I never thought we’d be celebrating our 1,000th blog post when we started Church4EveryChild in the summer of 2010.
For the first few years of our ministry (2003-2005), folks found out about Key largely by word of mouth. At the time, I was traveling around the country doing a lot of speaking. Folks would discover us at lectures and presentations I gave to physicians and other health care professionals, who in turn shared our contact info with staff from the churches they attended. We networked with other leaders and organizations we discovered online (Marie Kuck from Nathaniel’s Hope and David Glover from PURE Ministries, along with Mark 2 Ministries in Indianapolis were early pioneers). We put everything we knew onto a CD-ROM in early 2006 and published around 250 copies…around ¼ of them were given away after we presented at a national ADHD conference.
Looking back at minutes from meetings around that time, one of our ministry goals was “get the word out.” Our goal was to build relationships with folks in children’s ministry and to get ourselves invited to present at more “kidmin” conferences. Our efforts to get the word out led to a new website at the beginning of 2010, and recommendations from a consultant for a social media plan that included two blogs…one that would offer lots of practical strategies and resources for volunteers working in the trenches of disability inclusion and a “less-popular” blog for pastors and church leaders that would focus on the “why” of our ministry. You’re currently browsing the second blog.
While we created the blogs to make churches aware of how we could help them better serve families of kids with “hidden disabilities,” I’ve learned a lot in the process. On the occasion of our thousandth post, I’ll share the seven most important takeaways I’ve gained since starting this journey with you in the summer of 2010.
- I wish I’d started sooner. We’ve been able to impact FAR more churches than we would have simply by presenting at more conferences, and we’ve been able to provide a much greater depth of information than we could during our live presentations. But our online community grew slowly. We averaged a little over 500 page views per month in year one. That increased to 57 per day in year two, 125 per day in year three and 182 per day in year four. We now receive over 1,700 views by nearly 1,300 visitors every day. Had we started several years earlier, we might have influenced far more churches and leaders than we have.
- I would’ve created more content more quickly for churches seeking to minister with adoptive or foster families. I was first drawn to disability ministry nearly 20 years ago by the initiatives my home church launched to support families who struggled to stay involved at church after adopting kids from Eastern European orphanages following the fall of the Iron Curtain. The two most popular posts we’ve ever published were from Shannon Dingle on how the church could help redeem the foster care system and what folks shouldn’t say to adoptive and foster families. I thought churches would grow inclusive ministry to kids with emotional and behavioral difficulties through their children’s and student ministries. I’m now thinking that inclusion may be driven by churches embracing adoption or foster care ministries.
- Our readers are hungry to understand more about the kids they care for…especially when kids are struggling with mental illness. 20% of school-age kids meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder at any given time, and very little is written about the impact that these conditions have on their spiritual development. The Biblical counseling movement largely skipped over children and teens. Helping pastors, church staff and believing parents understand the unique needs of kids with common mental illnesses will remain a critical function of our ministry in years to come.
- Trauma is a much bigger concern than I was ever aware of as a child psychiatrist. Going hand in hand with the observations already made about adoption and foster care, the lasting effects of trauma may represent the ultimate “hidden disability.” This post describing how much of the condition we know as Reactive Attachment Disorder is more a function of trauma than attachment is the third most popular post we’ve ever shared. Posts on the relationship between trauma and inappropriate sexual behavior, the impact of trauma in infants and the need for churches to become “trauma-informed” are all among the ten most-viewed (and shared) resources we’ve ever offered.
- For as far as we’ve come, we still have a long, long way to go in the church in welcoming families impacted by mental health conditions or trauma. I’m often reminded of how much work still needs to be done for kids and families with “issues” to be fully included at church. Here’s a comment one of our readers left on the blog this past month…
I spend my days caring for children with special needs. It’s very frustrating to see how the “hidden disabilities” are treated in the church. Doubly so when our own internationally adopted daughter with severe anxiety has been kicked out of the children’s ministry. She has sensory issues but they interpret it as bad behavior and poor parenting. I believe it was made worse by the fact that the pastor has also internationally adopted and his children are perceived as “normal”. We’ve been in evangelical churches all our lives, my husband’s father is a pastor. We are currently churchless because of these issues and feeling hesitant to keep trying to find a church where are daughter is accepted and understood. Thanks for your ministry – I hope change is coming in time.
- It really isn’t about myself…or any one person. Our internet address (drgrcevich.wordpress.com) was truly an accident…one we’ll be rectifying when we move to our new online home in a few weeks. Our blog (and our ministry) are much more valuable when we provide a platform for other leaders with unique gifts, talents, wisdom and insight. I’d especially like to thank Shannon Dingle, Jolene Philo, Mike Woods, Gillian Marchenko and Jeff Davidson for their contributions to this blog over the past six years. I was charged by Mrs. G with straightening up the bookshelves in my home office over the weekend. I was amazed by the number of autographed books on my shelves from friends and colleagues in ministry. I’m delighted that our readers have been introduced to so many remarkable disability ministry leaders over the past six years.
- I’m glad I had the opportunity to do this blog instead of a book. Far more folks have accessed this blog than would have ever purchased and read a book. Back in the day when I was a speaker, I’d typically show up to meet with a physician group with no set presentation and put together something on the spot based upon their unique interests and needs. I much prefer conversations to lectures. A book is a lecture…this blog has been a conversation. The comments and responses you share make us better as a ministry and make me better as a leader. We’ve gotten back more than what we’ve shared. Thanks to you – our followers…for making this possible!
Steve and the Key Ministry Team
Key Ministry promotes meaningful connection between churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. We depend upon individual donors to make available free consultation, training, resources and support to the churches we serve.
Church4EveryChild, Key Ministry’s principal blog is accessed by 40,000 users/month from nearly every nation. In honor of our 1,000th post, our team invites all churches, church leaders, volunteers and families who recognize the need for our ministry to partner with us in our “Penny-a-post” campaign so we might help families of children with disabilities to find welcoming churches near their homes where they might worship Jesus, grow in faith and experience Christian community.