Five years ago today, our crew at Key Ministry launched this blog in an effort to build bridges between churches and families of kids with “hidden disabilities.” You can check out our very first post here, but this passage captures our purpose…
I hope and pray that God will use this blog and the efforts of our team at Key Ministry to help people involved in the church world to get to know and understand the families I see in my work world. Families of kids with “hidden disabilities”…significant emotional, behavioral, developmental or neurologic conditions without outwardly apparent physical symptoms. Once my church friends get a handle on the families in their communities who come to practices like mine, we can problem-solve together just how to welcome them into our environments, include them in the stuff we do so they can come to know Jesus, accept him as Lord, and grow to be more like him. Just like we do.
When we launched this blog, Katie Wetherbee’s blog, our Facebook page and Twitter feed as outgrowths of our first social media plan in the Spring of 2010, I’ll confess to thinking that our online presence was a tool for making our team more visible so we’d have more opportunity to do “real ministry”…getting invited to conferences and individual churches in-person to train church staff and volunteers to minister to kids and their families. I had no idea to the extent that our online presence would become our ministry.
Not too long after we got started, I made a couple of mistakes that I still regret to this day. The end result was a few broken relationships, a ministry colleague who was needlessly hurt and doors closing as opposed to opening for our team to do the type of ministry work we sought to do. In searching for a survival strategy, we became very intentional about developing collaborations with like-minded people and organizations and working together with them to help get the word out about the resources everyone had to offer. Inclusion Fusion came about after one of our team members was “disinvited” from a children’s ministry conference where they had been promoted as a featured presenter. Through the process of reaching out to others and looking for ways to promote their ministries, we discovered the secret to whatever “success” our ministry has experienced since that time.
What makes a blog or a social media strategy successful is lots of people who take the time and effort to share content they find valuable with friends and colleagues. More so than anything else, the content we’ve shared through this blog and and our social media platforms that has been created by wonderful, like-minded ministry colleagues we’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the past five years has helped us to disseminate the content we’ve created around ministry with families of kids with mental illness, trauma and developmental disabilities to far more churches, ministry leaders and volunteers than we would have ever imagined five years ago.
We’ve averaged around 1,370 visitors per day to the blog this year (that works out to around 41,000 unique visits per month). To put that statistic in perspective, it takes us less than two days get as many visitors as we had in all of 2010! The blog has been accessed from 203 countries. We’ve been able to make our resources available to far more people in far more places than I ever imagined. And we recently received some very neat recognition from the folks at Ministry to Children as the fourth most popular children’s ministry blog, based upon link popularity of the home page, global link popularity of the whole site, and social media popularity in the last 6 months.
So…what’s in store for the next five years?
Plans remain in some degree of flux as our Board continues to search for the future leader of our organization, but here are some preliminary ideas we’re exploring…
- You’ll be introduced to more voices from throughout the disability ministry movement. Using the blog and our other platforms to introduce our friends and followers to new faces, new organizations and new ideas is very gratifying and in keeping with the overall spirit of the movement. In addition to myself and Shannon, we’ll likely add more ongoing contributors to the blog.
- Either on this platform or another platform, we’ll likely begin to make ministry resources and supports directly available to families. If we’re going to build bridges between churches and families impacted by disability, a one-way bridge won’t give us the desired results. We’re wrestling with the idea of what a “family portal” might look like.
- We’ll be exploring strategies for getting out on the road more and providing more and better live training together with our ministry partners.
We have one project that we’ll commence work on almost immediately. I’m of the opinion that we should offer as many resources as we can free of charge so that to as great a degree as possible, money wouldn’t be an additional obstacle preventing churches from getting help in reaching out to and welcoming families impacted by disability. As a result, I’ve always thought of this blog as our “book”…a living, breathing, searchable journal of ideas churches can use in ministry with families.
In “church world,” a big determinant of who gets quoted in the magazines and journals thousands of church leaders read and speaking invitations to the conferences that thousands of church leaders attend is the credibility that results from having written a book. So…at the urging of several of our Board members and at least one of our ministry consultants, I’ll be taking 2 ½ weeks off from my ministry responsibilities and my day job to finish a book that’s currently in rough draft form that will put forth a model for churches seeking to minister with kids and teens with mental health concerns and their families. The goal is to have a manuscript ready to send off for editing by the end of July.
Thanks to all of you who share our resources with others through e-mailing links, posting to Facebook and sharing through social media! You make it possible to get the word out to churches and families everywhere.
We appreciate your prayers for the next five years to be more impactful than our first five!