What is an advocate?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an advocate is “one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group.” Lately, we have seen a lot of advocates in the media. For example, many female celebrities such as Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, and Reese Witherspoon have been outspoken about sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace and have become advocates for the #MeToo movement. They are advocating for justice and for protection of women against their oppressors.
But not all advocates are put on a platform in front of the world to hear their voices. Oftentimes, advocates are people who work behind the scenes. They are our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Teachers are advocates in their classrooms and schools. Public servants are advocates in their communities. The reality is we do not have to be famous, rich, or powerful to be an advocate.
In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus describes what it means to be an advocate when using a parable to discuss the day of His return when He will address His sheep (i.e., followers). He thanks them for providing for His needs such as food, drink, shelter, and clothes. Out of confusion, His followers respond by asking when they provided for Jesus.
“‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” -Matthew 25:40
In this verse, Jesus gives us His definition of an advocate—someone who provides for those in need. When we are advocates in our community, we are being an advocate on Jesus’ behalf.
Who needs an advocate?
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” -Isaiah 1:17
The Bible provides all types of examples of who needs an advocate in our communities. We seek justice for those that have been wronged. We defend people who cannot defend themselves. We support and love the children without parents and the widows. These vulnerable populations in society are the people that need an advocate—someone to love and encourage them and to meet their deepest needs.
There are so many children in our community living in a world without their parents. Perhaps, their parents have died, or their parents are unable to care for them. Either way, children put into our nation’s welfare system need love, support, and encouragement from their community, not just the foster system and foster parents.
In addition, foster parents and families need support as it can be difficult to care for children that have come from all walks in life. Sometimes, foster parents can become overwhelmed when supporting foster children who are struggling with a variety of issues. There is also a lot of coordination required between the justice system (i.e., attending court dates), case managers, birth parents, teachers, and therapists.
As an independent non-profit organization, Children’s Rights works to reform foster care systems by using the law to hold governments and agencies accountable and defending foster children when the system fails. Their mission is to create systems that support and protect the children in foster care.
In order to support their mission, they conduct research and analysis of foster and adoptive families. According to Children’s Rights, nearly 428,000 children are in foster care on any given day in the U.S. The average age of children in foster care is 9 years old, and more than 200,000 young people age out without permanent families. When young people leave the system without the support and love of a family, they are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors and experience homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration.
Aside from supporting foster children and families, there are others for whom we can be an advocate. We can be an advocate for families living in poverty. We can be an advocate for single parents. We can be an advocate for people oppressed in our communities.
How can I be an advocate?
There are many ways we can be advocate in our community. Working with local food pantries and schools, doing service projects throughout our neighborhoods, or giving a voice to the oppressed by standing up for what is right are all examples of being an advocate.
Although there are endless opportunities for advocacy in our community, sometimes, it can be overwhelming to find the time or the right population or organization to serve. It seems there are so many needs, and we do not know where to even start. Here are some easy steps you can follow that will help you discover a cause or a group of people you can support.
1. Reflect on your gifts and passions.
One way to figure out a good place where you can serve is to reflect on your gifts and passions. Gifts can include abilities and spiritual gifts. Passions are causes or people for which you have intense feelings. To discover your passions, just think of an issue or an event that provokes some type of emotion—whether it might be sadness as you see so much poverty in our world or anger when someone is mistreated. For example, you might be passionate about human trafficking and want to work with an organization that helps the victims.
As you think about your gifts and passions, make a two-column list. Your passions will be what you advocate for, and your gifts will be how you advocate for that cause or population.
2. Be open to what you feel called to do.
After making a list of your gifts and passions, pray about where God might want you to serve (especially if you have a long list of passions). As you feel called toward a specific cause, take the steps to be an advocate. Sometimes, when we feel called to act in a certain way, we might not respond to the calling because we feel we do not have the time or resources to pursue this passion. But if we feel the nudge, we need to also pray about how God wants to use us for that cause. Each of us will have a different part to play in advocacy.
3. Attend the Advocacy Forum.
At Chase Oaks, we strongly believe in the importance of being an advocate in our community. Advocacy is a way for all of us to make a difference in our world. On Sunday, June 3, from 6:00-7:30 p.m., our campuses will host our Advocacy Forum. It is a night where we will come together to see how we can transform our communities.
We will learn about how to come around foster families and local partners. Each campus will have a different partner represented in the forum. Some of the examples are Embrace and 5 Loaves Food Pantry. There will be guest speakers to help inform and guide us through the process of becoming an advocate.
4. Get involved with local organizations.
The final step is to get involved in local organizations where you can use your gifts and satisfy your passions to make a difference in our community. If you have a passion but are not sure how to find a local organization to serve, visit Chase Oaks Local Partners where we have a list of organizations that meet the needs of children, adults, and families. When we work together as advocates, we can change our future.