Square Pegs and Round Holes…The Bottom Line on Helping Kids With Asperger’s Disorder Grow Spiritually

Today’s post concludes our series on helping kids with Asperger’s Disorder and other social disabilities to grow spiritually. We’ll finish by looking at some general principles to  help church staff, parents and volunteers to minister more effectively to very unique kids made in the image of God who tend to defy categorization.

What are the most important things for a pastor, children’s/youth ministry director or volunteer to remember when helping a kid with Asperger’s Disorder to come to faith or grow in faith?

Kids who are less neurotypical are likely to require more individualized approaches to spiritual growth. They’re too different to fit neatly and cleanly into “one size fits all” programming. When I think of my own caseload of kids with Asperger’s, the differences are astounding. I saw a kid this week fortunate enough to attend a great church that appears willing to offer him a summer job…his family is concerned that his lack of attention to personal hygiene could become a problem and we strategized how they might work through this issue. I have another kid with Asperger’s who sent me a Power Point presentation detailing the strategies he uses to better manage his obsessive thinking. Good luck trying to implement the same strategies in serving the two of them, although they share the same diagnosis.

Allow parents to take the lead in guiding the spiritual development of their children… come alongside them to lend resources, encouragement and support. To borrow from a famous figure in the family ministry movement, parents get 3,000 hours a year with their kids….church staff and volunteers (if fortunate) get 40-100 hours. Who stands the better chance of understanding the best way to teach kids about Jesus who process relationships and the world around them differently than everyone else? The person who goes to their kid’s therapy appointments or the person who has spent the most time that week in church staff meetings?

Identify their gifts, strengths and talents and offer them opportunities to use them serving in the church. After all, church is the place where a kid’s value isn’t based upon their popularity, their athletic ability or their overall capacity for achievement but in the regard Christ has for them as a child in His Kingdom. And the Bible is very clear that all of Christ’s followers have gifts and talents to contribute as the church seeks to reestablish  the presence of the Kingdom here on Earth.

Many of the kids I encounter with Asperger’s Disorder and other social disabilities are desperate for friends and acceptance. What better place for them to find true friends… especially our Ultimate Friend…Jesus-than through His church?

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do a presentation on this topic for the 2012 Children’s Ministry Websummit. For those of you who were unable to participate in this year’s Websummit, here’s the video from the presentation:

The complete DVD set of presentations from the Websummit (including the video of my presentation) is available now through this link for $49.00. Proceeds support the production of free ministry training offered by Pajama Conference, including Key Ministry’s Inclusion Fusion Special Needs Ministry Websummit.

Key Ministry will be offering another free, day-long JAM (Jumpstart All-Inclusive Ministry) Sessions at Center Pointe Christian Church in Cincinnati, OH on Saturday, May 12th. Click here to register!

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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