Welcome to Week Four in our Winter series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Hidden Disabilities. Today, we’re going to look at the Orange definition of family ministry, the principles that form the foundation of the Orange approach to family ministry and challenges that arise in seeking to partner with parents of kids with disabilities.
This week’s discussion covers pages 78-96 in Think Orange.
On Sunday and Monday of this past week, we looked at five values that are foundational for the role of the family in promoting the spiritual development of kids. Today, we’ll build upon that discussion by looking at Reggie Joiner’s definition of family ministry, the principles upon which the Orange approach to family ministry is built, and how the principles come into play in ministry to families of kids with disabilities, especially hidden disabilities.
It’s important to start with a universal definition of what we mean when we use the term “family ministry.” Here’s the Orange definition of family ministry: An effort to synchronize church leaders and parents around a master strategy to build faith and character in their sons and daughters. Reggie goes on to explain that a family ministry should develop the process that drives how both the church and the home combine their efforts to influence the next generation.
The principles that the Orange approach is built upon include:
- Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God
- No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than a parent
- No one has more potential to influence a parent than the church
- The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent
- The parent’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when that parent partners with the church
Let’s look at how some of these principles may be applied in ministry to families of kids with hidden disabilities.
Principle 1: Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God Think of how challenging this principle is to implement on a daily basis for folks in vocational ministry. Imagine how hard this is for parents of kids with disabilities! Based upon the limited data in the research literature, parents of kids with hidden disabilities are more likely to be single parents. Their kids are likely to require far more of their time and attention. Recommended treatments are time consuming and often expensive. In addition to all of the other “idols” that distract us from God in modern life, the day to day needs of kids with hidden disabilities leave parents with less “margin” to pursue their relationship with God.
Principle 2: No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than a parent. In Think Orange, Reggie introduces the 3000/40 principle. The 3000/40 principle is based upon the observation that a typical kid spends 3,000 hours per year with their parents and 40 hours per year in church-related activities. If we’re trying to build a master strategy to build faith and character in our kids, it makes a great deal of sense to leverage the 3,000 hours a year kids have with their parents as opposed to putting all of our resources into the 40 hours kids spend at church. This approach is especially relevant in working with families of kids with hidden disabilities, because parents may have more opportunities to interact with their kids compared to families where no disability is present. Let’s just look at our “Big Four” in terms of hidden disabilities in kids:
- Anxiety disorders (10% of kids ages 5-17)
- ADHD (9%)
- Bipolar Disorder (1%)
- Autism Spectrum Disorders (1%)
Each of those conditions imposes either a significant barrier to social interaction outside the home, requires more 1:1 supervision or attention from a parent, or both. That’s why equipping parents of kids with disabilities with the resources they need to use their time to build faith and character in their kids is so important.
Principle 3: No one has more potential to influence a parent than the church. Earlier in this series, we discussed the importance of families of kids with disabilities having a relationship with a local church and Key Ministry’s role in helping churches to make the connection. Once the connection has been made with a local church, some unique challenges arise in partnering with the families we help churches to serve:
- Parents of kids with disabilities are likely to be more diverse in their spiritual maturity than parents in the general population. Among the families who come through a practice like ours, we see lots of parents who are quite mature in their faith. Some home-school their kids with disabilities because that approach works better for them educationally and home-school their kids without disabilities because of the obstacles in teaching on matters of faith and values in public and secular private schools. At the other extreme, we see parents who may be more lacking in spiritual maturity. They may have stopped attending church when they were ten years old after being kicked out of VBS at the First Baptist Church…today’s reminder of the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” principle.
- Parents of kids with disabilities may have more baggage from negative church experiences in the past resulting from their child’s condition that leaders need to overcome. More so than with parents in the general population, church leaders may need to do more to earn the right to partner with parents from families affected by disabilities.
- Building influence with families of kids with disabilities may require more energy and effort. They’re often messy. Mom and Dad (if Dad’s in the picture) are often dealing with their own issues. Inconsistency in maintaining the habits that help promote faith development is often an issue when kids are going back and forth between two households, as is likely to be the case for kids with disabilities.
Principle 4: The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent. See comments in Principle 2 about the 3,000/40 principle.
Principle 5: The parent’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when that parent partners with the church. It takes a church, working in partnership with a family to raise a child.
In Next Sunday’s post, I’ll elaborate more on Principle 5 in looking at the things every kid…with or without disabilities…needs.