Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks and admiration for the magnificent work accomplished by our ministry staff, volunteers, writing team and the pastors, staff and volunteers of the churches we serve over the last twelve months through some of the most unusual and trying circumstances the small “c” church has experienced in our lifetimes.
Our ministry plans for 2020 went out the window when church doors closed across the country as we learned the meaning of social distancing. But in reviewing the accomplishments of the team in 2020, it’s hard not to argue that Beth, Catherine, and the rest of the team had their most impactful year of ministry ever.
Here are 20 ways in which our team made significant impact for the cause of including families of kids with disabilities and children and adults with mental health concerns in this most challenging of years.
1. The team quickly mobilized to provide training, connection and support to ministry leaders related to impacts of COVID-19. All of our coronavirus-related resources may be found here. We launched weekly “Idea Share” videoconferences including church staff and volunteers from across the country to facilitate brainstorming of ideas for serving kids and families during #COVID19. Other sessions provided encouragement and support to parents of kids with disabilities who suddenly found themselves without many of their usual support services for their children. One of our most popular video roundtables featured the author, pastor and biblical counselor Jonathan Holmes discussing the use of Scripture to help manage and support emotional health during COVID-19.https://player.vimeo.com/video/408070764?app_id=122963&wmode=opaque
2. Together with members of our writing team and leaders of other like-minded disability ministries, we produced and hosted a special Easter Sunday worship service for families impacted by disability. The service received over 31,000 views on our Facebook page. The service may be viewed here in its entirety.
3. Our team, in partnership with Amplify Social Media produced on Online Pastors Retreat in response to the dramatic increase in mental health struggles among clergy and the population at large during the pandemic. Nearly 200 pastors and church staff to date have registered for this remarkable resource, addressing key topics in self-care, church care and steps for becoming a mental-health friendly church. We were honored to have been joined by many prominent church leaders in this effort, including Kay Warren, William Vanderbloemen, Pete Scazzaro and Brad Hambrick. Click here to learn more about the retreat, or here to register.
4. We continued our work with the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and their efforts in helping congregations from all faith traditions improve their capacity for supporting individuals and families with mental illness. On April 28th, Steve had the opportunity to take part in a nationwide videoconference hosted by the Partnership Center on Mental Health in the Time of COVID, together with Kay Warren and psychologist and former Pennsylvania congressman Tim Murphy. Several thousand had registered for the webinar and many more have viewed it since then through YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/embed/C8Zzgw4ihOg?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1
5. Speaking of the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships, we were honored to contribute to Compassion in Action: A Guide for Faith Communities Serving People Experiencing Mental Illness, available as a free download through the HHS website. The guide is organized around seven key principles applicable in all faith traditions that offer a way for spiritual leaders to address mental illness in the communities they serve. The guide also identifies concrete houses of worship might take to “put their compassion into action.”
6. Our team played a significant role in Wonderfully Made, the “sister” conference of Inclusion Fusion Live, which was held virtually this past October. All of our core team served as presenters, with Steve doing one of the keynotes. Wonderfully Made featured a number of our writers and represented the largest disability ministry conference of 2020.
7. We were able to take part in four live, in-person training events before the COVID shutdowns – training for the children’s ministry team on mental health inclusion at Bay Presbyterian Church, two additional local trainings in Northeast Ohio, and the Together Conference at Mount Paran Church in Atlanta on the first weekend of March.
8. Steve was invited to speak as part of the Church Mental Health Summit, sponsored by Hope Made Strong on October 10. 1,785 attendees registered for his talk on Why Attending Church is Difficult for Families Impacted by Mental Illness.
9. We continued to grow the disability ministry field. The Special Needs and Disability Ministry Leaders group we facilitate. 235 new members have joined the group this year, currently standing at 2048. 950 members have been added since November, 2018.
10. We continue to find new avenues to educate the church about mental health ministry. This article from Steve was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of Evangelicals magazine, produced by the National Association of Evangelicals. The Brink magazine, produced as a a devotional magazine for twentysomethings, featured an interview with Steve as the cover story for their Fall issue.
11. We continued to produce content that ministry leaders and families seek to access. Our website has had over 125,000 unique visitors this year through mid-November. Between our Church4Every Child and Special Needs Parenting blog, we’re approaching 4 million page views. Nearly 5,000 people subscribe to our blog posts. Over 22,000 follow our content on Twitter, with nearly 16,000 following our Facebook page for churches and 18,000 our Facebook page for parents.
12. We continued to build upon our relationship with the disability ministry team of the South Atlantic Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They’ve sponsored a broad range of trainings for their pastors and membership on mental health ministry and they report sixteen pastors have begun mental health initiatives in their churches this past year.
13. We’re honored to have been selected as one of nine ministry organizations to have been invited to partner with the Tim Tebow Foundation for Shine On, a ministry of the foundation dedicated to connecting new and growing special needs programs within local churches to world-class faith-based resources that train, guide, and support churches as they serve their local community of people with special needs. Formed by an ongoing desire to see churches worldwide extend their individual Night to Shine proms into year-round ministries, Shine On is an initiative several years in the making. When a church is simply looking to refine an existing ministry for those with special needs, or looking to build one from the ground up, we’re available along with the other eight organizations to offer both inspiration and assistance.
14. We continued to field lots of consultation requests from churches, despite closures related to the pandemic. Beth received 81 consultation requests for general disability ministry issues and Catherine responded to 42 consultation requests for mental health ministry to this point in 2020.
15. We were invited to contribute to many podcasts in 2020. Beth and Catherine joined Tom Bump from the Kids Ministry Collective on special needs ministry during COVID-19. Beth addressed worship service inclusion in this podcast with Stephanie Holmes for Springbrook’s Converge Autism Radio podcast. Steve did this video podcast with Tony Kummer from Ministry to Children on disability ministry lessons the church might learn during the pandemic. Beth also took part in this video podcast sponsored by SOAR Special Needs Ministry on disability ministry in the new normal.
16. Beth has been active in development of a collaborative in Northeast Ohio of churches participating in Night to Shine events. The collaborative may serve as a model for church-based disability ministries to provide mutual support in other cities and regions.
17. We’ve met with the producers of Unseen, a documentary intended to give an unfiltered, honest glimpse into the mental and physical struggles of special needs caregivers. The filmmakers seek to demonstrate how the exhaustion and isolation of special needs caregivers represent a public health crisis.
18. Catherine was invited to serve as a contributor to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission website. Her first post offered four suggestions for shepherding pastors during the coronavirus. Steve contributed posts on how churches might support mental health during the pandemic and Churches, Holidays, Pandemics and Mental Health, scheduled for publication during the coming week.
19. We’ve recently met with the Lutheran Foundation to plan mental health ministry education activities for 2021 and 2022. We’ve scheduled a webinar for March of 2021 on the barriers individuals and families face in being part of church.
20. Steve has continued to serve as a regular contributor to the Brian and Jannelle morning show on Moody Radio Cleveland. This segment on flattening the mental health curve during the pandemic was featured on Moody Radio last March. He also appeared on Mornings with Carmen LaBerge and The Ride Home with John and Kathy’s afternoon show on 101.5 The Word in Pittsburgh.
I’m tired from listing all the stuff our ministry did this year. But the need for the support our ministry provides isn’t going away and will only intensify as the calendar turns to 2021.
Our ministry team would very much appreciate your prayers and financial support as 2020 comes to a close. Families of kids with emotional, behavioral, developmental and physical difficulties have had an incredibly difficult time over the last eight months. Churches have struggled with all the changes resulting from social distancing. Our team has done an incredible job in helping churches help families this year while controlling costs as much as possible, but we’re currently running about $15,000 behind our expenses this year as a result of having to cancel our national ministry conference, Inclusion Fusion Live, after reducing our spending by approximately 30% from what was budgeted at the beginning of the year.
If you’ve taken care of your responsibilities to your local church, we’d appreciate any donation you’re able to provide. Would you consider starting a Facebook Fundraiser on behalf of our ministry? Online gifts have become an increasingly important source of support.
If you’re unable to give, but have been encouraged or supported by our ministry this year, we’d love to hear from you. The encouragement at this point in the pandemic is at least as impactful as the money.
From our Key Ministry team we extend our Best Wishes for a Blessed and Joyous Thanksgiving, looking forward to the time when we can all be together again with our families again.