This is the first post in our series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Disabilities. Today, we’ll examine some of the unique challenges families of kids with disabilities pose to churches seeking to form partnerships with parents to promote faith development of children.
For a better understanding of the family-based ministry movement and the place of “Think Orange” in that movement, click here to go to an earlier post on this blog. For those following this discussion in Think Orange, we’re looking at the Introduction and Chapter One (pages 15-27)
The family-based ministry movement is, at the core, about two entities: the church, represented by yellow, and families, represented by red, partnering to make a greater impact or to create a better solution for helping kids grow spiritually, with “Orange” representing the combined influence of the church and families working together toward that common goal.
My presumption, in reading Reggie Joiner’s book and articles from other thought leaders in family ministry, is that the movement is largely focused on helping the church become more effective in advancing the spiritual development of kids from families who are already connected to the church. In our next post, I’ll discuss a more expansive view in which demonstrably effective family ministry can be a powerful evangelism and outreach tool for drawing families to the church. But the first challenge that arises in applying the Orange philosophy to families of kids with disabilities is that you can’t partner with families who lack any connection to church, and the vast preponderance of families of kids with disabilities lack regular involvement with a local church.
From a strategic perspective, Key Ministry primarily operates in this space…our “win” occurs when a family or family member of a kid with a disability connects with a local church in a meaningful way. The stuff we train churches to do…creating ministry environments that are more welcoming to kids with common disabilities, helping churches include kids and teens with disabilities into church programming so that parents and “normal” siblings can attend worship services, participate in small groups, Bible studies and missional outreach initiatives, and our efforts to develop church-based respite networks are all designed to increase the frequency and quality of the connections between families touched by disabilities and the local church.
Key Ministry can also increase the likelihood of a win through the roles we play for the yellow team (church). We help the church understand the needs of families affected by disabilities (red) through our training and consultation, and by connecting folks in the church with passion and giftedness in disability ministry with the leaders in the church responsible for Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry and Family Ministry.
Our investment in family ministry is an outgrowth of our interest in what happens to the families after we’ve made the introduction. Our Super Bowl Win occurs when the parents, kids or siblings come to experience and profess faith in Christ and develop a personal relationship with Jesus as a result of their experience in a local church.
During this series, we’ll be focusing on the unique challenges involved in partnering with families of kids with disabilities around the spiritual development of their children, and explore strategies churches may use to partner with such families. In doing so, it is our hope that the church will understand the advantages of the “Orange” strategy in ministry to kids with hidden disabilities and their families.
One final note: The Orange Conference presents an entire track devoted to the topic of “special needs.” Not that there’s anything wrong with the term “special needs,” but the vast preponderance of families of kids with a “hidden disability”…significant emotional, behavioral, developmental or neurologic condition lacking outwardly apparent physical symptoms…that functions as an impediment to church attendance or participation would NEVER think of their kid as having a “special need.” Kids with “special needs” account for only a small fraction of children with conditions that deter church attendance. Our Key Ministry team is focusing on helping churches minister to families of kids with mental illness, trauma and developmental disabilities.
Thinking in terms of “hidden disabilities” also allows church leaders to appreciate the scope of the ministry opportunity that exists among families with a history of involvement in the church and families in their service area. The teen with a 140 IQ and Asperger’s Disorder who refuses to go to youth group because he was picked on by “Christian” kids in middle school, the boy with dyslexia who won’t go back to Sunday School after he was embarrassed when asked to read from the Bible, the mom who quit coming because of the fights that ensued when she tried to get her son in the car for church, the sixth grade girl with social anxiety who slipped through the cracks after the youth leader inadvertently called attention to her during worship, or the single parent who stops coming to church because the loud music and bright lights in children’s church leaves her son with ADHD overstimulated for the rest of the day…none of them would be served by a typical “special needs ministry” but all are in need of what the local church has to offer.
Next: What does it mean for the church to be “Light” to a family impacted by disability?
Updated April 26, 2014
Ever wonder if the often-quoted statistics about divorce rates in families impacted by disability are true? Check out Key Ministry’s resource: Special Needs and Divorce…What Does the Data Say? In this article, Dr. Steve Grcevich reviews the available research literature on the topic of disability and divorce…and draws some surprising conclusions! Check it out…and share with your friends!
Disability is Natural is not specifically a faith based resource, yet has wonderful insight. I heard Kathie Snow speak several years ago at a church, and, while she never laid a hand on me, I feel like she figuratively grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me hard. She told our group that “WE ALL BELONG”. We are all human beings and we don’t have to do anything else to belong. Churches need to live that (and a lot of times they don’t, in my experience w/ a child w/ developmental delays). She told the church to take down the huge sign out front that welcomed people with special needs and told them to change it to “We Welcome ALL Abilities”. Language separates. It can create the opposite of inclusion. Exclusion ANYwhere is wrong, because we ALL belong. Snow is a catalyst for changing the way I think about disAbilities, and she has some thought provoking articles on her web site.
I love what “Orange” represents in relation to children’s ministry and teaching the gospel. I totally agree that it’s important for both the church and the family to join forces to have a greater effect on the church’s youth. I’ve been interested in learning more about the Orange movement, and your blog post has given me that push I need to start learning about it and teaching it to my students!