Growing God’s Family

The Global Orphan Care Movement and the Limits of Evangelical Activism

288 pages

21 illustrations

June, 2017

ISBN: 9781479800384



Add to Cart Available: 5/19/2017

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Samuel L. Perry is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago. He also holds a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. His research explores the changing dynamics of religion and family life in the United States. 

All books by Samuel L. Perry

Illustrates the hidden challenges embedded within the evangelical adoption movement.  

For over a decade, prominent leaders and organizations among American Evangelicals have spent a substantial amount of time and money in an effort to address what they believe to be the “Orphan Crisis” of the United States. Yet, despite an expansive commitment of resources, there is no reliable evidence that these efforts have been successful. Adoptions are declining across the board, and both foster parenting and foster-adoptions remain steady. Why have evangelical mobilization efforts been so ineffective? 

To answer this question, Samuel L. Perry draws on interviews with over 220 movement leaders and grassroots families, as well as national data on adoption and fostering, to show that the problem goes beyond orphan care. Perry argues that evangelical social engagement is fundamentally self-limiting and difficult to sustain because their subcultural commitments lock them into an approach that does not work on a practical level.  

Growing God’s Family ultimately reveals this peculiar irony within American evangelicalism by exposing how certain aspects of the evangelical subculture may stimulate activism to address social problems, even while these same subcultural characteristics undermine their own strategic effectiveness.  It provides the most recent analysis of dominant elements within the evangelical subculture and how that subculture shapes the engagement strategies of evangelicals as a group. 


  • "Growing God’s Family is about America as much as it is about evangelicals.  We’re do-gooders. We adopt orphans. We do other good things. And yet, our excessive individualism too often gets in the way. The result: we rush into rash ill-prepared activism.  Growing God’s Family is marvelously well-researched — and deeply disturbing."

    —Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

  • "This fascinating case study deftly captures the authentic spirit of so many American evangelical 'movements' for change, explaining with empathetic and fair but brutally honest criticism why and how religiously motivated people and activism can prove in the end to be ironically self-undermining and ineffective. A valuable contribution to our sociological understanding of American evangelicalism and religious movements and culture."   

    —Christian Smith, University of Notre Dame

  • Growing God’s Family is a strong, well-researched book, worthy of a wide academic and non-academic audience.”

    Sociology of Religion

  • “Perry’s book is significant because it is one of the first to offer a clear window into evangelical activism from a rich sociological perspective. Perry is extraordinarily balanced in his analysis of both the strengths and weaknesses of evangelicals’ dominant approach to social engagement.”

    American Journal of Sociology