Welcome to Week Five in our Winter series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Hidden Disabilities. Today, we’ll examine ways in which the Orange approach to family ministry addresses unmet needs of kids with disabilities and their siblings.
This week’s discussion covers pages 97-106 in Think Orange.
In the Orange model, Reggie Joiner outlines five critical needs of kids that may be addressed through strategies that promote partnership between parents and churches. The needs (as listed on page 98 of Think Orange) include:
- A really big God they can trust no matter what
- Someone else who believes what they believe
- Another voice saying the same things parents say
- Uncommon sense to help them make wise choices
- Nosy parents who know where their kids are spiritually
One reason I found the Orange approach appealing for churches intentional about ministry to families impacted by disabilities is all of the needs listed above tend to be more acute for kids with disabilities and their siblings, and parents of kids with disabilities have fewer places to go outside of the church where they can receive help in meeting those needs. Let’s look at the five needs again:
A really big God they can trust no matter what: Kids with disabilities often have questions about God’s power or God’s intentions that other Christians don’t need to sort out until they’re older or more mature. Why did God make me this way? Why are other kids so mean to me? I’m dumb, I’m stupid. If God cared about me, why is He letting this happen to me? For siblings of kids with disabilities, the questions involve Why did God do this to my family? I don’t get to do anything on the weekend because I have to watch my little brother. Our family never gets to go on vacation or doesn’t have the money to do cool stuff. My parents don’t have time for me. Why doesn’t God make my brother or sister better?
Parents need a church that can help them to personally experience God’s love and provision, and help them to communicate those truths to their kids with and without disabilities.
Someone else who believes what they believe: Parents of kids with disabilities who want them to have Christian friends often don’t have the option of enrolling their child in a Christian school. Private schools in general have fewer resources (special education teachers, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, etc.) to meet the needs of kids with disabilities with complex educational needs. The cost of treatment means there’s less money available to send any of the kids in the family to private school. There may be no other option beside the church for kids with disabilities to experience a Christian peer group.
Another voice saying the same things parents say: Kids with hidden disabilities often lag behind their peers in developing motor coordination and are less likely to be actively involved in organized sports, making them less likely to have coaches who can help to reinforce their family’s values. Issues with emotional self-regulation, impulse control and the ability to accurately process social cues results in kids with fewer friends and fewer opportunities to form relationships with parents of friends.
Uncommon sense to help them make wise choices: Kids with many hidden disabilities have an increased vulnerability to negative environmental influences…drugs, alcohol, casual sex, risk-taking, antisocial behavior. They need more help from more adults more frequently in order to make good decisions.
Nosy parents who know where their kids are spiritually: The one question parents have the most difficulty responding to during my clinical evaluations is when I ask them to discuss their child’s spiritual development. In my experience, most parents in the church rarely contemplate any type of strategy or plan to foster their child’s spiritual development. What’s the likelihood that a parent would start to think about spiritual development in the same way as academic or athletic or artistic development outside of a place where they’ll encounter other parents with similar values?
Why do I want churches to rethink their approach to ministry for all families, but especially families in which one or more kids has a disability? Kids with disabilities, their siblings and their parents are frequently starving for relationships because of the social isolation that results from the functional limitations of the disabilities in question, both hidden and visible.
For families of kids with disabilities, what better place could there be for them to get their spiritual and relational needs met than the church? It’s an extraordinary opportunity for the church to radically expand its’ influence with our current generation of families, and to the generation to come.
Next Sunday: The advantages of an integrated ministry strategy
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. E-mail Katie (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (440) 247-0083 to meet up at the conference.
Click here for conference registration.