When does “bad parenting” end and “disabilities” begin? Do you know or love a child who learns differently, who may not be able to sit still, who suffers with depression, or who longs for acceptance but is terrified of admitting weakness?
In this interview, Dr. Stephen Grcevich tells us we may be able to reach large numbers of families living within the shadows of our steeples simply through considering how to create ministry environments that are welcoming to families of kids with mental health disorders.
No single church can meet every potential need of families in their communities of children with disabilities.
But rather than presenting barriers to their full inclusion in the life of the church, every church can be intentional in doing something to share the love of Christ with kids with disabilities and their families.
- What is the definition of mental and emotional health disorder; what are the criteria for these disorders?
- What are some examples of the struggles those with mental or invisible disabilities may have?
- Why are we hearing so much more about kids being diagnosed with disorders such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder?
- Why is there a wall in our churches that hinders our accepting of mental health issues and our reaching out differently to these families?
- You mentioned MOST families feel “JUDGED” in the local church. What stories have you heard that explain what feeling judged looks like?
- How can the church better serve adults who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other challenges often judged by church members as a “lack of faith”?
- How can the church better serve kids with invisible disabilities?
- How does serving this population differ from other forms of disabilities?
- Tell us about your ministry, Key Ministry, and how it has helped promote and provide change?
Most kids with mental health conditions receive special education services or accommodations at school resulting from their disabilities. But caregivers suffer in silence as they struggle with their own compromised health, compounded family needs, and tragic criticism from people we need the most—those in the local church.
Here are a few things we must consider:
- Kids with ADHD may struggle with self-control when they have to sit through worship services intended for adults.
- Kids with sensory-processing issues may find aversive such experiences as bright lights, loud noises, and high-energy children’s ministry activities.
- Kids who struggle with anxiety may find the experience of visiting a new church to be overwhelming, or these kids may resist separating from a parent in order to participate in age-appropriate church activities.
- Kids who struggle with interacting socially may have a difficult time participating in ministry when most activities occur in small groups with same-age peers.
- Most kids with mental health disorders can be successfully included in age-appropriate ministry programming without having to establish a stand alone “program” to meet their needs.
Let Me Hear from You
This may be the first time you have felt accepted and understood; perhaps you have been suffering with depression, bi-polar disorder, or other mental health or behavioral challenges that have caused rejection or pain in your own life. Maybe you have never suffered with this form of disability but you are wondering how you can be an agent of change.
For us all, I ask how can we begin to bless those who are in need? Remember, it was Christ who called the weak most blessed in the Sermon on the Mount. How can your church reach those next door? If you have suffered pain in this area of life, we offer healing and hope here . . . let’s connect.
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Connect with Stephen Grcevich
Stephen is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and serves as board chairman of Key Ministry following ten years of service as the ministry’s founding president. Dr. Grcevich is the principal author of Church4EveryChild, recognized among the Top 100 children’s ministry blogs by Ministry-To-Children.com, and serves as the program committee chairman for Inclusion Fusion, Key Ministry’s Disability Ministry Web Summit. Earlier this year, he was recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health.
Insight for Living Ministries Resources
- Hear Me When I Call: Connecting with a God Who Cares by Charles R. Swindoll, softcover book
- So, You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There by Charles R. Swindoll, hardcover book
- Paws & Tales (The link is helpful for pastors who may want to use these creative, entertaining audio and video resources for kids in their Sunday school ministry.)
The Inclusive Church
The Inclusive Church is one of the very best Web sites with a comprehensive understanding of helping families touched by special needs. Their extensive research and resource support is an absolute must for any church seeking to reach out to and help change the lives of those who are different.
Around the world, Orange is changing the way churches minister to families; this includes families touched by disability. You don’t have to invent something new to be effective; check out Orange and begin to reach those near you in a new and life changing way.