Square Pegs and Round Holes…Helping Kids With Asperger’s Disorder and Social Disabilities Grow Spiritually

Today we’re launching a series to help support churches seeking to minister more effectively to families of kids with Asperger’s Disorder and other social disabilities. The blog series will kick off five weeks of special content in honor of Autism Awareness Month. This series will also accompany a video presentation I’ll be offering on the topic as part of the 2012 Children’s Ministry Websummit, available online, everywhere, free of charge (registration required), from April 2-6.

In today’s opening installment of the series, I’ll share some observations about challenges facing families and churches who desire to effectively include and disciple children and teens with social disabilities.

Churches are social institutions. That’s not at all surprising in light of the traditional view that Christianity differs from other faiths in focusing upon a relationship with Jesus as opposed to religious rituals or practices. In his best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren identifies fellowship as one of the five purposes for which man was created. Two of the other purposes (ministry and mission) Warren describes are largely carried out in the presence of others. Worship is viewed as a communal activity. The REVEAL survey found that the fifth purpose (discipleship) is catalyzed by organized church activities and spiritual activities engaged in with others, in addition to spiritual beliefs and attitudes and personal spiritual practices. When it comes to kids, our teammate, Libby Peterson teaches 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.

So…where does this leave kids and teens who are “hard-wired” in such a way that they struggle to engage in and comprehend relationships?

God created all of us as unique human beings. His purpose is revealed through all of his creation, especially through those of us created in His image. Is it an accident that more kids in this generation are being identified with Asperger’s Disorder and other autism spectrum disorders than in previous generations? I can’t imagine that we’d see so many kids with these conditions unless God has some larger purpose in mind. And I can’t imagine he doesn’t have a plan for the kids and their families to come to know him.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll try to ascertain how we can help to make our churches more inviting and inclusive for kids who struggle to relate to other people and their families. We’ll look at specific challenges kids with Asperger’s Disorder and other social disabilities face in doing weekend worship, participating in church activities, practicing spiritual disciplines and growing in faith at home. We’ll look at how family-based ministry approaches might be utilized, tips for church staff and volunteers and ideas for promoting spiritual development. Because Jesus loved the lost sheep that drifted away from the rest of the herd.

Tuesday: Understanding Kids With Asperger’s Disorder

Join me for the 2012 Children’s Ministry Websummit, from April 2nd through April 6th. I’ll have a video presentation on the topic…Square Pegs and Round Holes: Helping Kids With Asperger’s Disorder and Social Disabilities Grow Spiritually. I’ll be joining many leading  speakers in the field of children’s ministry. Register here for the 2012 Children’s Ministry Websummit!

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.
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