I was up at the church that my family regularly attends this past Sunday night for middle school ministry parent orientation. At one point in the meeting the ministry director made a plea for more male volunteers. Apparently, there was a group of seven boys in one particular grade last year who struggled greatly with self-control during Sunday evening programming and small groups. As the discussion progressed, one of the adult leaders suggested that we might have kids stay home for a few weeks who “didn’t have a heart for the Lord” as evidenced by their behavior at church.
The meeting has continued to bother me for a variety of reasons. Before I get into this, let me first state that our church has an excellent middle school ministry and I was at the meeting because I strongly support the participation of our youngest daughter, who recently started seventh grade.
I know about the circumstances of a couple of kids in question and their behavior at church has absolutely nothing to do with their “heart for the Lord.” I’m very troubled by the propensity of so many in the church to assume kids with challenges in self-regulation and their parents have spiritual problems. And even if they did, aren’t those the folks the church is supposed to be helping?
After the meeting, I went up to one of our middle school small group leaders who currently serves with me on our Elder Board and explained that this is exactly the type of situation our Key Ministry team helps churches to address. Maybe the environment when they first arrive on Sunday night is overstimulating? Maybe the music’s too loud? Maybe that group of boys is more wired for serving as opposed to talking? They might do better having their group discussion while loading boxes on a truck at the food bank as opposed to sitting around in a circle in stackable chairs. Maybe they’re better able to process for briefer periods of time in more mentoring-type relationships? The light bulb went on and he totally “got it.”
Here’s what I’ve been stewing about since Sunday…maybe you can help?
Since the inception of Key Ministry, we’ve struggled to come up with the right words to describe to churches how we’re able to help. We’ve used the term “hidden disabilities” to describe the conditions the kids experience. You’ve probably heard that we’re hosting a Special Needs Ministry Web Summit in November. But having the right words really matters.
It never dawned on anyone in our middle school ministry to seek the help of any of the folks from our disability ministry because they didn’t conceptualize the kids who were exhibiting disruptive behavior as having a disability. Nor did anyone in the middle school ministry think of calling us because they wouldn’t have thought of those kids as having a special need. My guess is that when folks look at seventh grade boys who lack self-control in a church setting, the mental model with which they’re most likely to approach them is the thought that they “lack a heart for the Lord.”
At Key Ministry, we do “disruptive kids.” How do we let the church world know?
Interested in joining a bunch of folks who are passionate about families of kids with special needs coming to know and love Jesus Christ? An event in which any church leader, volunteer or parent anywhere in the world who shares the same passion and has access to the Internet through a computer, tablet or smart phone can join in? That’s Inclusion Fusion, Key Ministry’s First Annual Special Needs Ministry Web Summit, featuring this year’s Keynote Speaker, Chuck Swindoll. And it’s all available to you for free! Register here for the Special Needs Ministry Web Summit, coming this November 3rd-5th.