HIV and the Church


How We Do It

Local HIV&AIDS Initiative

Starting an HIV&AIDS ministry in your church might initially seem like a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be that way. Seeing how other people do it can be a wonderful starting point and jump-start the beginnings of a great ministry. This page describes what we currently do at Saddleback Church. While everything we do may not work exactly the same in your situation, we encourage you to take from us what you think might work and adapt the rest to your context. By the way, when you develop new, effective ideas, please share them with us and other churches!


Constructing a clearly articulated vision statement is crucial as it describes your ministry in terms that everyone can understand and to which they can hopefully, ultimately relate. For example, the HIV&AIDS Initiative Vision Statement begins with Saddleback Church's Purpose Statement, “To know Jesus Christ and to make Him known by caring for people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends with fearless compassion, in community, supplying real solutions.” A clearly articulated vision statement is a great tool for introducing the dream of an HIV& AIDS ministry to the leaders in your church, whose encouragement and support is needed from the start.

Expressing ministry philosophy and principles in memorable forms is really helpful. A ministry philosophy explains the "why we exist and care" component of vision, and principles serve as guides to "what we do and how we do it". On this website, you will find Saddleback's approach:

  • We create acrostics such as CHURCH, SLOW/STOP, START, and PEACE, then…..
  • We constantly repeat the acrostics and the philosophy and principles they represent as we apply them to ministry. By doing so...
  • We transfer "ministry DNA" to leaders, the congregation and ministry participants quickly, consistently and effectively, and...
  • We have immediate quality control concerning expectations and execution of what the ministry does and does not do.

However you do it, get your philosophy and principles together at the start of your initiative. And, you are very welcome to review and borrow ours!

Becoming a "signature ministry" multiplies recognition and participation. The higher the profile your ministry receives, the more effectively it reaches its goals in both your church and community. The HIV&AIDS Initiative is a "signature ministry" at Saddleback Church. It is one of the seven issues for which Saddleback is known locally, nationally and internationally. Being a "signature ministry" aids in recruiting volunteers, getting your ministry publicized, sponsoring church and community events and collaborating with like-minded community service organizations. Developing an HIV&AIDS ministry at your church easily gets attention at local and regional levels. When you integrate the HIV&AIDS ministry into your church’s missions program and link it to church connections around the country, you suddenly have national and international impact as well.

In the meantime, here's what some of that "HOW-TO-DO-IT" ministry looks like...


SUPPORT GROUPS A support group is an opportunity to connect with others who are living with HIV&AIDS in an open and inviting environment. At support groups, every question is welcomed, information flows freely and your most challenging fears can be addressed.

You can find out more at about HIV&AIDS support groups at

SMALL GROUPS Saddleback Church has thousands of small groups that meet in just about every community in Orange County and beyond. All groups welcome people living with HIV&AIDS, and we are happy to connect you with church members who will come alongside to help. Saddleback has a small group approach that you might want to try. Frequency: Usually weekly, depending on specific group dynamics. Please call or check out website to find a group near you.

HIV&AIDS TEAM MEETINGS A monthly meeting is essential to the growth and development of the volunteers. The Local HIV&AIDS Team at Saddleback is a community of people committed to helping those living with HIV&AIDS and is composed of those who are living with HIV and those who are not. Meetings focus on building relationships, getting the latest information about HIV&AIDS and learning how to care for people who are living with the virus.

Visit or call 949-609-8555 to get connected..

CARE TEAM TRAINING/MINISTRY The Local HIV&AIDS Team at Saddleback Church is trained to help those living with HIV&AIDS in a number of very practical ways. Please call 949.609.8555 or email to volunteer or learn more.

Your church can train people to minister to people living with HIV&AIDS. Please contact us here at our website,

P.E.A.C.E. CENTER/CLINIC The Local HIV&AIDS Team cooperates with Saddleback’s PEACE Center Pantry to provide a nutritional choice program specifically suited to those who are living with HIV&AIDS.

Your church can offer a ministry similar to Saddleback’s PEACE Center/Clinic. The model is transferable, scalable and sustainable. Please contact us at this website, or at Saddleback’s PEACE Center page,

LITTLE STUFF WITH HUGE IMPACT You might be surprised how small efforts can bring great joy. Some of the greatest challenges people living with HIV&AIDS face are taken for granted by the general populace. Individuals on Care Teams at Saddleback do all kinds of ministries that seem small but are real solutions for people living with HIV&AIDS and have a HUGE impact:

  • Daily phone calling, to remind people living with HIV&AIDS to take medications
  • Giving people rides to get groceries and medications, keep doctors' appointments and attend church
  • Cleaning a house or yard when people living with HIV are ill
  • Advocating for a person living with HIV&AIDS in the absence of family and friends; and…

hundreds of other ways of ministry.


We would love to help you start an HIV&AIDS ministry in your church! Contact us by email, or by phone 949.609.8555.

Global HIV&AIDS Initiative

The backbone of the Global HIV&AIDS Initiative is the PEACE Plan – a plan to mobilize ordinary believers in churches to engage global problems through local congregations – and the CHURCH strategy – a six-step approach to caring for people living with HIV&AIDS to bring compassion, community and real solutions.

The vision of the PEACE Plan is to address the Global Giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy/ignorance by:

The key to this framework is the centrality and mobilization of the local church as the primary change agent in the community. PEACE works are local church-owned and initiated. The church and pastors in particular, must become convicted of the biblical imperative to reach out in word and deed to everyone in the community without discrimination. They do it not because someone is paying them, but because of their own conviction that this is what God wants and for the fulfillment it provides to them as owners of the solutions rather than as only implementers of someone else’s ideas. It is the local church, not outside entities that reflect God’s glory. It is the local church that is seen as bringing the tangible expression of God’s love, forgiveness and hope.

PEACE teams are also guided by a set of values, or principles: utilizing ordinary people; working in communities for sustainable transformation; locally led, owned and implemented; the church collaborating with business and government; and working synergistically (wholistically) across all the issues represented by the letters of P E A C E.

Through the Peace Plan, churches are linked to other churches around the globe to learn about HIV and to launch programs which care for people in the community. This strategy’s success is measured by how many ordinary people in a local church are engaged in knowing about HIV, caring for people living with HIV, and participating in actions that can end the AIDS pandemic. By the end of 2011, 194 countries had been visited by PEACE teams from Saddleback Church. Each team received special training on how to help a church launch an HIV ministry in their own community. The plan is wholistic, and includes all the elements of the PEACE Plan, with a special emphasis on “caring for the sick.”

Caring for people living with HIV rests on the foundation of a healthy church that has intentionally provided the vision to its people to reach out effectively into their community in word and deed and have equipped them to do so. An effective ministry to people infected and affected by HIV&AIDS may seem something attainable only by large, well-financed churches, but there are six steps every church – whether in Darfur or Detroit – can do for people living with HIV&AIDS:

C – Care for and Support the Sick

Churches in 194 countries have been taught practical ways to care. For example, in the Philippines, churches have begun to teach HIV care; in China, churches are housing those living with HIV. In Rwanda, sermons are taught which help people in the community care. Meals are brought to families and financial assistance is given to people living with HIV who cannot work. Local congregations are the only caring organization found in almost every community around the world.

H – Handle HIV Testing and Counseling

Globally, more and more churches are places where people in the community can receive testing and counseling. PEACE Teams work alongside members training on the importance of testing. In countries where churches are not yet permitted to provide testing, church member accompany people to the testing offering support in the process. Pastors around the globe are getting tested for HIV as a testimony to others that HIV testing is an important health related activity. Mothers are being encouraged to include HIV testing as a part of ordinary pre-natal care.

U – Unleash a Volunteer Labor Force

There will never be enough healthcare professionals in the world to teach prevention, administer treatment, and offer care to those who need it. The Rwanda HIV Healthcare Initiative is an example of how ordinary people in churches can be trained to serve in their own community. By the end of 2012, it is projected that there will be 7000 lay community health workers- who call themselves “Community PEACE Servants” providing care to families. Over 400,000 home visits have been made from 2008-2012. Hundreds of people have received HIV testing and counseling in churches.

R – Remove the Stigma

Globally, the HIV&AIDS Initiative is helping churches lead the way in removing stigma. Churches are creating communities that are warm and welcoming places to both learn about HIV and live positively. Sermons are being preached which support that it is not a sin to be sick. Pastors are getting tested for HIV as an example for others to follow. Support groups for those living with the virus are being launched all around the globe. Increasingly, churches are embracing people living with HIV, breaking down myths and providing hope. People living with HIV are helping train others living with HIV so that real supportive communities which are led by people living with the disease are formed and flourishing.

C – Champion Healthy Behavior

In 194 countries, the HIV&AIDS Initiative through the PEACE Plan is providing education through churches. Basic healthcare, including testing, HIV prevention and health promotion are seen as part of what every church can do. For example, women who are living with the virus are encouraged to follow guidelines regarding care for their children prenatally, including breast feeding guidelines and other practices which decrease mother-to-child transmission. Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-Step program for those struggling with co-dependency, alcohol, drug and sexual addiction is now in 10,000 churches worldwide. Youth are training youth using innovative church-initiated tools that provide evidence-based training on effective HIV prevention through abstinence until marriage.

H – Help with HIV Medications

Supporting access to medication and treatment adherence are vital roles every church can play in helping with medications. For example, in Rwanda and several other countries, someone from the church attends all trainings on medications with the person living with HIV before they begin treatment. By partnering with someone who is living with HIV, essential friendship and support is provided. Some communities have churches provide home visits or a phone call to help support person taking medications. Ordinary people in churches are helping people living with HIV in practical ways.

HIV&AIDS Initiative Network

For years, we have dreamed of creating a network of church-based HIV&AIDS ministries for people infected or affected by HIV&AIDS so they could easily locate a church in their area when looking for assistance, support and spiritual guidance. We are launching the network now! If you have an existing HIV&AIDS ministry in your church – even if it’s small – please click here to join the HIV&AIDS Initiative Network. We will compile the list of churches and list them geographically, along with contact information and the services offered.

Rwanda Healthcare Initiative

Mobilizing Volunteers in Community Health

The Rwanda HIV/Healthcare Initiative is a grassroots effort to mobilize volunteers in community health who are proficient in home visits and health promotion, with a focus on the early identification, treatment care and support of people living with HIV through the local church. The volunteers are selected by the churches and receive 26 weeks of training. The Initiative began at the invitation of the President of Rwanda, His Excellency President Paul Kagame, in partnership with the Rwanda Ministry of Health, The PEACE Plan, led by Rick and Kay Warren from Saddleback Church in California, and various other intermittent partners including University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology, and Biola University. The Karongi District, Western Province, one of the regions with highest need for healthcare services in Rwanda is now fully engaged in providing community health promotion. Capacity-building and linkage between church, hospital and clinic, with local ownership is providing sustainable and measureable health outcomes. The strategy has mobilized members of various faith communities and builds their capacities as community health workers. It is a community-owned, sustainable program to exponentially increase the access to care and effectiveness of government health programs.

The Results

Three thousand church members have been trained as Community PEACE Servants (Community Healthcare Workers), each with a caseload of 7 homes in their communities. Twenty-three thousand homes have been taught HIV prevention, basic hygiene and healthy home curriculum. Seventy thousand children have been impacted, as well as forty thousand adults. The unique Clinical Church model provides testing and counseling for HIV. During the past 2 years the burgeoning Clinical Church program has resulted in people being screened for HIV in 4 sectors, as well as:

  • 39,000 home visits
  • 2,500 were educated/sensitized by the church on HIV&AIDS prevention, and stigma at 4 AIDS Memorial Days in three sectors.
  • 4 church-initiated hospital in-patient visiting and feeding programs
  • 7000 Community PEACE Servants(CHW) by Dec. 2012 through train-the-trainer approach

The Clinical Church

The Clinical Church is a vision for a church-initiated, church-run health education and health promotion program in which ordinary lay people are given specialized training in basic, preventative healthcare. This is tremendously helpful in communities that have a severe shortage of healthcare workers, thus providing greater access to primary healthcare for thousands who would otherwise live with very little medical care.

The role of local churches is elevated in the Clinical Church model, as they are viewed as partners in caring for the needs of their communities. Churches are also linked to tertiary care settings, such as hospitals and clinics, so that people can receive preventative healthcare at the community level, but then receive referrals to hospitals when more intensive care is needed. Having specially trained church volunteers working in the local communities allows those living with HIV&AIDS to be more easily identified, providing them with necessary prevention information, as well as supportive care.

In Rwanda, the Clinical Church program is a partnership of interdenominational churches, healthcare, and government. This program was first begun in the Karongi District of the Western Province of Rwanda in 2008 and has expanded dramatically since its inception. Volunteers are recruited from various churches, and after training, are charged with the care and oversight of seven families who attend their church. The curriculum includes such basic information as handwashing, proper location of pit latrines, mosquito abatement, construction of outdoor kitchen and dish-drying rack, HIV prevention, and more. Trained church volunteers provide services not only to families who are living with HIV, but to every family in their local community. By 2012, over 3000 volunteers have been trained, performing approximately 400,000 home visits.

The Clinical Church program, following Rwanda’s country guidelines, is now providing HIV testing and counseling through participating churches. The numbers of people being tested translates into lives that are given fresh help, hope and information for a healthy future.

The Clinical Church offers primary healthcare in even the most remote locations, bringing improved health outcomes in Jesus’ name to those who need it most.

Orphan Care Initiative

One can’t care about HIV without caring about orphans, and one can’t care about orphans without caring about HIV. The global orphan care crisis and the global HIV crisis are linked with HIV causing orphans, and orphans being more vulnerable to behaviors and conditions which lead to HIV. As a result of these sobering truths and 153 million orphans around the world, the Orphan Care Initiative was launched at Saddleback Church as part of the PEACE Plan to equip churches to provide hope, healing and a future to children everywhere. The primary emphasis is on helping the church care for orphans in sustainable ways which move a child from being an orphan to being a son or daughter. The Orphan Care Initiativegives every child what they need and deserve most; a permanent, loving, legal, lasting, life-long family of through reunification with their family of origin, or adoption by a relative or other new family of their own.

Building on the foundation of the PEACE Plan, which builds healthy churches that have also been trained in the principles and practice of Community PEACE, church-initiated indigenous solutions are developed which help children move towards permanency. The goal is to end the orphan crisis, giving every child what they need most, a church, a family and a future.

Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) are best served when the church in their community gives priority to their care and development in a permanent, safe, legal, loving family. Permanent, safe, parental care is proven to provide the most effective child development, decreasing all forms of vulnerability. “Community” or other non- permanent or institutional solutions are replaced with permanent parental care. Families are given priority for redeeming and changing the status of the Orphaned and Vulnerable child. The Initiative focuses on mobilizing and empowering the local church to help orphans and vulnerable children in ways that move children into permanent families.

Priority is given to helping the local church own and direct all interventions which are within the cultural context, while honoring the data and learnings related to the supremacy of the family as God’s best provision for a child.

Focused on the Biblical mandates to care for the orphan and vulnerable child (James 1:27, Matthew 19:14), this initiative works entirely through the local church, equipping ordinary believers to care. It is built with the “end in mind,” focused on the best interests of the child, positioned to replicate, touching the lives of 163 million orphans worldwide.

Unlike other programs, which focus either on one geographic location, or one particular need such as food or clothing (custodial care), efforts are focused on building and equipping local churches to tackle the giant of assisting the poor by caring for the orphan and vulnerable child in four ways:

  • Equipping pastors/churches to answer God’s call to care for the orphan with church-initiated strategies that can be replicated. Pastors and churches are trained in the Scriptural mandate and God’s Heart for the orphan, as central to the Gospel and a picture of what was done for us in salvation. (Ephesians 1, Romans 8)
  • Working with families who are currently caring for orphans or vulnerable children to maximize their welfare, including new models of sponsorship with movement towards permanent legal status.
  • Emptying orphanages and caring for children in orphanages in new ways, by mobilizing the local church to visit and care for orphans, including helping them re-unify as possible or find the necessary paperwork and solutions which promote permanent families, (adoption), ultimately emptying orphanages into permanent, legal, loving, safe families who receive care and support through the local church.
  • Preventing orphans by collaboration with the HIV&AIDS Initiative to prevent mother to child transmission (PMTCT).

Actions and Results

Equipping believers locally toward effective caring for orphans and vulnerable children within their own communities including:

  • Training pastors and leaders in the Biblical Foundation of Orphan Care
  • Launching new church orphan care ministries
  • Training on effective ways to empty orphanages
  • Providing training for families who are being reunified and new families who are adopting (both indigenous adoption and inter-country adoption)
  • Training, support and lay-counseling for children in transition from institutional care to parental care
  • Training of trainers for lay-social workers in the church
  • Street children care and support
  • Mobilizing every believer to care for orphans & vulnerable children
  • PMTCT (prevention of mother-to child-transmission) promotion, preventing orphans by encouraging their HIV infected mothers to access treatment, care and support

Providing sponsorship for families, moving children toward reunification or permanency by providing monthly support for families who are caring for orphaned or vulnerable children within their own homes. A monthly stipend for medical insurance, education and income generating activities are provided through the local church.

Empowering short term missions teams to work with the local church cross-culturally, providing a new model of orphan care which is centered on the best interest of the child long term; namely permanent families and a healthy church partnering together, to help children in every country.

Supporting families that are caring for children and moving toward permanency through

  • Church-initiated sponsorship
  • Tools and training for attachment-based parenting

Measureable objectives are key to the Orphan Care Initiative. Conceptually, it is guided and measured by two concepts which are measureable and quantifiable, reflecting effective care. These two concepts are: Church and Family. The question is asked, “What does the work, strategy or activity do which will bring a church into the life of an orphan/vulnerable child (OVC), and what does it do to assure that every child has a permanent, loving safe family. Church and family are the cornerstone for solutions to the orphan care crisis. This is in contrast to many programs, whose primary objective is short-term relief. In contrast, the Orphan Care Initiative is focused on efforts which honor the need for a family. The best long-term interest for a child is key, utilizing all data and research which supports the notion that children thrive and survive in a permanent family.

Summary & Biblical Background

The Orphan Care Initiative is focused on the best long-term interest for a child, utilizing all Biblical truth and other data which asserts that children thrive and survive in a permanent family. This work emphasizes CHURCH and FAMILY as God’s Biblical solution for a child. God “Places the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:5) Mirroring our adoption in Christ, the Initiative seeks to empower the local church to provide spiritual and physical adoption. Reflecting on what God has done for us in salvation; it is clear that God has placed us into His family by His work on the cross, making us permanent heirs and children of the King. This work focuses on the innovative concept of providing interventions toward ending the Orphans and Vulnerable Children crisis.

The goal is to implement a world view of orphan care which mobilizes the local church toward effective interventions for Orphans and Vulnerable children which are Biblically based and in the best interest of the child. Rather than relying heavily on relief or non-permanent and non-parental care, the work mobilizes the church towards interventions for children which provide a permanent, legal safe home for a child. Making a shift away from the interventions that have traditionally sustained orphans to a more intentional methodology that focuses on doing for the orphan what God did for us, namely, reunification or adoption into a permanent family.

The Orphan Care Initiative is specifically targeted at mobilizing ordinary believers to care for the children in their own community. The revolutionary goal is to end the current orphan crisis. This plan focuses on the best interest of children as evidenced by doing for children physically what God did for us spiritually. (Ephesians 1) Providing a church for every orphan and vulnerable child and permanency for children, where children can grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in the safety and security of a safe, legal, permanent family is the goal. Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and His Great Commandment (Matthew 25:37-40) are critically connected to the focus on Orphans and Vulnerable children.

This is accomplished by:

Training of Pastors/Equipping Orphan Care Trainers and Orphan Care Servants

The program is introduced by an outside training team consisting of two to three members. After pastors have been envisioned by the training team in the biblical basis for Orphan Care and what the PEACE Orphan Care Program can accomplish, pastors send two leaders from their churches to be trained as Orphan Care Trainers, who, return to their churches and communities to train other church members in Biblical Orphan Care.

Key Components of the training include:

  • Biblical discipleship and training of pastors in what God’s Word says about the orphan and the mandatory response and responsibility of the church
  • Training small groups in the church in God’s Heart for their orphan
  • Launching community-wide efforts for Orphan Care led by the church including identifying orphans and vulnerable children, and how to determine their eligibility for permanency in parental care
  • Advocacy and how to work within appropriate governing entities in the legal processes necessary for permanency and the well-being of children
  • Equipping Orphans and Vulnerable Children Trainers and Orphan Care Servants. Similar to what has been successfully implemented in the realm of healthcare, but transferring the concepts to Orphans and Vulnerable Children, ordinary church leaders are equipped to be Orphan Care Trainers, (OCT) who then in cooperation with their pastors, select and train a multitude of ordinary church members to serve as Orphan Care Servants (OCS). Their roles are to help identify the needs of the community, activate a church-initiated plan for working towards permanency for children already in parental care, but yet to be legally adopted, as well as working in orphanages to move children toward permanency. Together the OCTs and OCSs regularly visit orphans and orphanages, sharing the gospel and identifying for each child what each child’s next step is toward permanency. They also support families who ultimately adopt
  • Training of PEACE lay social assistants to assist each church in launching an orphan care ministry which includes moving children into permanency, training families and assuring the care and provision of children in a permanent, safe, legal, loving family.

New Model of Sponsorship

Also key to the program is a new model of sponsorship. Church initiated and family centered sponsorship program which helps families living with HIV is unique in the following ways:

  • It is church-initiated, administered by the local church. Participants are chosen by the church based on eligibility requirements.
  • It is directed toward families who are already caring for orphaned or vulnerable children in their home with the intention of legal adoption.
  • It has as beginning and an end, functioning as initial short-term support for the family in the permanency process.
  • Families have accountability and a signed covenant with the church and must demonstrate that they are:
    • Employing some of the sponsorship proceeds toward a sustainable solution for income generation
    • Tithing
    • Providing education and medical insurance as available
    • Participate in regular visits from the church who monitor and report results
  • If you would like to learn more about Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship or begin sponsoring, visit

Emptying Orphanages

  • Train the trainer program to improve every orphanage including mechanisms for “Improving Institutional Care/Orphanages and the quality of interaction with the child in institutionalize care.”
  • Training church members in effective ways to empty orphanages and how to move children to permanency.
  • Train members in the church to “move children toward permanent homes” by
    • Gathering documents for every child in an orphanage. Training lay volunteers to establish history, trace and best interest determination
    • Working with appropriate government agencies toward a church-based foster care and other policies which promote permanency
    • Assist in reunification and locating displaced families
    • Determine and document citizenship and/or birth documents
    • Encourage micro-enterprise projects which help families care for children long-term

To go on a PEACE Trip that is focused on orphans and vulnerable children, or to learn more, visit