“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
It’s coming! This year’s Orphan Sunday and Stand Sunday will be celebrated on November 12, 2023. We know you are excited and anticipating all that God is going to do in your church and community this year and beyond.
We are also excited about this new season and the growing movement in the global Church to reflect God’s heart for the orphaned and vulnerable, rooted in the vision of James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
After months and years of listening, prayer and conversations with pastors, leaders and advocates in our community, we are looking to the future with much hope and holy expectation – honoring the legacy of where we’ve been and introducing a new opportunity for churches to align vision, focus and language under the broader umbrella of The Pure Religion Project, led by the CAFO Church Ministry Initiative.
The Pure Religion Project is here to help churches live out their calling to care for vulnerable children and families while growing closer to Jesus as His disciples. Simply put, the Project aims to inspire and equip God’s people to live the “pure religion” described in the book of James and invited throughout Scripture. This “pure religion” is both a growing deeper in faith and a living out of that faith wider.
Our goal as the Church is not recruitment or activism first; it is discipleship. Ultimately, to see the people of God deeply celebrating the love of God for us through the work of Jesus (identity – who we are) and then widely demonstrating that love in our work on behalf of those around us (action – what we do). As pastors and leaders, we aim to help the people of God live in ways that are decisively different and set apart (holy) and embody self-giving sacrifice (helpfulness) for the orphaned, widowed and vulnerable among us. The Pure Religion Project is here to support you in that work of discipleship.
On this page, you will find many ways to celebrate Orphan Sunday, Stand Sunday and now, a new offering – Pure Religion Sunday – on November 12, 2023!
Find more information below in our FAQs.
We’ve compiled resources to help guide you and your church. These include inspiration for your Pure Religion Sunday, ideas for event planning, a sample rollout plan to help equip you before, during and after your event …and beyond! Use any of these tools and ideas or feel free to develop your own.
Pure Religion Project Field Guide
This is your guide to hosting Orphan + Stand Sunday in your church this year. This guide includes the legacy stories and history, recommended marketing timelines, shareable resources and more – along with new information about The Pure Religion Project!
2023 Shareable Graphics
We know each of your churches and ministries are unique, but we hope these open-source graphics will be helpful for you as you begin to design and promote your events this year! All of these graphics are created in Canva – feel free to edit to match your ministry’s needs, add your church’s logos or information, as well as input the dates and details of your local events. Resources also available in Spanish and French!
Are You Planning an Event?
Join us for a group connection and coaching call led by Jason Johnson, Director of Church Engagement & Mobilization, on the following dates to learn more about the ways your church can maximize the resources of the Pure Religion Project to implement your Orphan Sunday, Stand Sunday and Pure Religion Sunday events this year!
History of Orphan Sunday
Each year since 2004, the Church has celebrated God’s heart for orphaned and vulnerable children on the second Sunday in November, first through Orphan Sunday, and then in 2017 through Stand Sunday when the two efforts merged together … Orphan Sunday for the purpose of inviting the church to care for orphans worldwide and Stand Sunday for the purpose of calling the church to stand for children and families in the U.S. Foster Care system. Learn more about the history and legacy of these two days below.
Orphan Sunday came as a gift from the Church in Africa. While attending a church service in Zambia, an American visitor witnessed the local pastor’s passionate call to care for orphans, in a community that had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty. As that first-ever “Orphan Sunday” service ended, one after another the people stepped forward giving out of their own need, offering their food, and some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering basket for orphans.
“God sets the lonely in families.”
That visitor, Gary Schneider, was so deeply impacted by what he had witnessed that he began to help Zambian leaders coordinate Orphan Sunday efforts across Zambia and also shared the vision in the U.S. as well.
In 2009, the Christian Alliance for Orphans began providing united leadership to make Orphan Sunday a catalyst for awareness and action across the U.S. and worldwide. Today, churches and organizations in more than 100 nations observe Orphan Sunday annually. We pray the Church all over the world may be as faithful as our Zambian brothers and sisters to reflect God’s heart for the orphan, both near and far.
History of Stand Sunday
When Bishop Aaron Blake, a pastor and foster/adoptive father, left his breakfast table for church on the second Sunday in November of 2004, he had a sermon prepared… and it wasn’t about foster care:
“I had prepared a sermon to preach that morning that I had worked on all week. I stood up to bring the message when the breakfast table image of our boys came back to my mind. The faces of our sons seemed to multiply in my emotions as I recalled the image from the breakfast table earlier. I knew then that God was prompting our church to answer the call to care for children and broken families.”
Without explanation, Bishop Blake said to his congregation, “Brothers and sisters, there are about 30,000 children in the foster care system in Texas and nearly half a million in the U.S.” He then asked this one simple question (and he wasn’t expecting a verbal answer):
“Who will stand with me to defend, care, and support abused, abandoned, and neglected children in our community?”
After a brief moment of silence, one lady in the back of the church stood up and simply replied, “Pastor … I will.”
Like a tiny smoldering ember dropped in a pile of thirsty pine needles, her voice began to multiply. To his amazement, Bishop Blake watched as one family after another stood up and joined their voices to hers. As a result of that day, this church and the surrounding community has cared for and adopted hundreds of children in foster care over the last 12 years. In fact, their county actually has more than enough foster families to meet the need.
When is Pure Religion Sunday in 2023?
Pure Religion Sunday, Orphan Sunday, and Stand Sunday will be celebrated Nov. 12, 2023. This day is celebrated every year on the second Sunday in November.
What is the Pure Religion Project?
The Pure Religion Project is a focused initiative inspired by the members of the Christian Alliance for Orphans and the broader CAFO community designed to help churches live out their calling to care for vulnerable children and families while growing closer to Jesus as His disciples. Simply put, the Project aims to inspire and equip God’s people to live the “pure religion” described in the book of James and invited throughout Scripture. This “pure religion” is both a growing deeper in faith and a living out of that faith wider.
Our goal as the Church is not recruitment or activism first; it is discipleship. Ultimately, to see the people of God deeply celebrating the love of God for us through the work of Jesus (identity – who we are) and then widely demonstrating that love in our work on behalf of those around us (action – what we do). This intricate and never mutually exclusive relationship between identity and action – allowing what we do to flow from who we are – has always been at the core of the heart of CAFO. This is not a new idea or shift in focus. In fact, it’s a doubling down on what has always been true with a laser-focused effort to serve the Church even more effectively moving forward into the future. More resources and information will continue to be released throughout the year. Sign up here to be the first to know about new resources and releases from The Pure Religion Project.
How do we know which name to use?
Traditionally, churches have used Orphan Sunday when the focus is global orphan care and Stand Sunday for the US foster system – but we recognize that many churches are deeply invested in caring for orphaned and vulnerable children and families near and far. We invite churches to consider Pure Religion Sunday as an opportunity to align vision and name together – or contextualize the name to match your church’s current mission, ministry and vision. For example, we know of one church that calls it their “Justice and Mercy Weekend” because that language more closely aligns with how they regularly refer to their outreach, missions and engagement initiatives within the church.
Can we use Pure Religion Sunday?
Yes! We believe a great way to frame this day is as a “Pure Religion Sunday,” through which the options are many as to how you choose to coordinate and focus your efforts and calls to action. This of course could be done in an integrated way with the legacy stories of Orphan Sunday or Stand Sunday, as well as any other creative ways you choose to recognize and leverage this powerful, globally unified day of recognition, celebration and action.
Do we have to celebrate on the second Sunday in November?
No. We believe God calls His people to live out this vision every day of the year, so the date definitely isn’t the most important thing! That said, there can be something especially meaningful about joining with God’s people across town and all over the world on the same day — and we’d welcome you to do so if you can.
Who do we contact for coaching help?
You can request coaching by using this form here.