This past July, our Key Ministry staff put together a decidedly unscientific survey of people who subscribe to our blogs, “liked” our Facebook page and registered for our resource kit through our website. I’ll share some of the more interesting findings…
- 60% of respondents said they were PARENTS of children with special needs, while a combined 31% total represent CHURCH or MINISTRY LEADERS. Comment…It’s interesting that while 72% of our survey respondents understood that our core mission is to support churches in ministry to/with families of kids with mental illness, trauma and developmental disabilities, the majority of our followers are parents as opposed to church leaders. In the early days of our ministry, we’d conceptualized a three-pronged approach to promoting the expansion of more inclusive disability ministry…training churches, identifying champions in the professional community and disability awareness organizations and mobilizing parents as advocates. I wonder if all three will ultimately play an important role in advancing the mission. I also wonder if parents “default” to us when they don’t have access to a church prepared to welcome their family.
- 82% of survey respondents had a family member with special needs.
Comment…I’d hypothesize that it’s very hard for a pastor, ministry leader or volunteer to appreciate the need for churches to become more effective in supporting families impacted by disability unless they’ve “been there and done that.”
- Having a family member with special needs affects church attendance in the following ways: 46% have troubles attending church; 28% don’t attend or have given up attending; 11% of families attend services separately, with one parent staying home to manage the child while the other heads to church; 15% said they had no troubles with church attendance. Comment…Here’s where folks need to be careful in interpreting data, because our sample isn’t scientific. We didn’t ask respondents about the nature of the disabilities impacting their families, the frequency with which church involvement is impacted or the availability of specific supports at the churches they’ve attempted to attend. It is a signal that many families impacted by disability have a very difficult time attending church and research examining who is most likely to be left out of church and what impediments are most problematic for families is clearly needed.
- The greatest barriers to local church attendance were not having a special needs program at their church (55%); too difficult for my child (51%); not inclusive (48%); not welcoming to those with special needs (30%); too tired (28%); transportation challenges (3%).
Comment…Again, it would be important to know more about the specifics of our respondents prior to reading too much into the data. I’d hypothesize that special needs ministry programs become more important in relationship to the pervasiveness of a child’s disability and need for 1:1 support. Not every church needs to start a “special needs ministry program,” in the same way that not every hospital doesn’t need an advanced trauma center. But every church does need to do something to support families in their midst impacted by disability.
- 99% said “yes” or “maybe” to the notion of inviting a friend in the same position to church if they found a solution to their challenges. Comment…To quote Kevin Costner from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”
- The most frequent complaint about Key Ministry was that churches we serve are not available to the respondent locally.
In our next post, we’ll look at this last observation separately, because we’ve been laying the foundation for some very radical changes in how we serve churches that will quickly become apparent to those who follow our work as we launch into a new “ministry year” coinciding with the start of the school year.
We’re moving into our new online home! Beginning next Sunday, The Front Door Main Campus will be offering unique worship experiences with prayer and music from generous artists desirous of sharing their gifts and talents with families impacted by disabilities. During the day, we’ll have opportunities for ministry training through video and interaction with recognized disability ministry leaders. After the kids are in bed, we’ll have resources for parents and opportunities to connect. Check out our videos throughout this coming week and church online beginning next Sunday, September 14th!