Welcome to Week Three in our Winter series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Hidden Disabilities. Today, we’re going to explore the role of the family in the spiritual development of kids with disabilities.
This week’s discussion covers pages 42-77 in Think Orange.
If I could take what I’ve learned from my day job and share it with leaders in the church, the most important insights would echo the content Reggie included in this chapter. If there were one “takeaway” for leaders in children’s or family ministry serving the folks we see in our practice, it would be this:
“You can choose to believe that most parents, regardless of their baggage, have the desire and capacity to improve…Your perception of parents’ potential to change can drive how you respond to them.” (Think Orange, Page 47)
Parents of kids with disabilities are often dragging along quite a bit of baggage. Many of them have their own struggles and limitations that undermine the best of intentions when it comes to their personal spiritual development and the spiritual development of their kids. Follow-through may be difficult for many parents, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to. The church plays an invaluable role by walking with them, encouraging them and helping them to take the next step.
Reggie outlined five “family values” that form the foundation of the role of the home in the “Orange” philosophy. Each provides unique challenges to families of kids with disabilities. Today, we’ll look at the first two values. Tomorrow, we’ll conclude by discussing the final three values.
Value#1: Imagine the end: Reggie challenges parents to contemplate the question: Who do I really want them (my children) to become?
Having served in the leadership of two churches in addition to my role with Key Ministry, I’m surprised at how many highly committed Christian parents have never asked themselves that question or contemplated how the choices we make for our kids on a daily basis help support our desires for their spiritual development. That issue aside, one of the challenges the parent of a child with a disability faces is the inability to foresee their child’s future in the same way as other parents.
When I’m meeting with parents to share the results of a psychiatric assessment, the most common questions (aside from questions about the advantages and disadvantages of specific treatments) usually relate to what they can expect for their child’s future. How long will they need treatment? How will this condition affect their education? Will they be successful? Will they be popular? Will they develop a substance use problem or land in jail? Will they be able to support themselves? Will they be happy?
The church can help by providing kids with and without disabilities opportunities for meaningful service that takes advantage of their unique gifts and talents…according to Paul, we all have gifts to contribute to the church. I’m aware of a number of kids with disabilities in churches we’ve served who have developed ministries serving younger children with similar conditions. The church is a perfect place for kids of all abilities to discover opportunities for important service in God’s Kingdom.
Value#2: Fight for the heart: Reggie accurately described a majority of kids in my community when he described them as “experience-rich and relationship-poor.” The nature of the disabilities we see in the kids passing through our office is such that parents often take a more active role in monitoring academic progress and encouraging social activity, resulting in ample opportunity for conflict. Just today, I had a parent making reference to the “homework wars” with her high-school age son. I see situations on a weekly basis in which the parent has torched their relationship with their child in order to get them through the seventh grade or engaged in physical confrontations over the use of a computer or game system. It’s hard for parents to reflect the value they place on the relationship with their child in the midst of the daily struggles.
The church can help by providing the parents with opportunities for a little rest and respite to allow them to regain perspective on how they can best build relationships with their kids based upon trust. The church can also be a place where parents can build relationships with leaders and other parents who can help provide wise counsel in the midst of chaos.
Tomorrow: We look at the final three family values-“Make it Personal”, “Create a Rhythm” and “Widen the Circle.”
We’re pleased that our teammate, Harmony Hensley, will be offering two presentations at this year’s Orange Conference in Atlanta. She’ll be accompanied by Katie Wetherbee. We’ll provide info later on how you can connect with them to arrange for free training or consultation for your church following the conference, Click here for conference registration.