Mental illness and violence…What does the data say?

Photo credit: New York Times

When incidents such as yesterday’s school shooting in Florida occur, I’m sick and tired of the immediate calls for more gun control as well as the insinuation that mental illness is to blame. When we perpetuate the idea that mental illness is a root cause of the violence in schools we do children and adults with mental illness and their families a disservice.

It feels like our society is looking for a quick and easy solution that allows us to maintain our denial of the root cause of the violence that has visited our schools with alarming frequency.

As church leaders, we have a responsibility to speak with integrity regarding what she know to be true from the available research.

I was asked by one of our local Christian stations to come on the air specifically to discuss the relationship between mental illness and violence. I did a literature search to examine the research on the topic, and put together some key takeaway points based upon my findings…

  • The available research suggests that persons with mental illness are two to three times more likely to exhibit violent behavior than those without mental illness, but the vast majority (93-98%) never become violent.
  • In one large study, 2.9% of persons with serious mental illness alone committed violent acts in a year, compared with 0.8% of people with no mental disorders or substance abuse. Persons with cooccurring substance use disorder and serious mental illness had a higher rate of violence (10.0%)
  • Mental illness and violence are related primarily through the accumulation of multiple risk factors – historical (past violence, juvenile detention, physical abuse, parental arrest record), clinical (substance abuse, perceived threats), dispositional (young, male) and contextual (recent divorce, unemployment, victimization) among the mentally ill.
  • One large study of adult psychiatric outpatients with serious mental illness being served in the public mental health system without a history of violent victimization or exposure to neighborhood violence who were not abusing drugs or alcohol, had annual rates of violent behavior similar to the general population without mental illness – about 2%.
  • Mental illness is strongly associated not with an increased risk of homicide, but with an increased risk of suicide. Each year approximately 32,000 people in the U.S. are killed with guns-about 19,000 of them by their own hand.
  • A huge disconnect exists between public perception and reality regarding the risk of violent behavior related to mental illness. A 2013 national public opinion survey found that 46% of Americans believed that persons with serious mental illness were “far more dangerous than the general population.”
  • Psychiatrists lack the ability to accurately predict which of their patients will become violent. One study examining psychiatrists’ predictions of violence based on clinical assessments performed in emergency rooms demonstrated they were only slightly more accurate than flipping a coin and no better than chance in predicting violence in female patients. In order to prevent one stranger homicide, 35,000 patients with schizophrenia judged to be at high risk of violence would need to be detained.

The bottom line…If we could eradicate all mental illness, we would reduce acts of violence by approximately 4%. 96% of the violence that currently occurs in the general population would continue to occur.

If you’re interested in reading further on the topic of mental illness and violence, the two best review articles I found were this paper from Dr. Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University and a more concise review published in 2016 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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Interested in being part of a book study led by Dr. Grcevich on  Mental Health and the Church:  A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions?

Beginning February 20th, he’ll be posting daily discussion questions, sharing interesting links and resources and, from time to time, interactive video chats. To join this free (but closed) Facebook group, type “Mental Health and the Church Study Group” in your Facebook search box, ask to join the group and answer the two questions about why you want to join.

Mental Health and the Church is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

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The stories you’ve shared about mental health and the church

Two weeks ago, we invited readers of our blog to share their experiences of attending church as someone impacted by a mental health condition – either individually, or as a family member. We’ve begun to assemble the stories within our ministry website as a resource and an inspiration to leaders seeking to develop a mental health inclusion strategy within their churches.

I’d encourage you to read through all of the stories. Here are two excerpts of stories shared by our readers…

We had two children. One was diagnosed as a toddler with autism and the other had a post-college diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

I look back at the megachurch we attended and little was offered in support for us as a family…

The difficulties have been immense as a single mother and for my children: traversing medical and behavioral health care, advocating for appropriate educational services, finding a career that is flexible, financial struggles, exhaustion,loneliness, finding adult lifespan services,…to be honest, the church offered nothing to me or my children (even when I brought a need forward). I never felt like I belonged there. Needless, to say, I left after my older child transitioned to college after high school.

Anonymous

This is from the mother of a young woman with a mental health condition closely associated with complex medical concerns…

Our 22 year old daughter began exhibiting serious mental health problems when she was in 8th grade. Our family was going through several major crisises at that time including a job loss, two youngest entering public school from homeschooling. Our resources were strapped to say the least. We attended a small church in our college town. We found very little support from the leadership at the church except “We will pray for you.” Adults who had known her since 3rd grade that could have reached out, instead withdrew, and began to encourage her peers to not spend time with her. We later found out that many of these peers had bullied her for several years with many adult church leaders knowledge and without sharing these concerns with us. We also found that the longer she struggled emotionally and spiritually the less welcome we felt, and many people verbally stated her problem was a spiritual problem. A few close friends walked with us and prayed with us through the tears, but the youth ministry was woefully inept to come along and step into her life and help her. As she now recounts bitterly, “They were too busy trying to save me, that they ignored the things I needed the most like friendships.”

We eventually left the church for a different church where she felt more welcomed by adults and peers, but many peers thought of her only as that “troubled girl” from school. The youth leaders did more to make her feel welcomed, but still had very little resources or understanding of mental health issues. Church and youth group had the air of being a place for the “good kids.”

Anonymous

This past week, I was interviewed on a couple of radio programs – In the Market with Janet Parshall and on the Brian and Kathleen Morning Show on our local Moody Radio station in Cleveland. In each case, the hosts of the show took calls from the audience for a significant portion of our time on the air. I was especially moved by the words of one caller. The exchange begins at the 35:55 mark in the interview if you don’t have time to listen from beginning to end.

I was hospitalized this summer for twelve days…

I was treated terrible at the church I was attending. I was not visited one time in those twelve days, and I was told basically by a pastor that if I didn’t like it, twice that there was a door and I could leave.

I found a good church and I’m in a good church.

Mary Ann, Wooster OH

As I shared with the Brian and Kathleen and their listening audience, the most troubling aspect of the stories shared by Mary Ann and others is that their experiences reflect poorly upon the character of God as reflected through the words and actions of the church. We can and must do a lot better in sharing Christ’s love and the message of the Gospel with our friends and neighbors with mental illness and welcoming them into the fellowship of the church.

The time is now.

Click here if you have a story you’d like to share of your experiences of church – positive, negative or a little of both, as someone affected by mental illness.

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Interested in being part of a book study led by Dr. Grcevich on  Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions?  Click here if you’d like to be included in the closed Facebook group where the study will begin on Tuesday, February 20th.

The book presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles and is designed as a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

 

 

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Resources for readers of Mental Health and the Church

Editor’s note: Readers who preordered Mental Health and the Church should be receiving their physical and electronic copies of the book today. Would you please join with our Key Ministry team that God would use these new resources to greatly increase the number of people who come to know Jesus, profess their faith in him, and contribute their gifts and talents in service of the mission of the local church?

Now that our model to assist churches in developing a mental health inclusion strategy is publicly available, I’d like to spread the word about some of the tools and resources our Key Ministry team has developed to assist readers serving on ministry teams seeking to implement the ideas presented in the book.

The first resource is our free Mental Health Ministry Planning Tool. It is intended to help ministry leaders implement the ideas presented in Mental Health and the Church. A key idea presented in the book is that individuals and families impacted by a broad range of mental health conditions encounter seven common barriers to church involvement – stigma, anxiety, executive functioning, sensory processing, social communication and social isolation. The tool is designed to help church leaders consider how each of the seven barriers manifest within the specific ministry areas or support functions for which they are responsible – children’s, student, family, adult or small group ministries, worship team, communication team or facilities management. The tool also contains lots of questions to illustrate how the seven broad inclusion strategies described in the book may be applied to help overcome existing barriers within their area of ministry.

Readers interested in downloading this free tool may click here. You’ll be asked a few questions to help us better understand the types of help you might need in implementing your mental health inclusion strategy. The link to the free download is contained in the e-mail response you’ll receive from our team after completing the registration.

The second resource is an invitation to join an online book study Key Ministry is launching on Facebook, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 20th. I’ll be directing an in-depth discussion of Mental Health and the Church and interacting with readers of the book. The book study will be conducted as a “closed” Facebook group to promote a higher quality of dialogue. Members of this group, along with members of the Mental Health Inclusion Ministry Leaders Group (described here) sponsored by Key Ministry will receive invitations to live meet-ups hosted via Zoom for real time discussions of the book.

Here’s a link to a common registration form for persons interested in taking part in the Mental Health and the Church book study and/or Key Ministry’s ongoing Mental Health Inclusion Ministry Leaders group.

Finally, if your church is reading the book as a team, seeking to implement a mental health inclusion ministry strategy and would like to set up a time to discuss issues specific to your process, I may have some limited availability to meet remotely with your ministry team. If you’d like to try to schedule a time for a videoconference with your church’s mental health inclusion team, please do so through the “Contact Us” page on Key Ministry’s website.

We hope that by making available all of these resources, every church will have the tools they need to implement a mental health inclusion strategy customized to meet the needs of the people in the communities they serve!

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In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

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For such a time as this… Mental Health and the Church

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

The most incredible privilege this side of heaven is the opportunity that God provides each and every one of us to be included in His story. When we come to faith in Christ, we’re described in Scripture as “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” While we’re waiting for Jesus to return, the Holy Spirit is at work through us (if we’re willing) in the task of re-establishing God’s kingdom and restoring the world to the way God intended it to be.

The Bible is filled with smaller stories that take place within the framework of God’s overarching story. The Scripture fragment that began this post comes from Mordecai’s conversation with Esther in which he pleads with her to use her position as Queen of Persia to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plans to destroy them. The entirety of Esther 4:14 reads like this…

 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther’s life might be viewed as a series of fortunate occurrences that positioned her for her specific role in God’s plan to protect and rescue his people while exiled in a foreign land. God’s plan didn’t depend upon Esther. But Esther received a unique opportunity to honor and glorify God. We know of and admire her courage 2,500 years later because of the way she embraced her role in God’s story.

As our team gets ready for the release of Mental Health and the Church on Tuesday, I find myself experiencing a sense of awe and wonder in contemplating the tiny, little role God has given us to play in his much larger plan to extend his love and reveal his glory to the millions upon millions of people struggling with the effects of mental illness who aren’t part of his church or are estranged from his church.

We’ve been doing our ministry for over fifteen years. It’s probably closer to twenty years ago that I experienced my first “nudge” to imagine a ministry to help churches serve families of kids with “hidden disabilities,” with common mental health conditions representing the vast preponderance of hidden disabilities. The ministry didn’t proceed according to my timeline. We went years in which church leaders showed little or no interest in our services. We didn’t have the right words to describe the ministry needs we were trying to meet or the strategies we were trying to get churches to implement. Most church leaders we contacted were oblivious to the need for our ministry. In the meantime, I quietly went about my work as a child psychiatrist, taking care of lots of kids and learning the things I needed to learn to be a credible teacher and physician.

My job involves taking a lot of seemingly random observations from parents, teachers and kids and recognizing patterns in those observations that shape my understanding of why kids are struggling, and inform the plans I suggest to help. I’ve observed another pattern in the last couple of years suggesting that God is putting a larger plan in motion.

The evidence God is moving to transform ministry with individuals and families with mental illness is unmistakable. In recent years God has been placing the need on the hearts of many of his people and more and more of his followers are stepping forward. Some are famous, like Rick and Kay Warren. Some are highly respected thought leaders in the church, like Ed Stetzer. Some are pastors with a personal experience of mental illness (Brad Hoefs) or a spouse with mental illness (Joe Padilla). Some are pastor’s wives with depression (Gillian Marchenko) or magazine editors raised by a mom with schizophrenia (Amy Simpson). Some are adoptive parents of kids with serious mental illness (Kelly Rosati), children of highly respected Bible teachers (Colleen Swindoll-Thompson) or successful executives (Catherine Boyle). Nearly forty different pastors, ministry leaders and concerned Christians volunteered to help our ministry team launch our new book. Each of them has a story to share of how God is moving them to help care for individuals and families touched by mental illness in the churches and cities where they’ve been placed. It’s like they came out of nowhere. I was overwhelmed – and very moved.

I can’t help but think that the circumstances that led me into child psychiatry, the professional opportunities I’ve experienced, the colleagues I’ve met and the friends I’ve made while doing ministry were all preparation for my small role in God’s much larger plan. His timing is perfect. I wouldn’t have had the proper understanding or right words or right contacts to write this book any time before God opened the doors. And God’s timing is aligned with plans he has for so many other Christians with works he prepared for them before the beginning of time.

My sense of awe and wonder with God’s process was never greater than it was three months ago. One of the principles I’ve come to embrace is that any ministry plan that is truly from God depends upon God’s involvement for its’ success and is impossible through human effort alone. When reading through the book for the final time before it was sent to the printer, I had an overwhelming sense that the words in the book somehow weren’t mine. I’d like to think they were the responsibility of the “power at work within me” that a pastor who served as one of our founding Board members used to reference weekly in his benediction.

Here’s my challenge to those reading this post… Does God have a place for you in his movement to transform the way the church loves persons touched by mental illness? Has he positioned you to be an agent of change in your church? Is he calling you to serve people in your community hurting as a result of mental illness? Has he positioned you to come alongside someone with mental illness to help them to overcome challenges that make it hard for them to be part of a worship service, small group or Bible study?

Over the next few days, our ministry team will be sharing supports and resources we’ve prepared to help churches and individuals implement the ideas shared in the book and discover the work God is doing through the other leaders referenced in this post. We’re prepared to come alongside you or your church if you’re ready to take the first step.

Are you called to be part of God’s plan for those he loves with mental illness? Has God prepared you beforehand for this task? Have you come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Our entire Key Ministry team very much appreciates your prayers and encouragement upon release of the book. We’d ask that God would place it in the hands of everyone he wants to read it, and that the plans and ideas generated by the book lead to many children, adults and families being introduced to Jesus and coming to faith in him. 

 

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We’re looking for people to share their stories about mental health and the church

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely heard that we have a book coming out soon in which we share a model for churches to follow in ministering with individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Our ministry team has been compiling useful resources to assist churches interested in pursuing a mental health inclusion strategy in preparation for the release of Mental Health and the Church. New sections to be added to our website over the next week or two will include…

  • Books
  • Key Ministry resources
  • Mental health ministry organizations
  • Research
  • Sermons
  • Social Media

One resource we believe will be helpful for pastors and ministry leaders seeking to implement the ideas shared in the book are the stories of children, adults and families who have attempted to attend worship services and participate in the full range of ministry activities offered by the local church while affected by a broad range of mental health conditions.

Church leaders need concrete examples of what’s helpful and hurtful to better serve individuals like you and families like yours. Your stories can help them better understand how to most effectively welcome and minister with people of all ages with mental illness and their families. To give you an illustration of what we’re looking for, I’ll share two examples from the book. The first is from a family who stopped attending church as a result of their experiences. The second is from a family who received an extraordinarily blessing from their church.

“Kristen” shared the following in response to one of our blog posts several years ago:

Twenty years ago, I was repeatedly told by many people that I just needed to pray harder and that if my relationship with Jesus was better, my severe depression would be healed . . . But my depression was not healed. I left the church for several years, but returned hoping that not all Christians thought that way. Of course, I also didn’t tell too many church friends about my mental illness.

Fast-forward to the present. I now have two children with severe mental illness. Last year, my daughter was forced to join a Sunday school class in which she knew no other child. I tried in vain to explain that she had severe social anxiety and needed to be in a class where she had a friend. Because of that, she wasn’t happy in Sunday school and ended up quitting the children’s choir too. We hardly ever go to church any more. I write this with tears in my eyes because I want to find a church where my kids and I are accepted, and yes, even given “special” treatment from time to time.

Emily Colson writes periodically for our Key for Families blog. She authored a blog post several years ago describing the way she and her son (Max) were treated at the movies when Max experienced the sensory stimulation as overwhelming. In response to Emily’s post, some families from her church rented out a movie theater so that Emily and Max, together with other families in their community with similar needs could have a friendlier experience.

As the movie came to a close, the Muppets began to sing what was clearly the grand finale. No one wanted the evening to end. Suddenly, people flooded into the aisles as if they were leaving. But instead, they began to dance. Everyone free. No armor. No barriers between us.

I looked around in awe and wondered if this is what Jesus envisioned when he said, “Love one another.” When He spoke those words, did he picture this very moment in a theater, when love would take our breath away and lift us out of our seats. When His love would win. God’s story of redemption is written across our lives over and over again.

Do you have a story to share – positive, negative or a little of both – that might help churches do a better job of ministering with kids, adults and families affected by mental illness? Click here and you’ll be redirected to a form that will allow you to share your story. You’ll have an opportunity to indicate if you would like to remain anonymous. Our team reserves the right to use or not use any stories submitted and to edit for inappropriate language, grammar and punctuation before posting on our website or social media platforms.

Thanks for sharing!

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In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available for pre-order now with delivery scheduled for February 6 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and ChristianBook.

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The evangelicals I wish the world would see

I consider myself to be an evangelical Christian. I believe I meet the definition as put forth by the National Association of Evangelicals. I’m saddens me that the term “evangelical” has taken on an increasingly negative connotation, especially among younger people. I had a recent experience in an academic context in which the charge of being an “evangelical Christian” was levied against me by someone who thought my beliefs should disqualify me for a leadership position that would have represented a significant promotion.

The evangelicals I know care about the people and causes that Jesus cared about during his earthly ministry. They may not necessarily fit the narrative that many in the media would like to propagate about our community. I can’t help but think that evangelicals would have a very different image in our larger culture if more people had the opportunity to get to know some of the folks I was surrounded by during the last three days.

I was fortunate to have been invited to be part off Evangelicals for Life, a conference that took place this past weekend in Washington D.C. under the sponsorship of Focus on the Family and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. I was honored to be among so many faithful and compassionate Christians who live out the Gospel in so many different settings.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Brown, a photographer from Nashville, and his wife, Ruth who shared the story of their daughter (Pearl) in words and pictures. Pearl was diagnosed in utero with Alobar prosencephaly, a condition resulting from the complete failure of the brain to divide into right and left hemispheres and there is a single brain ventricle instead of two.

Screenshot courtesy of ERLC

Speaker after speaker at the conference talked about the importance of caring for the vulnerable during every stage of life. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC opened the conference by sharing teaching on Matthew 14 in which he observed that ” a culture of life cannot coexist with a culture of porn or a culture of abuse”  and that ” the pro-life witness will never flourish where women are not valued.” Jim Daly, the President of Focus on the Family, spoke openly about his experience in foster care and the ministry he and his wife share as foster parents. Benjamin Watson, a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens who is a finalist for the NFL’s Man off the Year award in part because of the work that he and his wife have done in partnership with the International Justice Mission to combat human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor.

I had the privilege of participating in a panel on special needs and mental health with Kelly Rosati. Kelly has served for a number of years as the Vice President of Community Outreach for Focus on the Family. During our panel discussion (unfortunately, there is no video available), Kelly shared perhaps the most powerful illustration I’ve ever heard from a parent struggling to care for a child with mental illness of the importance of support from the church. Kelly did share some of her experiences in a presentation that was videoed on The Challenges and Rewards of Foster Care.

Screenshot courtesy of ERLC

While the conference has ended, video of all of the main stage presentations is available for free on demand by clicking here.

I wish that the men and women I was surrounded by for several days this past week were the public face of evangelical Christianity. Their lives reflect religion that is pure and undefiled.
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shutterstock_291556127Key Ministry encourages our readers to check out the resources we’ve developed to help pastors, church leaders, volunteers and families on mental health-related topics, including series on the impact of ADHD, anxiety and Asperger’s Disorder on spiritual development in kids, depression in children and teens, pediatric bipolar disorder, and strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church.

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We’re looking for some people to join us on a mission from God

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We’re about to embark on a mission from God. Unlike Jake and Elwood, we’re not called to save the orphanage in which we were raised from foreclosure. But we’ve been working for a long time on a project I’ve sensed God has prepared us to do since the beginning of our ministry. And we’ll need the help of all our our friends and extra help from some truly special friends if we’re to fulfill our mission to the best of our ability.

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book for the last two years that provides a model for churches seeking to minister with children and adults with common mental health conditions and their families. Thanks to the efforts of my ministry teammates past and present and some great people at Credo Communications and the Zondervan division of Harper Collins Publishing, Mental Health and the Church is scheduled for release on February 6, 2018.

For the book to have an impact pastors, ministry leaders and families impacted by mental illness need to know the book exists. And that’s where you come in.

Our Key Ministry team is looking to assemble a launch team to help the world discover the resources available through Mental Health and the Church. We’re looking for friends with access through social media to pastors, church leaders, persons with mental illness and their loved ones who are willing to share their platforms with us to help get the word out to those likely to be most interested in mental health inclusion ministry.

While I’m hoping all of our blog readers will help us spread the message about the book, we’re looking for a few dozen people willing and able to assume a larger role in helping our team with publicity. Some of the responsibilities of persons serving on our launch team will include…

  • Reading an advance copy of the book by January 28th.
  • Writing a blog post or posting a video review related to Mental Health and the Church from January 28th (nine days before the scheduled release date) and March 8th (thirty days following the scheduled release date).
  • Posting reviews of the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book or ChurchSource.
  • Sharing posts about the book from Key Ministry and fellow members of the launch team at least once a week during February and March.
  • Inviting your friends and social media followers to free Key Ministry training events promoting mental health ministry and inclusion in the church to take place following the book’s initial release.

Some of the ways through which our team plans to show our appreciation to members of our launch team will include:

  • An advanced, electronic copy of the typeset manuscript
  • Two copies of Mental Health and the Church… one containing a personalized note of thanks from the author, and a second copy for team members to donate to their church’s library.
  • Enhanced visibility for your content as posts are promoted through Key Ministry’s  social media platforms and links to your blog or website included on a new section of Key Ministry’s website dedicated to mental health resources.
  • Launch team members will be provided with images and links to share through your social media platforms and platforms managed by organizations you represent.
  • A guest post or interview with the author for your blog or podcast.
  • The opportunity to apply for a slot on one of our Key Ministry writing team, if desired.

If you’d like to be considered for the Mental Health and the Church launch team, click here to submit an application. You’ll be asked for some basic contact information, a link to your blog or website, information about your social media presence and some information about why you’re interested in mental health inclusion ministry. A Key Ministry team member will be in touch with you by January 15th to let you know if you’ve been accepted to the launch team.

If you have the connections, qualifications and experience we’re looking for, we’d be honored to have you join us as we begin this new phase of our mission.

 

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What God accomplished through Key Ministry in 2017

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The second best gift

Christmas Eve 2017 represents Key Ministry’s fifteenth birthday. On behalf of our Board and ministry team, we extend our thanks to everyone who has generously supported us through their time, talent, treasure and prayer. You all share in whatever success we’ve experienced in extending the love of Christ to families of kids with disabilities. Best Wishes to you and your family for a Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Joyous 2018!

Tonight and tomorrow morning, Christians everywhere will gather for worship to honor God for providing us the greatest gift of all…the gift of Jesus, who through atoning for our sins made it possible for us to be in relationship with God and to enjoy His presence forever. As I found a little time to reflect upon my blessings today, I found myself thinking about another gift God’s given to me and many of my friends – a gift I hope more of our readers are able to explore and enjoy during the year ahead.

I was fortunate to find a church as an adult that encouraged each member of the congregation to identify opportunities for ministry and provided the resources, support and encouragement necessary to do ministry.

The Catholic scholar Timothy George wrote about the priesthood of all believers as a cardinal principle of the Reformation. Here, he examines the teaching of Luther and Calvin regarding the rights and responsibilities of individual Christians with regard to personal ministry.

But for Luther, the priesthood of all believers did not mean, “I am my own priest.” It meant rather: In the community of saints, God has so tempered the body that we are all priests to each other. We stand before God and intercede for one another, we proclaim God’s Word to one another and we celebrate his presence among us in worship, praise, and fellowship. Moreover, our priestly ministry does not terminate upon ourselves. It propels us into the world in service and witness.

John Calvin interpreted the priesthood of all believers in terms of the church’s participation in the threefold office of Christ as Prophet, King, and Priest. Specifically, every Christian is mandated to be a representative of Christ in his redemptive outreach to the world: “All believers … should seek to bring others into the church, and should strive to lead the wanderers back to the road, should stretch forth a hand to the fallen and should win over the outsiders.” In other words, the priesthood of believers is not a prerogative on which we can rest; it is a commission which sends us forth into the world to exercise a priestly ministry not for ourselves, but for others—“the outsiders”—not instead of Christ, to be sure, but for the sake of Christ and at his behest.

For Calvin, the priesthood of all believers was not only a spiritual privilege but a moral obligation and a personal vocation.

One of my greatest joys over the past fifteen years of serving through Key Ministry has involved the opportunity to provide some wonderful people with a platform for doing ministry. We have an incredible team of writers who produce new articles and posts that offer encouragement and support to tens of thousands of families each month. We’re looking forward to twelve new voices joining our team in 2018 as the work of SNAPPIN’ Ministries continues under our umbrella. I’m especially looking forward to the opportunity to gather together on April 20-21st for Inclusion Fusion Live when dozens of fabulous leaders and speakers, most of whom are not ordained clergy or ministry professionals will come together in suburban Cleveland to help churches connect with and bless families impacted by disability.

Here’s my question to you as 2017 comes to a close and 2018 promises new opportunities. Will you embrace all of the gifts God has given you in the year ahead, including the ability to serve and represent Jesus in extending his love to those who are hurting? Is this the year you’ll respond to the small, still voice calling you out of your comfort zone to respond to the needs God has placed before you? Let us know how we might encourage and support you if your next step involves sharing the Gospel with families struggling as a result of physical, mental health, intellectual or developmental disabilities.

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Key Ministry is celebrating fifteen years of connecting churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The costs of providing free training, consultation, resources and support to church leaders and families has again outstripped our revenues.  Please consider helping us continue our work through a financial gift of $15, $150 or $1,500 if you’re able to help us cover our budget shortfall in 2017 and expand the work of our ministry in 2018 and beyond!

 

 

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How a hidden disability kept one family from church

From the earliest days of our ministry, our team at Key has been focused on helping churches minister to kids with “hidden disabilities”…significant emotional, behavioral, developmental or neurologic conditions lacking outwardly apparent physical symptoms. Some friends in a like-minded ministry have produced a wonderful video that illustrates the challenges one family impacted by a hidden disability experienced in maintaining their involvement at church.

Tory White is a staff member at CLC Network, a ministry organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan that equips congregations and Christian schools to glorify God through purposeful, innovative inclusion of persons with varied abilities. Several years ago, Tory contracted Lyme disease, a bacterial infection frequently associated with fever, muscle pain, fatigue, cardiac symptoms, a characteristic rash and a wide variety of neurologic symptoms. Listen as Tory describes how her illness impacted her family’s experience of church…

I thought there were several important lessons for churches in the message Tory communicated…

Online church services are an important lifeline to families affected by disability.

The sensory aspects of our worship services often represent a significant barrier for persons with hidden disabilities. In Tory’s case, the volume of the music during the praise and worship component of the service was so overwhelming that she needed to leave.

Little things matter. In Tory’s case, the type of bread used during communion intensified her sense of isolation from her larger church community.

No church can do everything, but every church can do something. Tory recognized this reality in the video…

What we realized we were looking for in a church was more than any one church could provide.

Barb Newman from CLC Network spoke in the video about the principle of universal design for worship – the idea that all of God’s people are invited to access the Gospel message and be included in all aspects of worship and the entire worshiping community benefits from worship services that are designed and led with the goal of including everyone.

Check out the video and the links included in the post to learn more about CLC Network and universal design for worship. And block out April 21st and 22nd on your calendar to come join us and our friends in Cleveland at Inclusion Fusion Live to learn more about how churches can more effectively welcome individuals and families impacted by hidden disabilities.
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On December 24th, Key Ministry will be celebrating fifteen years of connecting churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The costs of providing free training, consultation, resources and support to church leaders and families has again outstripped our revenues.  Please consider helping us continue our work through a financial gift of $15, $150 or $1,500 if you’re able to help us cover our budget shortfall in 2017 and expand the work of our ministry in 2018 and beyond!

 

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