Thinking “Orange”…Kids With Disabilities Present the Church With a Unique Opportunity

Welcome to Week Ten in our current series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Hidden Disabilities. Today, I’m going to brag a little about the church my family currently attends while we discuss the opportunities kids with disabilities offer for engaging youth in personal ministry. This week’s discussion covers pages 204-220 in Think Orange.

The final chapter in Think Orange emphasizes the importance of creating consistent opportunities for students to experience personal ministry. Reggie Joiner best expressed this strategy when he stated:

“Discipleship is as much about serving and doing ministry as it is anything else. There needs to be a radical shift in the design of most student ministries. Teenagers need to be given responsibility to leverage their influence in the lives of others and to own an area of ministry for themselves.”

One of the reasons churches shy away from serving kids with disabilities is the concern that large numbers of volunteers may be needed for a ministry that can be labor-intensive. But what if churches could reach a large, underserved population of families in their immediate communities while offering students the opportunity to engage in meaningful ministry experiences?

Fellowship Bible Church in Chagrin Falls, OH (the church where my family and I attend) exemplifies this principle in practice. Under the leadership of middle school pastor Tish Luciano and our senior high pastor Keith Melugin, our church has been able to accomplish far more in serving families of kids with disabilities than churches many times our size because students are given opportunity to pursue personal ministry. There are three ways this plays out in our church that impacts ministry to kids with disabilities:

  1. Respite outreach: Our church is able to serve roughly the same number of kids and families through our respite events as churches Key Ministry has trained that are five to ten times our size because of our ability to tap into students from our middle and high school ministries, who often invite their friends from other churches (or friends who are unchurched) to volunteer. We can serve an average of 75 kids per month at respite events because half of the 100-125 volunteers required to execute an event of that size come from our student ministries. Here’s a video that offers a perspective from two of our student volunteers
  2. Sunday mornings: Many of our “buddies” for kids experiencing disabilities of a severity to require 1:1 support come from our high school ministry. As is the case at North Point (Reggie Joiner’s church), our high school kids are expected to serve in some ministry capacity and/or attend adult worship on Sunday morning. We have a ready supply of volunteers who can be trained to serve kids in need who typically aren’t dealing with established volunteer commitments with other ministry teams.
  3. Missional outreach: Students from our church are a key component of outreach initiatives into the city and our surrounding community. Last summer, our students put on a “block party” to serve a community of previously homeless families in Cleveland:

Harmony Hensley, our team member in Cincinnati, serves on the leadership team of Summer of Service (SOS), a week-long experience organized by Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati in which 900 middle school kids plus adult volunteers from 40 churches in 20 states for a week of outwardly-focused ministry supported by worship and training experiences. I’m excited that my youngest daughter will get to be a part of SOS this year, because the experiences our kids have received at SOS in previous years have been pivotal in establishing a culture of personal ministry among the youth of our church. Last year, the kids in attendance staged a luau for roughly 1,000 adults from group homes throughout the greater Cincinnati area with intellectual disabilities as the culmination of their ministry week. Check out this video if you’d like to see how the week impacted kids from our church. Harmony will be speaking at Orange (not on this topic) if you’re interested in learning more.

Serving on our church’s Board, I’ve had the privilege of seeing this “Orange” strategy result in some pretty incredible ministry done through the youth of our church. Last month, I did a post on Abby…a ninth grader from our church who approached our Senior Pastor with a Power Point presentation, ministry team and detailed plan of execution for doing a luau at our church this summer as an outreach to adults in our county with developmental disabilities. Shifting to a more outwardly-focused approach to ministry has been a major theme in our church over the last two years. Because of the way our students have grasped the concept of personal ministry, our first non-staff initiated event is being led by a 15 year-old volunteer. You can follow her progress and the progress of our team on Facebook at FBC Luau 2011.

Next Sunday: The most important takeaway points from “Orange”

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 ( or call (440) 247-0083 to meet up at the conference.

Click here for conference registration.


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.
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