When Key Ministry was founded in 2002, our original mission statement read as follows…
To build the Body of Christ by empowering churches to minister to families of children with hidden disabilities.
We recognized that there were large numbers of families with kids with significant disabilities…disabilities that would not be visible in a still photograph of the child…that presented major barriers for the children and their families to attending a local church, growing in faith as part of a local church and serving in a local church. These are kids who experience significant difficulties maintaining self-control or managing emotions as a result of a mental health disorder…kids with ADHD, kids with mood disorders, kids with anxiety disorders, kids with autism with average or superior intelligence. They are kids who have been exposed to toxic substances in utero or toxic experiences resulting in difficulties navigating close relationships…kids who struggle with social communication or sensory processing.
These are the kids and families we’ve felt uniquely called to serve. But if we’re to be honest with ourselves, we haven’t been as successful as we’d hoped in catalyzing meaningful change in the church so that leaders recognize the opportunity to reach families with an unmet need for Jesus or develop replicable models of serving families of kids with these conditions that fit within the organizational culture of the local church.
Where we have been busy…and somewhat successful…is in helping churches serve families of kids with “special needs”. Our point of entry with many of the churches we serve is “that kid”…a family in the church with a child with severe emotional or behavioral issues AND significant intellectual disability. When we’ve been a resource to church staff or volunteers in addressing the needs of kids with more severe disabilities… kids thought of with “special needs”…we’ve sometimes been able to expand the “playing field” into serving kids with a broader range of disabilities.
What’s “changed” since we’ve been led to enter into this field of ministry is that the disability ministry movement has grown by leaps and bounds in its’ capacity to help kids with “special needs” to attend church. When we use the term “special needs” we refer to kids with intellectual disabilities, kids with chromosomal syndromes and kids with medical conditions associated with significant cognitive impairment. We have successful strategies for including them at church (buddy ministries, self-contained classrooms) and reaching out to their families (respite events or relational respite, “proms” or other special event ministries). But we’re just scratching the surface! Kids with “special needs” represent only a small portion of the population of kids with significant disabilities interfering with their ability (and the ability of their parents and siblings) to be active participants in Christian community within the context of a local church. The reality is that most kids and families impacted by disability would NEVER think of themselves as candidates to be served by a “special needs” ministry…they rarely self-identify and will flee from ministry interventions that draw attention to their differences…because they desperately want to fit in with everybody else.
As part of our discernment process, our Key Ministry team to consider the following proposition…
What need has God uniquely called and positioned us to meet that other ministry organizations haven’t been able to address?
Here’s what we came up with…
Key Ministry provides knowledge, innovation and experience to the worldwide church as it ministers to and with families of children impacted by mental illness, trauma and developmental disabilities.
This doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning our work in helping churches minister with kids presenting the most challenging disabilities or patterns of behavior. We may look to partner with other like-minded ministries in addressing those needs, while focusing as much of our time, talent and treasure as possible on addressing needs that no other organization is currently addressing.
We’re delighted to have you join us in our ministry adventures!