Church, We’ve Got a Problem

Emotional girlHow will the church serve a generation of families with kids who have issues with emotions or behavior that interfere with their ability to function on a day to day basis?

Kids with “hidden disabilities” like these are gradually becoming the new normal. Check out this study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. To summarize:

22 % of U.S. children entering first grade met criteria for at least one mental disorder. Kids with autism spectrum disorders or developmental disabilities were excluded from this sample.

The most common condition experienced was Simple Phobia (9.0%). Other common conditions included ADHD (8.7%), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (8.4%), Separation Anxiety Disorder (2.1%) and Tic Disorders (1.7%).

An important point the authors of the study made was to note that the 22% figure applies only to kids who demonstrated problems that interfered significantly with their ability to function normally on a day to day basis. In lay terms, that means the child is able to learn at a level consistent with their intelligence in school, make and keep friends in an age-appropriate manner, function in an age-appropriate way as a member of their family and participate in extracurricular activities common for that community…like church.

The numbers quoted in this study from Yale are pretty consistent with data reported elsewhere. If you were to look at the kids involved with children’s programming at your church, do you think anywhere near 22% of the children being served experience one or more of these conditions? If not, let me welcome you to the new mission field down the street and around the block from your church.

Next, we’ll talk about how the church can be equipped and unleashed to welcome and minister to the families of this generation and their kids.

Updated January 27, 2014


600817_10200479396001791_905419060_nConfused about all the changes in diagnostic terminology for kids with mental heath disorders? Key Ministry has a resource page summarizing our recent blog series examining the impact of the DSM-5 on kids. Click this link for summary articles describing the changes in diagnostic criteria for conditions common among children and teens, along with links to other helpful resources!

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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10 Responses to Church, We’ve Got a Problem

  1. Thanks for this useful article.


  2. Thanks for this



  3. Pingback: Thinking “Orange”: What Does it Mean For the Church to be “Light” to a Family Impacted by Disability? (Part One of Two) | Church4EveryChild

  4. Dona says:

    Looking for the next part on how to deal with the above mentioned issues. Can someone direct me to a link?


  5. Jenny Burns says:

    This is absolutely an area of need and you are in a position to do much good. It’s good to know that the churches can help bring back marginalized families into the congregations. It would be so reassuring to know that you are only working for the best interests of the children. Can you tell us whether you have received any funds or incentives from any pharmaceutical companies in your capacity as a medical professional, or have you completed any continuing education requirements that were paid for by pharmaceutical companies, or taken free courses sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, or have you done any speaking engagements or training seminars paid for or sponsered by pharmaceutical companies, in part or in full?


  6. drgrcevich says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for your kind words. Our crew does good work.

    In terms of any potential conflicts of interest, I haven’t personally received any payment from a pharmaceutical company since 2007. I made the decision to stop doing promotional lectures for pharmaceutical companies in 2006. Our practice is part of a research network (CAPTN) that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and organized through the Duke University Research Institute. All of the research I’ve participated in over the past five years had funding originating from the NIMH…although we do plan to participate in a long term safety study involving sertraline through the CAPTN network required by governmental authorities in Europe with funding originating from Pfizer that will begin recruiting in 2012. Our practice will be paid by Duke University, but their funding will have originated from Pfizer.

    Key Ministry received donations in 2008 and 2009 from Shire U.S. The ministry hasn’t received any corporate grants from a pharmaceutical company since 2009.

    Most of my continuing education credits come from attending scientific meetings of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Grand Rounds at local teaching hospitals. I last served as faculty at a CME event with industry sponsorship in 2007.

    Our practice adheres to the guidelines on conflict of interest for child and adolescent psychiatrists of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I had served as a member of AACAP’s Consensus Building Panel on Conflict of Interest that developed the guidelines in February, 2008.

    I’m planning some posts for May on controversial topics in child and adolescent mental health…I plan to tackle the issue of conflicts of interest in that series.


  7. Gary Sweeten says:

    Steve, please send me a copy of that article. I agree with you, of course. However, I have a bit different take. Very, very few churches equip the people to minister to anyone, let alone kids with serious relational needs. The current family needs are huge and growing. The divorce rate among active members is equal to atheists yet few if any have premarital a preparation or marriage enrichment. There are several para church groups like yours and mine that beg churches to attend our trainings but few do,seemingly preferring to curse the darkness of divorce and family dysfunction instead of the light of equipping. Our research on families of kids with special needs revealed that the church never even visited them or prayed for them let alone had a ministry to the kids or the adults. No wonder people are discouraged. Thankfully you are leading the way to seeing great things done for God.


  8. drgrcevich says:

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for your comments. You’ve served on staff at different churches. What’s your take on why churches don’t equip more people to do ministry?

    A couple of weeks ago, I did a review of a book for children’s pastors…The Eric Trap. Here’s a link to the full review…

    I thought the book touched on this issue…here’s an excerpt from the review:

    “From where I sit, fear is the “elephant in the living room” for too many people in ministry. I’ve encountered way too many church staff who eschew involvement of high-capacity volunteers into their ministry because of fear their weaknesses could be exposed, hesitate to delegate ministry responsibilities because they fear becoming dispensable to cash-strapped churches, and avoid seeking help from church leaders when they’re struggling because of the fear of being perceived as less than competent.

    The fear is qualitatively different than that encountered in the secular work world. Ministry is truly calling, and for most folks I’ve encountered in ministry world, work is worship. The fear of losing the opportunity to pursue a calling in ministry is worse than the fear of losing a job”


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