I’m going to stir up a little controversy today by disagreeing with many of my friends in the disability ministry community.
A couple of years ago, I was attending a meeting of disability ministry leaders prior to a major conference hosted at McLean Bible Church. Several participants expressed great frustration at the reluctance of many of the larger, rapidly growing churches to devote staff and volunteer resources to the establishment of identifiable disability ministry programs and to market the availability of their programs on the home pages of their websites or in yellow pages advertising. I’ll admit that our thinking in earlier ministry plans was very similar. We used to measure progress by the reach and scope of church programs resulting from our training or consultation.
I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box when it comes to child psychiatry, but I figured out pretty quick that I needed to understand something of how a family functions and how parents make decisions when convincing them of the benefits of a specific course of treatment. The same is true when working with churches.
Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger authored Simple Church, a book that’s had vast influence on the approach senior pastors, executive pastors and church boards take in establishing ministry priorities and considering new opportunities. By clicking the link above, you can read a sample of the book, but here’s the basic premise: Churches that design a straight-forward and strategic process to facilitate spiritual growth are more likely to grow than churches that offer lots of programs that have the potential to compete for the attention of the people and the resources of the church. In my experience, “Simple Churches” generally demonstrate great passion for reaching people who don’t know Christ and are disconnected from the local church…the same families we at Key Ministry are trying to connect. Seems like we should be able to find common ground.
Key Ministry has made a very strategic decision to emphasize inclusion in the training and consultation we do at churches. While we’re happy to help your church set up a program if your church does “programs,” our job when we work with churches is to help families of kids with emotional, behavioral or developmental issues participate in the process that church uses to build disciples. If people grow spiritually through great teaching in your weekend worship experiences, our job is to figure out how to help you get parents into those services. If your church emphasizes participation in small groups, it’s our job to help you frame solutions so the families in question get connected and stay connected to a small group. If your church emphasizes service, we need to help you involve families in service opportunities.
We recognize that every church won’t choose to pursue families of kids with hidden disabilities. That’s OK. We will help you figure out how to serve our families in a way that’s aligned with your church culture without a stand-alone “program” if that’s how you do ministry.
I agree. I served on the staff of a large church for 16 years leading Christian Discipleship ministries and a large Peer Care center. I continue to consult with many churches on topics of Peer Helping/Pastoral Care, small groups, etc.
Most churches are stretched as far as possible and starting a new program is out of the question if it will consume a lot of money, time and people. However, there are usually ways to get churches to support ministries if we think outside the box and expand the number of adults who will minister to hurting people/families/children.