Thinking “Orange”: How churches can pursue families of kids with disabilities

This post is from our blog series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Hidden Disabilities. Today, we’re going to continue exploring the implications for churches seeking to be “Light” to families of kids with disabilities by sharing strategies for churches determined to pursue families of kids with disabilities. 

If you’re following in Think Orange, read pages 28-41.

One strategy for showing families of kids with disabilities the “light” of who God is that’s consistent with his character is for the church to establish a relationship through meeting immediate needs of the family. One critical need for many families is respite care. Our experience in churches trained by Key Ministry is that somewhere between 25-40% of families making use of free, church-based respite will attend a worship experience at that church within twelve months. Here’s a look at a church that has been a “light” in their local community through a monthly respite outreach that provided regular opportunities for parents and kids to serve together:

An alternate approach for churches seeking to reach out to families impacted by disabilities is “relational respite.” This approach, pioneered by Libby Peterson from Key Ministry’s Board and Director of Family Ministry at Bay Presbyterian Church, involves small groups from the church committing to provide twice-monthly respite in the family’s home. The advantages of relational respite include the connections made between the families served and the small group structure of the local church, the potential for relationships to form between the kids in the families served and adults from the church that reinforce the influence of the parents in  matters of faith and the reduced burden on ministry staff, space and volunteer resources associated with event-based respite.

Here’s a video of Libby’s presentation on relational respite from the Inclusion Fusion Web Summit…

Other churches have sought to meet needs of families and position adults to cast influence through meeting educational needs of kids with disabilities. Our friends at Cincinnati Vineyard participate in Whiz Kids, an evening tutoring program for at-risk kids in schools in low-income areas of the city. Church members from Bay Presbyterian started a school designed for kids with learning issues who were falling through the cracks in Cleveland’s public schools affording them the opportunity to invest in their lives while preparing them to enter high school.

shutterstock_12834553Another strategy involves creating ministry environments or having supports in place to welcome families who want to attend weekend worship. Most kids who have a hidden disability can be included in age-appropriate church programming without “buddies” when ministry leaders are attuned to the effect sensory issues, transitions, program design and specific activities have on kids with common conditions like ADHD, anxiety and Asperger’s Disorder. For others, the availability of buddies to provide some extra support and assistance can make the difference in the parents’ ability to be engaged in the church and benefit from relationships and resources to support them in their role as the primary faith trainer to their children…with and without disabilities.

Meet some friends of ours for whom a welcoming church made a big difference:

Families of kids with disabilities are rarely pursued. Yet Jesus is the shepherd who is willing to go off in search of the one lost sheep. Denise Schamens is the mother of a son with ADHD and another son with an autism spectrum disorder who requires assistive technology to communicate who found a church near their home in Wisconsin that enthusiastically welcomed their family. Check out this video to see the amazing results!

Updated April 28, 2014


Key Ministry-NewCan you help us to help churches seeking to pursue kids with disabilities and their families? Help us get the word out regarding the free services we make available to churches and families? Help us invite more families to join us for online church? We need you to share our Facebook page with others who can help connect families of kids with disabilities to churches equipped to welcome them. Here’s more on how you can help.


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.
This entry was posted in Families, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Ministry Environments, Parents, Stories, Strategies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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