In Part Four of our current blog series Key Ministry 2.0 we’ll look at some key trends impacting the culture, the family and the church that will shape the ways in which we will carry out our ministry in the months and years to come.
When our Board and staff sat down together at the beginning of this ministry year to coalesce around a vision for our future work, we considered how the culture in which we work is radically different now as opposed to the beginning of our ministry adventures. Today, we’ll introduce three overarching trends that will shape our approach to ministry in the years ahead, along with some additional factors we’ll be taking into consideration as we form our strategy. In my next few posts, I’ll share how these trends are likely to shape the nature of our ministry going forward.
The first overarching trend involves the explosion in prominence of social media in our lives…and the lives of the families we seek to connect to the church. Social media is truly a double-edged sword. We’re able to share in a conversation about the needs of kids with disabilities because social media allowed us to connect. We have well in excess of 1,000 ministry leaders registered to access the free resources available through our website, over 2,000 “fans” who connect with our ministry through Facebook and nearly 700 people who receive our blog posts on a daily basis. We’re not able to have anywhere near the impact we have without our friends “tweeting” and sharing our content. At the same time, I see kids everyday who struggle in school because of their addiction to social media, are exposed to cyberbullying, and have firsthand experience with families in which online chat led to the end of marriages.
The second trend involves the perception that more and more families (especially families in which one or more children are impacted by disabilities) are overwhelmed by the ever-increasing demands of day to day life. Just yesterday, I was attending a meeting at an independent school serving kids with learning disabilities and ADHD where the director described the relief families experience when parents no longer have to spend hours in the evening fighting to complete homework with their child. Parents fear for the future of their kids and often struggle with guilt as to whether they’re providing their kids with the right life experiences to prepare them for future success. They work long hours so they can attend the right schools, wear the right clothes, have the right technology and participate in the right activities. Parents…and their kids struggle with a lack of margin in life. All too often, the end result is that our kids become, in the words of Reggie Joiner “experience-rich and relationship-poor”.
The third overarching trend involves the ways in which the local church is in a period of transition. Many churches are experiencing diminishing attendance at weekend worship…in some instances, decreased attendance may not reflect a reduction in the number of families who identify with the church, but competing demands on Sunday mornings (especially youth sports) may result in families attending worship services less frequently. Diminishing attendance in a less than robust economy leads to smaller collections and reductions in church budgets. Ministry staff and volunteers are constantly asked to make do with less…the strain I see among families involved in ministry is tangible. Ministry strategies considered to be “tried and true” are no longer working. While much of the church is embracing the missional movement, volunteer recruitment is becoming more difficult as people in general become busier. “Theological diversity” is becoming a more visible source of divisiveness and tension within the church as denominations and congregations struggle with issues related to the authority of Scripture and our faith’s claims to exclusivity.
Here are a few more trends we’re considering specific to disability ministry…
- The disability ministry movement has made great advances since we got our start…there are far more churches-and organizations serving kids with disabilities and their families compared to ten years ago.
- The demand our organization experiences for training from churches is larger than our staff or budget can currently support in our existing model.
- Our culture has become dramatically more aware of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in recent years, along with the need for support experienced by families of kids with autism.
- Despite current efforts to reform the healthcare system, far too many families of kids with mental illness lack access to effective services from competent professionals, and families of kids with mental illness, learning disabilities and developmental disabilities all too often encounter great difficulty in accessing educational and support services to which their children are entitled through their local schools.
So readers…what do you think? Do you agree with our selections regarding the three overarching trends likely to affect ministry in the coming years? What trends should leaders involved in disability ministry consider that we didn’t list here?