“A Church For Every Child” by Stephen Grcevich, MD (President, Board of Directors Key Ministry)
(Welcome to Dr. Stephen Grcevich, President of the board of directors of Key Ministry, and thanks for this exciting guest post about special needs ministry in the church. Sergei and I have found Key Ministry to be a great resource as we kicked off our church’s inclusive children’s ministry, The King’s Table. I’m exciting for all of you to know about Key Ministry and their great work!)
I’m honored to have the opportunity to be an invited guest on Gillian’s blog.
I have no doubt that God is going to use Gillian and her family to do great things in advancing the cause of God’s Kingdom. She and her husband Sergei are building a church in Chicago where families of kids with disabilities are welcome. She’s a passionate advocate for children with Down Syndrome and their families. She’s also very openly and courageously written about her personal battle with depression and is an inspiration to Christians everywhere who struggle with mental health issues.
My introduction to disability ministry serves as further proof that there are no coincidences with God.
Fifteen years ago, I was serving on the Elder board of the church my wife and I attend (Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, OH) when Libby Peterson (at that time, the Children’s Ministry Director) was giving a presentation on the church’s efforts to support multiple families in the church who adopted children with very complex emotional and developmental disabilities from orphanages in Russia and Bulgaria following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Libby very articulately described the struggles several families were experiencing as they attempted to maintain their involvement and connections in the church.
At the time, I was a relatively young child psychiatrist wearing lots of different hats. Libby’s presentation led me to routinely question families coming through my practice and the inner city clinic where I worked about the impact of the conditions for which they were seeking help (ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety, trauma, neglect, fetal alcohol effects, learning disabilities) on their child’s spiritual development, as well as the impact on the family’s church involvement. What I found was more than a little unsettling…the presence of a significant “hidden disability” in a child usually posed a major barrier to families seeking to attend church.
As our home church became more skillful at welcoming and including kids with complex disabilities, more and more families from our practice began gravitating to the church and the ministry grew at one point to approximately fifty children and their families. Plans for kids with special needs were incorporated into the design of our new children’s ministry wing.
Around that time, I was involved with some clinical research that received a great deal of recognition and led to weekly speaking invitations at hospitals and clinics around the country. Wherever I went, I tried to make a point of mentioning the work that was being done in our home church. Our church staff began receiving inquiries and requests for help from churches around the country after physicians and other professionals attended my presentations.
Ten years ago this fall, I sat down with my senior pastor (Hu Auburn) and floated the idea of an organization that would help churches everywhere do the work that was being done at Bay Presbyterian to help welcome families of kids with emotional, behavioral, developmental and neurologic disabilities. Hu came up with the name “Key Ministry”, offered to serve as our founding Vice-President, recruited his wife (Jan) to be our founding Executive Director, and was indispensable in helping us tap into the time, talent and treasure of many gifted Christ followers.
Ten years later, Key Ministry offers FREE training, consultation, resources and support to churches everywhere seeking to serve children with disabilities and their families.
Our three blogs have been accessed from nearly 140 countries in the past year. Our talented staff (Rebecca Hamilton, Katie Wetherbee and Harmony Hensley) routinely speak at major ministry conferences throughout the U.S. Our team offers regional “JAM Sessions”… intensive one-day training experiences for church leaders seeking to launch inclusive disability ministries.
Our website offers over 180 free downloadable resources for church staff, volunteers and families, along with a disability ministry video library. Next month, we’re excited about hosting our Second Annual Inclusion Fusion Special Needs Ministry Web Summit, which we made available free of charge to over 1,300 pastors, church staff, volunteers and family members last November.
This year’s Inclusion Fusion will take place from November 12-16 and features on-demand video presentations from over 35 recognized leaders in the field of disability ministry, along with numerous opportunities to interact live with our speakers.
We’re honored that Gillian will be joining our faculty this year and presenting on the topic of Loss and Grief in parenting children with special needs.
Free registration and a current listing of speakers is available here. We’ll also be announcing a major new resource we’re making available to churches during this year’s Inclusion Fusion.
Most importantly, our team at Key Ministry seeks to offer not just resources, but relationship. We want a pastor or ministry director from anywhere to feel free to call or Skype us for advice from an experienced leader when dealing with an especially challenging child or family served by their church.
Help us spread the word about the availability of Key Ministry’s free resources to churches everywhere seeking to welcome children with disabilities and their families. Check out the resources on our website. Register for and participate in Inclusion Fusion. Connect with our people. Most of all help us to move one step closer to the day when there will be a church for every child and every family.
Steve is a physician specializing in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, who resides in Chagrin Falls, OH with his wife (Denise) and daughters Leah and Mira. In addition to serving as President of Key Ministry, Steve runs a group practice in Chagrin Falls, serves on faculty at two medical schools, and is actively involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications used to treat ADHD, anxiety and depression in children and teens. He blogs at Church4EveryChild.