What the church can learn from a basketball game

Photo credit: Canton Repository

Photo credit: Canton Repository

A couple of years ago, I introduced our readers to “Downtown Nate” Manko. Nate is a young man who plays the drums in the praise band at Martindale Christian Fellowship in Canton, OH, where his father (Steve) serves as Senior Pastor. Because of brain trauma at the time of his birth, Nate experiences significant spasticity in his left arm and leg. When he was younger, he experienced very frequent seizures that were poorly controlled by medication. Dr. Ben Carson ultimately performed surgery on Nate, removing a portion of his brain in order to stop the seizures. Despite the residual impairment Nate experiences from his neurologic condition, he has followed in his family’s tradition of athletic excellence through playing a key role for the Royal Knights, one of Stark County’s Special Olympics basketball teams. The Royal Knights practice in the church’s gymnasium and are perennial contenders for the state championship.

When Nate was a student at Louisville High School, he was an active participant in the school’s marching band and the pep band that performs during varsity basketball games. Nate was befriended by the varsity basketball coach who followed his play with the Royal Knights closely. During Nate’s final year of high school (two years ago) the varsity coach  and the school administration thought Nate deserved a “senior night” where he would be honored in a similar fashion to other varsity athletes. The administration approached Nate’s parents and the Royal Knights with the idea of hosting one of their regular season games in which the varsity cheerleaders and pep band would perform and Nate and a teammate attending the high school would be recognized. The Louisville community rallied around the idea, and Nate’s “senior night” was a bigger draw than any home varsity basketball game that season.

img_2135The game was such a success that the school and the Royal Knights decided to make it an annual event. This year, my schedule finally allowed me to attend Nate’s “home” game at Louisville High School. Nate’s older brother flew in from Minneapolis to attend his first “senior night” game, and I had the pleasure of meeting Nate’s neurologist for the first time and joining him and many of Nate’s family members in seats behind the Royal Knights’ bench. I’m glad I arrived early…the gym was packed! Nate raised his game in response to the crowd and the presence of local media. He scored a career-high 23 points, including three three-pointers, and went 6 of 8 at the line, setting a standard for free throw shooting that we hope will be matched by a certain member of the Cleveland Cavaliers who wears Nate’s number! That’s the two of us on the right, with the final score in the background.

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Photo Credit: Canton Repository

Nate shared the spotlight that night with Rocco, a teammate with great flair and charisma who clearly captured the love and admiration of the home crowd. During the player introductions, with all the lights in the gym off except for a single spotlight, Rocco whipped the student section into a frenzy and rewarded them by tossing t-shirts into the crowd after his name was announced. After the Royal Knights came from behind in the second half and took control of the game in the fourth quarter, Rocco was given an opportunity to score in front of his hometown fans and classmates. When he nailed an arching jumper from behind the three point line in the final minute of the game, the crowd, student section and bench exploded as if they had just won the seventh game of the NBA finals!

The event has been such a big success that other school districts in the county represented on the Royal Knights are making plans to host “home games” celebrating their current students and graduates who play on the team. The idea is so simple that I’m surprised that other school districts haven’t embraced it.

What was most remarkable about the game was the radical demonstration of how Nate and Rocco are valued by the community in which they’ve grown up. The expressions of the fans and players in the pictures from the featured story in the local newspaper capture the authenticity of the love and support experienced by all in attendance that night. What would our churches look like if we valued the gifts and talents of all of our members and celebrated the work accomplished by the Holy Spirit through them in the way that Louisville High School demonstrated to two of their athletes?

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KM greenKey Ministry helps connect churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. In order to provide the free training, consultation, resources and support we offer every day to church leaders and family members, we depend upon the prayers and generous financial support of readers like you. Please pray for the work of our ministry and consider, if able, to support us financially!

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Jeff McNair: Eight Questions to Guide the Next Steps for Your Disability Ministry

shutterstock_516724222-copyWhen someone thinks about “next steps” in ministry they have come to recognize that where they are is no longer where they want to be. Perhaps they have visualized a different place they would prefer to be. They desire to move in the direction of their new vision.

Leaders are often unsure of exactly where they are because they have not fully fleshed out their vision. They may not know what questions to ask as they think about taking next steps. In order to see where one is and where one might go, some form of evaluative criteria is needed. Answering the right questions often provides the vision for what is next.

The answers to questions about next steps in growing disability ministry will be different for every church. Some churches have not sought to include persons with disabilities. Some churches serve only a few persons with intellectual disabilities. Others have developed what might be referred to as “silo” ministries…stand-alone disability ministries that operate independently of other vital ministries of the church.

Here are eight questions leaders might use as a guide for determining the next steps in the development of their church’s disability ministry:

  • Is our church welcoming persons with disabilities and their families?
  • Who are we welcoming and what specifically are we doing to offer welcome?
  • Are persons who attend our church integrated into all aspects of church life?
  • What is the evidence they are fully integrated?
  • Is the gifting of all people, independent of their personal characteristics, being used?
  • How are we providing a platform for the expression of everyone’s gifting?
  • What expectations are we placing on regular church members to love their neighbors with disabilities?
  • What is the evidence that each of us within the body are doing the difficult work of loving our neighbor?

These eight questions will help you to determine the next steps in inclusion of persons affected by disability in the local church. A more extensive list of questions is presented in an article I published with Dr. Marc Tumeinski, (available here for download)  “What Would be Better?” The self-examination questions and criteria were designed to help ministry leaders to reflect upon the current state of the disability ministries they lead. With that understanding in mind, the article simply asks readers to consider the question, “what would be better?”

What does our shared vision of Christian community look like? Who is present in our biblical vision of community? How can the inclusion of vulnerable people better reflect the Gospel vision and therefore strengthen our church community? How can we more closely approach this vision here and now within our church? Given the actual makeup of our membership, might we unintentionally or unconsciously be putting some groups of people outside of this vision? What would be better?  (p. 18)

I would invite readers considering the next steps for their ministry to use the questions posed in the paper as a guide for advancing disability ministry in their local church. I would like to leave you with one final thought.

I once saw a billboard advertisement that said, “Better has no endpoint.” Whatever stage we are at in our ministry work or our own walk with Christ, we recognize we are on a continuum. Minimally, each of us has the ability to assist others seeking to get to the place where we are. I may be gifted at integration while you are gifted at biblical instruction. We should seek to provide assistance to each other as we work to more fully emulate the vision for the church as the Body of Christ.

fullsizeoutput_237fDr. Jeff McNair serves as Professor of Education and as Director of the M.A. in Disability Studies program at California Baptist University. He also serves as Director of the Policy Center of the Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability and volunteers with The Light and Power Company, a group that includes adults with developmental disabilities at Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, CA. He blogs at Disabled Christianity.

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We’re starting a new group for leaders in mental health inclusion ministry

shutterstock_291556127-copy-2Our crew at Key Ministry is starting a Facebook group for leaders interested in advancing the cause of mental health inclusion ministry.

Modeled after the Special Needs and Disability Ministry Leaders forum, the new group provides a platform for Christians interested in ministry with children and adults with mental illness. We seek to help churches launch intentional mental health inclusion ministries and provide a forum for discussing “best practices” for mental health inclusion, including outreach, education and support.

Membership in the group is limited to individuals serving in a leadership/staff position in a local church or parachurch organization, or volunteers with a demonstrable interest in launching intentional mental health ministry through a local church. Persons interested in joining the group may be invited by an established member or group administrator, or may register (subject to the approval of an administrator) by completing the form available through this link.

We look forward to the group serving as a catalyst for the rapid growth of mental health inclusion ministry. You can help us through sharing this post with anyone you know with interest in joining this rapidly growing ministry movement!

The Mental Health Inclusion Ministry Leaders Group is sponsored by Key Ministry, in partnership with OutsideIn Ministries.

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YOU Want ME to Run the Special Needs Ministry? Cindi Ferrini

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His diagnosis was still as fresh as the day we heard it three years earlier. Now, at age 5 I continued in the throngs of potty training for the 3rd year. (Not 3rd week, 3rd year.) So when asked that question from someone at my church, I spared not a breath in saying, “This just isn’t a good time for me to take on this huge, wonderful, and what would be for me overwhelming ministry opportunity.”

I’m a “go-getter” and get a lot done; sort of that “Ever-ready bunny” type. So I suppose it wasn’t a stretch to ask me, but where that rubber band would have snapped is at home. There were so many responsibilities in caring for one with cerebral palsy, seizures, mental challenges, and at the time – no verbal skills. None. Most of my day was a guessing game like trying to get to the end of the board game; I didn’t care if I won, I just wanted to finish. So, for me, while I might have seemed a good fit for the job, it wouldn’t have been good to add something of that magnitude with all we were still adjusting to at home. It simply would have been too much.

BUT, if your church is considering getting a Special Needs Ministry off the ground, here are some things to consider for choosing the right person to get that ministry going:

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Having a supportive church staff who’ll support one who can head up this ministry is step one….then……

  • Don’t start by asking a parent caring for one with special needs. They really could use “the break” from caregiving. IF they volunteer, that’s a different story…sign them up!
  • Look for a person who is grace filled, merciful, and having administrative skills would be a plus, but mostly it’s the kind and caring person who has a passion for a caregiving ministry that will fill the bill.
  • Be sure this person can delegate so they’re not doing everything alone. It’s not humanly possible.
  • In delegating, this leader needs a “team” to make things work and work well.
  • Encourage this person, support their ideas, and help them emotionally – also physically and spiritually. They’ll need a well-rounded “way to go” team spirit group of people behind them.

While I would have loved heading up a ministry to special needs families, the timing just didn’t align with other things happening in my life at the time; and that’s OK, because when we have to say no, it allows others to step forward, it allows us to be ministered to, and it gives us the break we desperately need when someone else will take time with our children.

But there are times we can be of great help…stay tuned for Part TWO next month!

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newferriniJoe and Cindi Ferrini are authors of Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course who enjoy speaking on topics that will encourage men and women to make a difference in their sphere of influence by being all they can be for the Lord, their families, and themselves. They speak nationally for FamilyLife’s Weekend To Remember Get-a-Ways and are on associate staff of CRU. Make sure to check out their blog. Today’s blog was written by Cindi Ferrini.

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Our ministry blueprint for 2017

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a series of conversations with parents, friends, ministry colleagues and fellow Christians that have deepened my appreciation for the extent to which my family and I have been blessed by the teaching, relationships and opportunities to serve we’ve experienced through our church. Like most readers of this blog, life in 2016 brought far more challenges than I would have liked. My faith provides me with a way to make sense of the daily hurts and frustrations of life and hope that all my troubles are temporary.

This past week, I had the best time I’ve had in months during a brainstorming day with some fellow Christians interested in caring for kids and families, kicking around ideas for how we might share our wisdom, experience and resources to advance the Gospel. It makes me happy to think about other families having a strong faith foundation when the winds and waves of contemporary life come crashing against the shore.

In that context, I’d like to share the priorities our team has felt called to pursue during the coming year. Our five principal areas of focus in 2017 are to:

  • Expand ministry training
  • Grow Key for Families
  • Offer resources, supports to churches to promote mental health inclusion
  • Increase collaboration with other like-minded ministries and organizations
  • Build a sustainable organization

Training/Education: We’re looking at ways of expanding the availability of ministry training in 2017. We’ll have monthly video trainings, accompanied by opportunities for interactive discussion. We’ll continue to host our disability ministry video roundtable at 12:00 Eastern on the third Wednesday of each month. We’re interested in getting out to more ministry conferences throughout the country. We continue to offer free consultation to churches and church leaders interested in ministry with kids with disabilities and their families, and hope to provide more support to churches in the year ahead.

We’ll be introducing several monthly contributors to this blog, which seeks to resource pastors, church leaders and volunteers for ministry with kids with disabilities and their families.

Barb Dittrich will be sharing practical ideas for churches seeking to provide support to families of children with all types of disabilities.

Colleen Swindoll-Thompson will be speaking into the ways churches can more effectively minister with kids and families affected by mental illness and/or trauma.

Cindi Ferrini will be sharing ideas for how churches might offer support to kids and families through the transition to adulthood.

Growing Key for Families. We launched our private, online communities for families this past spring. We want to help families impacted by disability find churches prepared to embrace and include them in the full range of activities that help kids and adults to come to know Jesus and grow in faith in Jesus. We hope to offer families an opportunity to experience caring and community online.We’ll have members-only book and Bible studies and educational events.

Know a family affected by disability in need of a church or Christian community? Share this link with them.

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Mental Health Inclusion: We’re going to offering resources and supports to churches specifically for outreach to and inclusion of families of children and teens with mental illness or trauma. We’ll be putting together a video series on mental health inclusion ministry that will launch in the Fall of 2017. We’ll be organizing an invitation-only Facebook group for mental health ministry leaders that will be launching in the next thirty days. And this author hopes to be out on the road with increasing frequency in anticipation of the scheduled launch of our book on mental health inclusion on February 1, 2018.

Promoting collaboration among like-minded ministries: We can maximize the impact of our efforts through partnering with other organizations called to help the church become more inclusive of persons with disabilities and their families. We’re just beginning to imagine what an online conference in the Fall to promote ministry collaboration might look like. Look for us to do more in 2017 to call attention to great ideas and resources from other like-minded ministries.

Building a sustainable ministry organization: As our small organization grows larger, we need to create the systems and support to sustain our work.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to all the new donors who contributed to our Annual Fund and online campaigns this past Christmas season. While we fell significantly short of covering our operating costs last year, the ministry needs we’re called to meet will require an even larger budget in 2017. Our entire team was very encouraged by the influx of new supporters who recognized the need for the ministry we offer and generously supported us through their prayers, encouragement and financial contributions in 2016. We’ll need to generate a little under $7,000/month in financial support to cover our expenses in 2017. Anything you can do to help is much appreciated!

I have one additional request. I’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to pray for me and the other members of our ministry team.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything new to the blog for the last few weeks. I was working very hard over the holidays to complete the first draft of our book on mental health inclusion to the publishers by the due date in early January.

This year was by far and away the most challenging one I’ve experienced in our practice. I seek to honor God by providing a truly excellent service to the families who seek help through our practice. I’ve found myself needing to expend more mental effort and energy with each passing year to sustain the level of excellence with which I’m comfortable. I’ve never felt as mentally depleted as I’ve felt over the last few months. I’ve been too tired for a couple of years to go to a Bible Study or a small group or to make or maintain friendships.

I’d ask that God would make available a way for me to grow in my own faith this year, providing me with the mental reserves to be available to Him and to my family. That God would make available a way to serve kids and families with excellence and provide sufficient margin so that finances don’t become a distraction. That he’d help me to prioritize my time and provide me with the mental capacity to care for my family and myself. That he’d protect and provide for the members of our ministry team and connect us with like-minded individuals and organizations who might make use of our resources for growing the Kingdom.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement! Let’s do this.

 

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Going to church as a family on Christmas

418053_4496514405313_1535520335_nAs I reflect upon Christmas past, I’ve observed that many of our family’s traditions revolve around attending church for the holiday.

stacks_youngstownMy father’s family was desperately poor while he was growing up during the depression. They lived in Youngstown in a rented house with railroad tracks in the backyard separating them from the steel mill where my grandfather worked. My father’s parents were immigrants from Croatia and were faithful Catholics. They attended an ethnic church about a 2 ½ mile walk from their home where they heard the Gospel read and the sermon preached in their native tongue.

12400754_10205435797441058_1298667585739094956_nThere were years when my father and his brothers received nothing but an orange for their Christmas gift. His family always attended the Midnight mass at their church and would walk home together after mass with others from their neighborhood. They may not have had money for presents, but they always had lots of food when they got home…usually cold and hungry after the long walk. They enjoyed a feast of kielbasa and lots of ethnic delicacies after returning home.

When my sister and I were old enough, our family continued the tradition for a number of years. There came a point after high school when my dad and I continued to go after the rest of the family opted for sleep. The last time we went to Midnight mass together was during my time in medical school, in the midst of the worst cold weather outbreak our state has ever seen in December. It was impressive to see his church nearly full at a time when the attendees were predominantly elderly on a night when the weathermen were warning people of death if their cars broke down in the cold.

img_0601When my wife and I started our family, church on Christmas Eve became part of our tradition. We told our older daughter (Leah)  about her little sister’s (Mira) impending arrival after the Christmas Eve service in 1998. As my dad and I did back in the day, Leah and I will head out to an 11 PM service at a church near our home where she and her sister volunteered and attended Sunday school. They put on a lovely, small service culminating in communion at midnight and the singing of Silent Night.

It’s fitting that we signed the papers to create Key Ministry in our senior pastor’s office between Christmas Eve services fourteen years ago tonight. After all this time, we’re still about helping families of kids with disabilities (the vast majority representing “hidden disabilities”) to find a church where they’ll be welcomed and experience the opportunity to grow in faith while using their gifts to serve others. Our mission is successful when all families have the opportunity for memories of attending church together to form the foundation of their Christmas traditions.

KM greenTonight, I’d ask our followers to do two things. First, I’d ask if you would consider making a financial gift to support the work of our ministry. We’ve lost a number of major donors in recent years and find ourselves in need of a large influx of small donors to provide for our needs going forward. If you’re unable to give at this time, please pray for others to step up to meet the need. Second, if a member of your family has a disability, either visible or hidden and you’re attending church tonight or tomorrow, can you have someone take a picture of your family and send it to me (steve@keyministry.org) or post it on our Facebook page?

On behalf of our entire ministry team, I’d like to convey our best wishes to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Joyous New Year!

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The implications of “safe spaces” FROM kids with special needs

shutterstock_506499808Count me among a very small number of child and adolescent psychiatrists very troubled by the proliferation of “safe spaces.”

In the last few years, the idea has proliferated that students on college campuses are entitled to protection from speakers, literature or instruction communicating ideas that result in personal discomfort. As a parent of a high school senior, I cringe every time some school to which she plans to apply makes a public display of silencing viewpoints outside of those accepted by the predominant culture. I expect her to come into contact with ideas and values that differ from those she has been exposed to in our home. I also expect that she will be shown tolerance when her ideas and opinions depart from the predominant view in her academic community.

I recognize the desirability of efforts to protect trauma victims from experiences likely to reactivate intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks. My practice is filled with kids who are exquisitely sensitive to the verbal taunts and harsh judgments of peers. But our failure as a profession to make distinctions between deliberate efforts to inflict psychological harm through words or actions upon persons with an identified disability or significant vulnerability and exposure to thoughts, ideas, opinions or world views that evoke feelings of anger, guilt or discomfort has jumped the walls of academia. The metastasis of our failure is beginning to infect Western culture in ways we can scarcely imagine.

I appreciated this post from former college president Judith Shapiro, in which she described “a tendency toward what we might see as self-infantilization on the part of students.” She continues…

How can I respond in a way that plays to my students’ strengths as opposed to their weaknesses? How can this serve as an occasion to increase their wisdom and self-confidence? How will I help them to grow up?

To invoke the timelessly wise words of the Rolling Stones: If students can’t always get what they want, if we try sometimes, we might just find they get what they need.

One consequence is a generation of young people lacking sufficient resilience to work through times of adversity in life. If a college student can’t cope with the idea that there are people in their immediate environment who support a different political candidate than they do, how are they going to cope when they lose a job, experience a serious illness or the death of a parent?

As it turns out, the desire to protect some from the pain caused by their consciences is being used as a weapon against advocacy for the most vulnerable. We head to France to check out the newest application of the Law of Merited Impossibility in the ongoing culture war between moral relativism and the remnants of traditional culture.

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation produced a video in response to an e-mail they received from an expectant mother…

I’m expecting a baby. I’ve discovered he has Down syndrome. I’m scared. What kind of life will my child have?

A French court upheld a ruling by the country’s broadcast commission to ban the airing of the video featuring happy, smiling children and young adults as a commercial. Why would the government want to ban such a positive and uplifting video?

The court said the video’s depiction of happy Down syndrome children is “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.”

If the type of advocacy demonstrated in this video is no longer socially acceptable in a large, Western democracy, what’s next? You guessed it.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Romans 2:15-16 (ESV)

The “elephant in the living room” in our ongoing culture wars is that Jesus, Christianity and the teachings of Scripture make some people very, very uncomfortable. If any teaching or content with the potential to cause emotional distress is “off-limits,” where does that leave the Word of God and those who seek to live by it? Scripture describes itself as a weapon against the conscience…

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)

Those of us who identify with Christ and with the church need to embrace the reality that we’re foot soldiers in a war that’s been waged on Earth since the beginning of time against an enemy that doesn’t fight fair. We need to take advantage of any lull in the action to seize as much territory for our King as we can. Advocacy on behalf of our most vulnerable kids and families will get the attention of those who aren’t aligned with our King. And we can anticipate that they’ll hit back. Hard.

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I’ll close by directing you to this article by Ash Milton, who explores the argument that secularism functions as a religion

We live in an age where this paradigm now informs the values of our generation. Its fundamental claims of equality and personal freedom are more or less unquestioned. It informs our actions as well. To support the next big Cause is good, and proof of your tolerance and open-mindedness. To practice a religion with traditional values is acceptable so long as you don’t contradict the overarching narrative. To actually challenge that narrative is something only bigots, reactionaries, and basement dwelling virgins do. (As an aside, a good rule of thumb about what beliefs are respectable is to see which shaming language is okay to use.)

Like the Russians a century ago, this generation in the West has experienced the victory of a new memeplex. What makes this memeplex fundamentally different is that it doesn’t claim the authority which religion does, or even like other political ideologies do. It insists that tolerance and personal freedom, free from judgement, are the Most Important Thing. Can’t we all just get along? But this is a delusion. In order for societies to function, commonality of values and visions must exist. Even a society which values tolerance above all else draws the line somewhere. Inevitably, certain ideas win out. Certain attitudes gain cultural dominance. Others become unfashionable, disrespectful, or outright heretical. Only bad people say or do those things. True, the new memeplex isn’t necessarily a religion, united in a single institution. But when all is said and done, when new orthodoxies are in place and new groups of heretics are shamed, purged, and punished, the only major difference is that the Church knew what it was.

Are you ready?

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KM greenOur team at Key Ministry appreciates the prayers and support of all our followers, but at this time of the year, we find ourselves very much in need of your financial support. It will cost approximately $80,000 to maintain the free training, consultations and support we offer to help connect churches with families impacted by disability. We’re currently $30,000 short of covering our expenses for 2016. Please consider making a personally significant gift to supporting the work of our ministry.

Best Wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year on behalf of the entire Key Ministry team!

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An adoptive father returns home

15220196_10207849971792711_7856518105733868503_nKevin Kelley finally went home this past Wednesday.

Kevin had been raised in the Catholic faith and he lived out the values imparted by the Jesuit education he received at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, followed by college at the College of the Holy Cross.

Kevin and his wife (Lyn) found their way to our church after adopting their sons from Eastern Europe. They had been very involved in their local parish prior to the adoptions, but their church didn’t have the supports in place to enable them to attend Mass as a couple. Thanks to our church’s special needs ministry, they were able to continue their practice of worshiping together.

Kevin joined our ministry Board shortly after our inception. While serving on our Board, Kevin was actively involved in establishing a dialogue between Key and our local Catholic diocese so that other families wouldn’t be faced with the difficult choice that he and his wife experienced.

I associate two things with Kevin that were foundational to our ministry. One is the appreciation he brought us for the challenges adoptive parents face in staying involved with the church when their children experience emotional, behavioral or developmental challenges that make church attendance difficult. The other is the idea that every church should be prepared to welcome families of kids with “hidden disabilities.” While our church was fortunate to have Kevin for two decades, he and his wife shouldn’t have had to leave the church they were part of for many years to find a place where they could worship together as a family.

Kevin had retired after serving nearly 25 years as an insurance executive. He faithfully served as the greeter at the main entrance to our church’s 9:00 AM contemporary worship, and his family is a regular fixture near the front of the church on the right hand side. Late this summer, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and was conspicuously absent from his post at church throughout the fall as he experienced an especially rapid progression of his illness. He had an opportunity to meet Jesus face to face this past Wednesday.

The faithfulness that Kevin and his wife demonstrated in seeking to maintain the family’s practice of worshiping together following the adoption of their sons resulted in a significant spiritual legacy. Kevin was an important influence in the early days of our ministry. His wife has served in leadership positions in our church during important times of transition. Their boys grew up in a home where God was honored surrounded by a summertime church family.

On behalf of our entire Key Ministry team, we would like to extend our prayers and condolences to Lyn and their sons, Jordan and Adam, along with our appreciation for Kevin’s service to our ministry.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matthew 25:21 (ESV)

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What Key Ministry is about…

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A different way of looking at mental health ministry

shutterstock_428175340I wish all of our readers had been able to attend the Mental Health Ministry in the Local Church conference this past weekend, presented by OutsideIn Ministries and hosted by Ironbridge Baptist Church in Chester, VA.

Catherine Boyle and her team at OutsideIn have a vision to bring persons with mental illness into the Body of Christ. I left feeling very encouraged that the Lord is raising up like-minded people in many different places to champion the development of mental health inclusion ministry as he is doing for special needs ministry.

The range of speakers selected for and topics presented at the conference challenged church leaders to consider a broader approach to mental health support and inclusion. Featured presentations examined the science behind mental illness, legal tools to help individuals with mental illness and the importance of developing trauma-informed faith communities.

fullsizeoutput_22bcCatherine presented OutsideIn’s model for mental health ministry. She used the illustration of a three-legged stool to represent the cultural support for mental health needs, with one leg representing the government, one leg representing service providers and support/advocacy groups and the third leg representing the church, with the church being uniquely positioned to offer relationship. In their model, components of a mental health ministry include…

  • An identified mental health prayer team
  • A mental health liaison
  • A communication director/team
  • A care team
  • A plan to identify church and community needs
  • Mental health training – including mental health first aid, child abuse training/response, suicide prevention and emotional CPR

I found her “job description” for a mental health liaison to be especially helpful. I’ve wrestled with the idea of having a “concierge” to provide a single point of contact for families impacted by mental health conditions who struggle with some aspect of church participation and to advocate internally for appropriate accommodations and supports to optimize involvement.

The team at OutsideIn Ministries has much to offer churches looking for help in building a foundation to support a substantial commitment to mental health ministry.

The best way for me to communicate the spirit of the conference is to share this brief video in which Mark Jordan, the Senior Pastor at Ironbridge discusses why his church places such high value on welcoming and embracing families impacted by mental illness.

Editor’s note: My presentations from the conference on Mental Health Inclusion Ministry…The Mission Field Just Outside Your Door and Seven Strategies for Promoting Mental Health Inclusion in the Local Church are available here.

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