“Thinking Orange”: Libby Peterson on Partnering With Parents

I’m delighted that Libby Peterson graciously accepted my invitation to guest host the blog today on the topic of partnering with parents of kids with disabilities.

Libby is a long-time staff member currently serving as Director of Family Life at Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, Ohio. Her efforts to support families from the church back in the ’90s who adopted kids with “hidden disabilities” from Eastern European orphanages formed the foundation for the ministry work we do today. Libby also serves as Vice-President of the Key Ministry Board of Directors.

C4EC: What general principles guide your church’s efforts to partner with parents?

LP: We have clarified the Biblical principles around parenting, marriage and faith training – these undergird all we do with parents.  The principles emphasize things like: parents are called to be the primary faith trainers for their kids, the home is to be the center of faith formation and the church is here to help. We teach four “fantastic faith forming family functions” – Talk, Pray, Read, Serve…encouraging parents to talk with their kids about the Lord, pray together as a family, read the Bible together and serve together. We consistently teach that the most important thing that any parent can do for their kids is to tend to the vitality of their own personal relationship with the Lord.  Additionally we try to consistently remind ourselves that ministry always travels along relational lines.

We are coming to believe that every time we tell parents we are here to “equip” them in the faith training of their children we reinforce their belief that they are not adequate AND we feed the cultural lie that parents should contract out each aspect of their child’s growth and development.  Parents need discipleship – to fall in love again with Christ – and encouragement to share what they know and are consistently learning with their kids. The church is here to HELP. Too often churches talk about partnering with parents  when the church is in fact taking the LEAD and expecting parents to get on board with their initiatives.

All these understandings guide our ministry with parents.

C4EC: What unique challenges have you encountered in partnering with parents of kids with special needs?

LP: I feel that all too often we try to partner with parents by working extra hard to fit them into our programmatic mold when what they really need are relationships. Programs CAN facilitate relationships, but only when people can get to them – too often this is not the case for these parents.   We’ve got to stop asking them to come to us to “get the goods” and start going to them!

C4EC: What do parents of kids with disabilities value most?

LP: Parents appreciate Sunday morning buddies – so they can worship, when they can make it to church. They appreciate respite events so they can get a little break – but what they appreciate most is when we begin to actually see their child the way God sees him… as opposed to the way the world sees him. What they appreciate most are authentic, caring, sacrificial friendships.  They appreciate the kind of people that Christ-centered churches should be full of!

C4EC: Any success stories to share from partnering with families of kids with special needs?

LP: We run summer family mission trips – to encourage our families to serve together in the city. Serving together is one of the fantastic four faith forming family functions! We gear all activities such that kids as young as Kindergarten can meaningfully engage and participate with their families.  These mission trips (which involve a Friday evening all day Saturday commitment) have been well received by some of our families with kids with special needs. Families have seen their kids serve others, when they are so used to being served, parents have been surprised to see what their kids are capable of, and the mission teams have been deeply enriched by the presence of each child and their parents.  When our ministry takes us from serving the families of the kids with special needs to serving others WITH/Alongside families of kids with special needs – the kingdom breaks through!

We are coming to believe that every time we tell parents we are here to “equip” them in the faith training of their children we reinforce their belief that they are not adequate AND we feed the cultural lie that parents should contract out each aspect of their child’s growth and development.  Parents need discipleship – to fall in love again with Christ – and encouragement to share what they know and are consistently learning with their kids. The church is here to HELP. Too often churches talk about partnering with parents  when the church is in fact taking the LEAD and expecting parents to get on board with their initiatives.

Updated May 1, 2014

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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, www.church4everychild.org 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, Parents, Respite, Spiritual Development, Strategies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “Thinking Orange”: Libby Peterson on Partnering With Parents

  1. This is incredible wisdom and insight…I especially like how Libby addresses the issue of parent efficacy; we KNOW that teachers’ perception of parent efficacy shapes the parents’ own attitudes toward involvement with their kids…Libby’s contribution to her church and THE Church will truly make an eternal difference! THANK YOU for this great post.

    Like

  2. Mary Forrey says:

    Great article from two of my favorite people on the planet….so much wisdom…and a good reminder on “purpose” and “intent”…Love you both!

    Like

    • drgrcevich says:

      Max,

      I agree. Libby is pretty impressive. Both Bay Presbyterian and Key Ministry are pretty blessed to have her!

      Like

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