This is the eighth post in our Fall Series: ADHD and Spiritual Development: Strategies for Parents and Church Leaders
Last Sunday, we looked at the issues connected with the use (or lack thereof) of medication for kids with ADHD during church activities. Today, we’re going to discuss the issue from the perspective of the children’s/student ministry pastor or key volunteer.
Allow me to digress for a moment and spell out why the issue of medication is such a big deal at church. Because medication is the single most effective stand-alone treatment for ADHD and the therapeutic effects of the medications used to treat ADHD are very short-lived, the child’s experience in church on a day to day or week to week basis may be highly contingent upon their medication status.
The children’s/student ministry leadership will generally be “flying blind” when it comes to serving kids with ADHD. For reasons of stigma that we’ve discussed in earlier posts, parents of kids with ADHD probably won’t disclose their child’s condition to the ministry team and are even less likely to discuss their child’s medication status. As we discussed on Sunday, it’s simply not appropriate for church staff or volunteers to jump to conclusions about a child’s diagnosis or treatment needs without the proper professional training and credentials and absent a complete evaluation. The willingness of the church to welcome and serve all of these kids and their families regardless of their medication status should be unconditional.
The bottom line is that there’s a big pool of kids out there for whom their needs for support in church will vary greatly from week to week, or from activity to activity. The parent who gives their kid his medicine two hours before leaving for church may not send medication along for a weekend retreat. The kid who does well at 11 AM may not have the same self control at 8:00 PM.
So what’s a children’s/student ministry leader to do? We want the kids and their families to have a great experience without placing too great a burden on outstanding volunteers and group leaders. After all, excellent volunteers are almost as hard to find as victory parades through downtown Cleveland. We also want the other kids in a ministry environment to have a great experience without their ability to learn compromised by a kid exhibiting lots of disruptive behavior.
One strategy to consider involves training a small group of floating “buddies” who are available to provide some 1:1 attention to kids who may not need a regular support person but are disrupting a class or a small group on an infrequent basis. Having a few extra volunteers available on an “as-needed” basis who can spend 1:1 time with any kids who have “issues” and lend an extra pair of hands for your volunteer teachers leaves you prepared to serve guests and visitors who may have a kid with special needs or issues with self-control.
Coming Friday: The Taboo Topic: Talking About Medication at Church for Kids With ADHD…The physician’s perspective
Coming Sunday: Discipleship Strategies for Kids and Teens With ADHD