Positive Public Engagement: Successfully Living Out Your Faith-Based Mission

These articles are meant to strengthen the capacity of all faith-based organizations (FBOs) to live out their faith-based mission. If you are already a Sacred Sector participant, log into the Participant Portal to access the toolbox resources. If your organization is interested in becoming a Sacred Sector participant, click here.

Showing community and public officials the distinct value of their mission and services is one way faith-based organizations can preserve their freedom to serve the community in accordance with their religious beliefs. As the Sacred Sector Toolbox on Public Policy states, “Positive public regard can influence lawmakers, regulators and courts to protect the religious freedom that faith-based organizations need.”

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America World Adoption Association (AWAA) is a Sacred Sector participant and faith-based organization in McLean, Virginia that employs this concept well. The organization offers valuable services to mothers facing unplanned pregnancies and to Christian families who wish to adopt. Offering assistance in both domestic and international adoption, AWAA has guided over 4,600 families in all fifty American states from the initial stages of adoption to post-adoption parenting. AWAA engages its community by establishing positive organizational character, clearly rooting its practices in its religious beliefs, and partnering with peer organizations. Their engagement and organizational practices help them convey their values and positive contributions to the community.

Establishing positive organizational character

AWAA has established a positive reputation throughout the United States in two distinct ways. First, AWAA exhibits commitment to excellence through key programs such as Adoption Coaching and Training (ACT). Their ACT ministry supports families in various stages of the adoption process, offering Christ-focused parenting guidance through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. According to Joshua Taylor, Director of HR and Office Management, AWAA programs “evaluate not just the number of adoptions facilitated, but [also] the long journey of care throughout the process of adoption.”

Second, AWAA serves as a subject-matter expert to churches and other faith-based community institutions. By partnering with local churches to sponsor adoption education seminars, AWAA provides valuable expertise to families interested in adoption and orphan care, they are not only furthering their mission; they are establishing positive organizational character in the community. For example, an integral part of their mission is educating Christians in the Washington, DC area about adoption and orphan care.

Rooting practices in religious beliefs

AWAA clearly communicates the faith foundation of its ministry.  AWAA’s mission - to help orphans throughout the world experience the love of Jesus - is motivated by its faith commitment. AWAA’s website describes a number of Biblical principles that are foundational to its ministries. The ACT ministry is founded on a specific passage from the Bible: "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up” (Isaiah 43:2). Taylor asserts that the organization’s commitment to excellence is directly related to their faith commitment: “We want every family that joins us in the journey of adoption to have a really good experience. We want to do [our work] with excellence because we think that God requires that.” By following the example of AWAA, which provides biblical rationale for its programs and standards, faith-based organizations may positively influence public perception.

Partnering with like-minded organizations

Faith-based organizations such as AWAA find collaboration helpful for a number of reasons. Collaborating with similar ministries provides support and constructive feedback. Collaboration is also a good way to strengthen community engagement. AWAA partners with a number of Christian adoption agencies throughout the country. Partnering with like-minded organizations has allowed them to build relationships and garner support among faith-based organizations who share common goals and a common faith-based motivation. Taylor sees collaboration as essential for relationship building and, ultimately, for promoting their sacred mission. As Taylor puts it: “We really do need others. We need to collaborate in the work that God has called us to do.”


Faith-based organizations rely on broad public support to influence public policies in favor of religious freedom, and AWAA has shown that being committed to excellence and offering expertise to the community are staples to building a positive reputation. Because of their positive public engagement, AWAA continues to enable thousands of families to express their faith by adopting and loving orphans.

Sara Bess Kemeny (Covenant College ‘19) served as a 2018 summer intern with the Center for Public Justice (CPJ).