Hi, I’m Shannon, and this is my family

Dingle Higher Resolution

I never planned to have a large family. I never expected to have six children from three continents. I would have laughed in your face had you told me we would adopt four children from two countries in less than 18 months.

But that was our reality, adding Zoe to our family from Taiwan in 2012 and Patience, Philip, and Patricia in 2013.

When my husband and I launched Access Ministry, our church’s inclusive ministry for children and youth, we had no idea that our family would be served by it. We didn’t know then that special needs adoption would be part of our lives or that one of our biological children would be diagnosed with a couple of special needs.

Now, seven years later, our lives are drastically different. Our children’s pastor once said, “You didn’t realize you were creating the ministry that your family would one day need.” He’s right. I didn’t.

But as more and more Christians adopt children in need and more and more adoption programs are designed to find families for children with special learning, medical, or behavioral needs, I get a little worried. I see us, as a church, cheering at announcements about pending adoptions and then not knowing what to do when the child arrives and eventually joins in children’s ministry programming. I listen to friends who have had to change churches after the welcome mat was pulled away when it became too hard to include them. And I also hear church leaders saying that they want to help but they just don’t know how.

I’m convinced the first step is being willing to say yes – both to God and to these families – before having a perfect plan in place. I know that’s hard for those of us who are planners. Trust me, I know. God called our family to a reality that shattered all my plans, and I don’t have words to quantify how unbearably hard that felt at times.

But? I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I’ll be sharing a few more posts here leading up to the Together For Adoption conference October 17-18 in Greenville, South Carolina, but the gist is this: Our kids are worth it, so please partner with us in a way that shows that you’re in it with us for the long haul.

Just as I never expected that our family would be what it is now, our church didn’t know what the future held either back when two newlyweds entered Providence Baptist Church for the first time in the summer of 2005. Yet they’ve shown great love for us by being willing to serve, adapt, and learn so that all of our kids can be involved in the body of Christ.

What love! What sacrifice! What radical commitment to living, breathing people rather than static, dead plans on paper!

So now I ask you: what would it look like for your church to do the same?

IMG_0361Editor’s note: This is the first post in a series by Shannon Dingle examining adoption and the church. In addition to Shannon’s role as co-founder of the Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, she serves as a Key Ministry consultant. Shannon will be speaking this weekend at the Together for Adoption Conference in Greenville, SC.


12_JONI_SPEAKING_0001Join keynote speaker Joni Earackson Tada and 20+ leaders representing the scope of the disability ministry movement this coming November 12-13 for Inclusion Fusion 2014, Key Ministry’s FREE, worldwide disability ministry web summit. Engage in interactive chat with many of our speakers and watch each presentation at the time of day that works best for you in the environment in which you’re most comfortable. Click here for FREE registration.

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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2 Responses to Hi, I’m Shannon, and this is my family

  1. Kerri says:

    How could I get in touch with Shannon? I would love to share a bit of our fostering and adoptive story and ask about international adoptions.


    • Maureen Boyd says:

      This question is made April 27, Wednesday 2016. I am looking for permission to print Shannon’s blog regarding the church and Foster Care. I will appreciate hearing from you as I wish to share your voice to our foster care ministry and the whole church body,which hopes to become a more serving community regarding all the disenfranchised particularly foster kids. May we have permission to share your words as an educating tool in our bulletins and on our Website. We hope to be experienced as welcoming open arms and source of help to our foster families and to their foster children particularly.


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