safe and families together!