An Easter service for the disability community

It was one month ago today when most Christians last experienced a Sunday worship service inside a church building. The quarantines and social distancing necessitated by the coronavirus have produced the unintended benefit of reminding us of how much we value corporate worship. I’ve seen many friends express their sense of loss on different social media platforms, especially during Easter Week.

Our experience of church over the last four weeks is what every week is like for too many families affected by disability.

Easter is celebrated this year in the middle of Autism Awareness Month. The largest study ever undertaken examining the relationship between disability status and church attendance found that families with a child with autism are 84% less likely than their friends and neighbors without disability to have set foot inside a church in the past year. The rates aren’t much better for families of children with common mental health conditions. Church attendance is:

  • 73% less likely when a child has depression
  • 55% less likely when a child has conduct disorder
  • 45% less likely when a child has an anxiety disorder
  • 36% less likely when a child has a learning disability or developmental disability
  • 19% less likely when a child has ADHD

Our mission is to help connect churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. We had a large conference planned for April 24th and 25th featuring over seventy speakers who were giving of their time and talent to train pastors and resource families to make church far more accessible to the disability community – especially individuals and families impacted by autism, mental illness and other “hidden disabilities.” God and our state and local government officials had other plans.

Our team wanted to do something to increase awareness of the needs of the disability community while putting their gifts and talents on display. What better way to do that on this very unique Resurrection Sunday than to put together a special worship service for families impacted by disability who don’t have a church this Easter morning?

Our Not Alone Easter Service will be streamed at 9:00 AM Eastern Time on Easter Sunday on both the Key Ministry and Not Alone Facebook pages. The service will be available all throughout the day on Easter Sunday, and we’re encouraging our followers to host watch parties for friends and neighbors on their individual Facebook pages.

This isn’t simply a worship service…it’s also intended to be a disability ministry teaching tool. Over thirty of our conference speakers had a hand in putting the service together. Barb Newman will demonstrate how to adapt teaching for all types of learners while presenting the children’s message. Ryan Wolfe has an Easter message for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Most people appearing the service either have a disability themselves or an immediate family member with a disability. With April having been designated Autism Awareness Month, our worship pastor (Kyle Broady) and the pastor sharing the benediction (Lee Peoples, together with his wife Sandra) have sons with autism. Our teaching pastor, Lamar Hardwick described his experience of leading a church as a person with autism in I Am Strong, Lamar is a remarkable preacher with a special message for us this Easter.

We intend for the service to demonstrate the amazing gifts and talents the church is deprived of when individuals and families impacted by disability are left out of the church. We hope that many taking part in the service will consider how God might use their gifts and talents in ministry to others.

We trust you’ll find encouragement and comfort in what we intend to be Key Ministry’s one and only original worship service. Our hope for next Easter is that ALL of us… persons with autism, mental health concerns, developmental disabilities or any disability will be worshiping our risen Lord together inside the churches we call home.
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Our team at Key Ministry has assembled a resource center for churches and families to access during this time regarding COVID-19. Find trainings and resources created by our team, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Faith-Based Partnership Center, the Centers for Disease Control, Saddleback Church and others. Check it out today.

 

 

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.
This entry was posted in Advocacy, Autism, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Easter service for the disability community

  1. Rebecca Giles says:

    Thank you Key Ministry for this Easter service and for giving me the idea that autistic people can serve God too and can belong in Christian environments.

    I’m a 20-year-old with autism and haven’t been in church for a long time because they attempted to heal me of autism by sending demons away from me; I was experiencing that sort of thing ever since I was two years old, and finally I stopped believing I was under demonic influence and tried to remove myself from church settings. But someday in the future I will succeed at discovering a church that is safe and then I will return to church, because I belong there since I am part of the body of Christ, and 1 Corinthians 12:22 says that the parts of the body which seem weaker are in fact indispensable to it.

    And Jesus can use me to speak for him even though I’m autistic, because he’s sufficiently powerful. When I was a teenager I prayed and God directed me to Jeremiah 1:6-9: “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.”.. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “See, I have put my words in your mouth.” Now I can tell about Jesus, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t speak well because Jesus is the one giving me words. I think that someday later my life will end up being devoted to speaking for him.

    Like

    • Dr. G says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      So glad you could join us today! Let us know where you live… you can e-mail Beth from our team at beth@keyministry.org and see if there’s a church nearby that will be both safe and a place where you might use your gifts and talents to serve other people.

      Happy Easter! He is Risen Indeed!

      Like

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