One God, One Hope, One Body…March 28 #oneconference328

ONE ConferenceChristians profess ONE God, ONE Hope, ONE Body, yet we divide ourselves in many ways. On March 28, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, children’s ministry leaders, and people affected by disability will learn ways for the body of Christ not only to include but to engage members who have various disabilities.

While no one from our core Key Ministry team will be present in Glendale, AZ or Temecula or Ripon, CA, some of our friends are putting on a very cool conference spanning three cities and two states on Saturday, March 28th that we encourage our friends in the Southwest to attend.

Rev. Mark Stephenson and his team at Disability Concerns, the disability ministry arm of the Christian Reformed Church have put together One, a cutting-edge conference involving technology and live presenters at three different conference sites.

481-EmilyColsonMax.jpgKeynote speaker Emily Colson, author of Dancing with Max, will speak on “Come One, Come All.” God’s design for the church is unity—every unique member of the body bringing gifts and belonging to one another. Through life with Max, her 24-year-old son with autism, Emily will share how that design can be lived out so that churches become greater witnesses in the community.

Colson’s address will be offered live in Temecula and via livestream in Ripon and Glendale.

avatar-1.jpg.320x320pxEach location will have different speakers and breakout sessions (schedule available here), but we would call your attention to breakouts by Mike Dobes, Church Relations Supervisor of Joni and Friends at the Temecula site.

One will take place at First Southern Baptist Church, 10250 North 59th Avenue, Glendale, AZ 85302, Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, 517 Orange Ave. Ripon, CA 95366 and Rancho Community Church, 31300 Rancho Community Way, Temecula, CA 92592.

For more information and to register now, visit Cost includes lunch: $49 for a single registration and $39 per person if more than one person registers from the same church. Limited scholarships are available, but please check with your church first for assistance.


KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

Posted in Announcements, Resources, Training Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lorna Bradley…Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving

Lorna_BradleyEditor’s Note: Lorna Bradley is a friend of Key Ministry, and ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and the parent of an adult son with Asperger’s Disorder. This past fall, Lorna partnered with us around the development of a prototype for a real time, interactive small group model for families impacted by disability using advanced videoconferencing technology that can be easily replicated by local churches. The curriculum for the small group (and several others like it) is the focus of her new book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving. Here’s the first post of a three-part miniseries from Lorna…

I have hit the bottom of the tank today. We had our annual review at the school, and it’s so hard to hear in concrete terms how delayed my son is. I know it. None of this information is new, but it’s so hard to hear again. I worry about his future, let alone how we will afford all of his therapies today. Every single day there is so much to do that I feel I can barely keep up. The needs are unending, and I am not nearly enough.

—Blog Post, Anonymous

Have you ever been that parent? I have. My experience isn’t exactly the same as my friend’s recent blog post, but it resonates in many ways. Challenging behaviors at school? Yes! Worry about my son’s future? Yes! Endlessly running around to therapy appointments? Yes! A sense at times of being overwhelmed in day-to-day parenting? Yes! A view of the future shaded by anxiety? Yes!

Our journeys as special needs parents are as varied as the differences among our children. Each child is unique and precious in the sight of God, and there is no other exactly like our own. Yet there are common challenges and common experiences shared among us as special needs parents. As clergy, I have led a variety of parenting support groups for more than five years and it never ceases to amaze me that, regardless of how varied the diagnoses within each family, there are common cords that bind us together emotionally and spiritually. Throughout the years I have seen healing of deeply held emotional and spiritual wounds through coming together in a supportive, welcoming Christian community and working through our challenges together.

My journey toward writing Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving began years ago when members in my congregation asked me to lead a Bible study for special needs parents. I looked for a resource I could grab off a bookstore shelf that would address the emotional and spiritual concerns of the special needs parents and had limited success. I was in the midst my studies in a doctoral program at the time and I realized that I had found an area of tremendous need for resources within the church. This epiphany changed not only my academic focus, but the trajectory of my ministry.

Through my personal journey as a special needs mom, my experiences as a clergyperson walking with families with special needs, and academic research into how best to build family resilience, I developed a seven-week study. Each chapter addresses a common challenge and offers a positive perspective grounded in scripture and practical tools that can be revisited again and again.

  • God and Special Needs
  • Understanding Chronic Grief
  • Breaking Free from Guilt
  • Tools to Increase Patience
  • Self-care for Caregivers
  • Building Healthy Relationships
  • Hope and Healing

Whether parents read Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving as part of a small group study or read it individually, I pray this book provides both insights into a loving God and practical tools for the journey ahead. Encouraging special needs parents is at the heart of my calling in ministry, and I hope that the book will be a blessing.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing.

Special Needs Parenting Cover[2]Rev. Dr. Lorna Bradley, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, received MTS and D. Min. degrees from Perkins School of Theology. Her doctoral project examines how churches can provide a holistic welcome to families raising children with special needs by meeting the emotional and spiritual needs within the entire family. As a Fellow at The Hope and Healing Institute in Houston, Texas she creates resources for special needs family support. She has led parent support groups for over five years and worked in welcoming ministries for over ten years. She and her husband of thirty years have an adult son with Asperger’s Disorder. Lorna enjoys spending time with family, entertaining, traveling, scuba diving, and running.

Posted in Advocacy, Families, Groups, Key Ministry, Resources, Spiritual Development, Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you less likely to be referred to a psychiatrist if your physician is a Christian?

shutterstock_157724471In the sixth installment of our Winter 2015 blog series, Sin, Mental Illness and the Church, we look at a study suggesting that Christian physicians are less likely to refer patients presenting with a potential mental health concern to psychiatrists and more likely to refer to pastors or religious counselors.

Thus far in our series, we’ve looked at some of the key people and ideas that have influenced attitudes and beliefs around mental illness within reformed and evangelical Protestantism in the U.S. Today, we’ll go a step further and explore the possibility that attitudes in the church about mental illness may have a significant impact on referral patterns among patients in need of care for a mental health condition.

I’d like to share an interesting study published in 2007 from the journal Psychiatric Services looking at precisely this topic. Here’s the abstract:

This study compared the religious characteristics of psychiatrists with those of other physicians and explored whether nonpsychiatrist physicians who are religious are less willing than their colleagues to refer patients to psychiatrists and psychologists.

Surveys were mailed to a stratified random sample of 2,000 practicing U.S. physicians, with an oversampling of psychiatrists. Physicians were queried about their religious characteristics. They also read a brief vignette about a patient with ambiguous psychiatric symptoms and were asked whether they would refer the patient to a clergy member or religious counselor, or to a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

A total of 1,144 physicians completed the survey, including 100 psychiatrists. Compared with other physicians, psychiatrists were more likely to be Jewish (29% versus 13%) or without a religious affiliation (17% versus 10%), less likely to be Protestant (27% versus 39%) or Catholic (10% versus 22%), less likely to be religious in general, and more likely to consider themselves spiritual but not religious (33% versus 19%). Nonpsychiatrist physicians who were religious were more willing to refer patients to clergy members or religious counselors (multivariate odds ratios from 2.9 to 5.7) and less willing to refer patients to psychiatrists or psychologists (multivariate odds ratios from .4 to .6).

Psychiatrists are less religious than other physicians, and religious physicians are less willing than nonreligious physicians to refer patients to psychiatrists. These findings suggest that historic tensions between religion and psychiatry continue to shape the care that patients receive for mental health concerns.

Before we delve into the topic of our post, let’s look at a striking reality…while the religious beliefs of physicians are somewhat unrepresentative of the population as a whole, the religious beliefs of psychiatrists are extremely unrepresentative of the general population.

At the time of this study, 51% of U.S. adults identified as Protestant, 24% as Catholic, 1.7% as Jewish and 16% as unaffiliated/none. While 39% of U.S. physicians are Protestant and 22% are Catholic, only 27% and 10% of psychiatrists are, respectively. Consider this…while Protestant adults outnumber Jewish adults by 30:1, in this sample Jewish psychiatrists slightly outnumber Protestant colleagues.

Church in the snowWith that said, one major weakness of this study is the failure to further differentiate the church affiliation or beliefs of the physicians within the “Protestant” category. If the Biblical Counseling movement emerged from a conservative tradition with a deep mistrust of mental health disciplines rooted in a theoretical framework at odds with Scripture, one might hypothesize a physician rooted in a denominational tradition emphasizing the infallibility of the Bible and teaching that salvation through grace by faith in Jesus Christ represents the only way to Heaven (Southern Baptists, Evangelical Free Church, PCA) might have a very different attitude about referring to psychiatry than would a physician associated with certain “mainline” denominations (Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, PC-USA to name a few). I would personally hypothesize (after 29 years in the field) that the vast majority of psychiatrists who would identify as “Protestant” would identify with churches or denominations with more “liberal” attitudes about interpretation of Scripture and human sexuality.

It’s difficult after reviewing the study to argue that physicians who identify with the church haven’t been impacted by attitudes of influential leaders opposed to mental health treatment. There may be other explanations for the findings presented in the study, including…

  • Christian physicians may be more aware of pastoral and counseling supports available through the church and parachurch organizations than their non-Christian colleagues.
  • Pastoral counseling and Christian counseling may be more accessible and affordable to patients than psychiatric care, especially in areas of the country where church attendance is highest.
  • Physicians with a Christian worldview caring for patients with a similar worldview may harbor concerns that mental health professionals may not demonstrate sensitivity to or respect for their patient’s values, culture and beliefs.
  • In the particular vignette presented in the study, Christian physicians may have more concern than physicians of other faith backgrounds that psychiatrists may be too quick to “pathologize” bereavement and prefer a more conservative treatment approach.

The take-home point from this study is that in response to mild or moderate symptoms of mental distress, religious and nonreligious physicians appear to look for help in different places, with the result that the religious characteristics of physicians determine to some extent whether their patients receive evaluations from psychiatrists. The causes of the pattern are far less clear.


KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

Posted in Controversies, Key Ministry, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Drop Box: Opening TODAY and showing March 3, 4, and 5 nationwide

Drop_Box_Official_Image.jpg;wadropbox43bd6d22939cb2b3When Key Ministry was asked to screen The Drop Box movie for an endorsement, I (Shannon Dingle) jumped at the offer. As a mom to six, four of whom were adopted via special needs programs, I wanted to see this film. To be honest, I didn’t approach it as a fan. I made it clear to the promoters that I planned to be critical, as I get nervous about romanticized portrayals of the hard places in adoption and global orphan care.

They said okay.

Shannon Dingle memeI watched it.

And? I was blown away by the transparent portrayal of one man, Pastor Lee, and his family and ministry in South Korea. This movie doesn’t shy away from the messy realities that have to exist to lead to the creation of a baby drop box – that is, a place built into the wall of their building where babies can be left, somewhat similar to Save Haven sites in the US. Furthermore, this doesn’t present drop boxes as the solution to societal problems but rather as one approach.

More than that, though, I was impressed by the way this movie challenges all of us to consider disability: not as something that diminishes a person’s worth but as just one characteristic of a fellow image-bearer of God. We should see humanity first, not disability.

Here’s my full endorsement:

Our worldview about disability and human worth needs to be challenged, and The Drop Box does just that. This isn’t a South Korean issue. It’s a worldwide heart issue! No parent should feel like their only option is to discard a child, and no child should be treated as anything less than deeply valuable. This movie tells the story of Pastor Lee Jong-rak and his ministry, but more than that it tells a wake-up story to all of us in the church. If we truly believe that our worth rests in Christ and not in our own abilities, then how will we share that truth with a world who needs to know it? My prayer is that all who see this will follow the model of Pastor Lee Jong-rak, asking God what we should each do wherever we are to reflect his love to those who our society discards.

Happychild.jpg;wadropbox0642d1eeb073550cIf you’d like to see the movie or find out where it is showing near you, go to this link:


2000x770 S DINGLE CHRCH4EVCHILD 2Check out Shannon Dingle’s blog series on adoption, disability and the church. In the series, Shannon looked at the four different kinds of special needs in adoptive and foster families and shared five ways churches can love their adoptive and foster families. Shannon’s series is a must-read for any church considering adoption or foster care initiatives. Shannon’s series is available here.

Posted in Adoption, Advocacy, Families, Foster Care, Key Ministry, Resources, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What if medication is a tool that helps us resist sin?

IMG_0905In the fifth installment of our Winter 2015 blog series, Sin, Mental Illness and the Church, we examine one perspective Christians might ponder in considering medication or psychotherapy as treatments for mental health conditions that increase our propensity to engage in sinful behavior…

From the Apostle Paul…

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 7:15-25 (ESV)

What if some of us have “broken brains” as a consequence of the Fall? What if our spiritual self seeks to do right and to avoid sin, but we experience a mental health condition that increases our predisposition to some specific sin? Could we argue that medication (or other treatment) that enhances our ability to avoid sin or to do good might be a useful tool for the individual Christian? Further, could we argue that the decision to take medication under such circumstances is God-honoring?

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Matthew 5:22 (ESV)

We know that people with ADHD often struggle to self-regulate their emotions and are prone to impulsive speech and behavior. If medication helps a Christian with ADHD to avoid injuring others through their words or actions, would that be desirable?

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV)

We know that impulsive sexual behavior is often associated with manic episodes seen in persons with Bipolar disorder and is a frequent complication of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Is it desirable for Christians to take medication to prevent the recurrence of manic episodes that impair one’s ability to self-regulate inappropriate sexual behavior or to engage in evidence-based treatments including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to reduce impulsive sexual behavior associated with BPD?

What if due to our anxiety or obsessiveness we become prone to hoarding our possessions, struggle with generosity when we’re directed to give or become so preoccupied with past wrongs that we’re unable to forgive? Would making use of medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) be the right thing for a Christian to do?

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Matthew 18:7-9 (ESV)

I’m not in any way suggesting that we forego spiritual approaches for dealing with these challenges. We have time-tested spiritual disciplines to help with all of the issues described above. But given the seriousness of Jesus’ words pertaining to sin, why would we not want to consider the use of any God-given means necessary to avoid sinning as an adjunct to spiritual disciplines if we’re convicted of such sin in mind and soul, aware of a mental condition that increases our propensity to sin and able to access medical or psychotherapeutic treatments that may help us to avoid sin?


GA-Social-Media-StephenGrcevich-1Consider joining us this winter for Key Ministry’s online group study that will accompany our blog series…Sin, Mental Illness and the Church. This study will be a combination of Bible reading/study and supplemental readings/material to enlighten participants as we examine the following questions…

  • How has the understanding of mental illness evolved in the evangelical movement in America over the past half-century?
  • How do past and current attitudes in the church influence outreach efforts to families of children and teens impacted by mental illness?
  • What can we learn from Scripture of God’s purposes in the lives of those impacted by mental illness?
  • How can we help more kids and families impacted by mental illness to experience the love of Christ through involvement in a local church?

Anyone can join us, but a Facebook account is required. Click here to register!

Posted in ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Controversies, Key Ministry, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What about them? Karen Jackson of Faith Inclusion Network

Karen and SamanthaPeople often ask me, why did you start Faith Inclusion Network? As we excitedly prepare for our 4th bi-annual That All May Worship-2015, Embracing Inclusion Conference, the following provides a brief look back at the start of FIN and why we are so excited to invite you to Virginia Beach, VA this March.

I didn’t always know about disability, advocacy and autism. In fact, being trained as a professional educator in the field of instrumental music, even my educational background did not include learning about special needs in any way. And then my second child was born…and like many parents of children with disabilities, I became an expert.

Of all I had to learn however; therapies, treatments, medications, educational protocol, what I was the most surprised by was the realization that my child did not seem to have a place in our church. I had absolutely no idea what to do about that and began to seek out some answers.

Fast forward to 2008. My family and I had started attending a new church, one where we were embraced and accepted as we all carefully navigated our way through including Samantha, with her autistic behaviors and severe communication challenges. My daughter did have a place in a church now, but what about all those other families affected by disability? What about them?

These questions evolved into a fervent prayer to God: “What more can I do?” His answer was simple and direct: Faith Inclusion Network.

Well, I suppose it was not exactly simple, but I embraced the challenge. In 2009, after just a couple meetings of the newly established “Faith Inclusion Network”, we held our first conference, “That All May Worship-2009” and a network was born.

Today, we prepare for our 4th bi-annual conference, “That All May Worship-2015, Embracing Inclusion”. Over the course of the past seven years, I have educated myself; reading, attending conferences and most importantly, meeting and learning from some of the most amazing and generous national leaders in the faith and disability movement. Without a doubt, people like Rev. Bill Gaventa, Erik W. Carter, Ginny Thornburgh and others help put me and Faith Inclusion Network on the right path.

This is why, as our FIN Board began planning this year’s conference last summer, I proposed an outrageous vision. “Let’s hold a retreat for faith and disability national leaders. And while they are here in Virginia Beach, let’s professionally film them and create a resource to share with both our local and the national community.”

In March, this vision will become a reality when FIN friends from 9 different states will come to Virginia to participate in a retreat hosted by FIN and then stay to share their expertise at our daylong conference on Friday, March, 20. While I am immensely grateful and excited to welcome all of our guests to Virginia, I am even more overwhelmed with gratitude to an amazing God, who has been a part of the FIN ministry from the start. No one could have been less prepared then I to undertake such a venture as starting a regional faith and disabilities network. But I did ask…and that can be a very dangerous thing to do! Praise God!


FIN-LOGOKaren Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director of Faith Inclusion Network of Hampton Roads. She is the author of the newly published book, Loving Samantha, Stories of Family and Friends, Faith, Love and Community in a World that Includes Autism and Special Needs,

For more information and to register for “That All May Worship-2015, Embracing Inclusion”, go to or contact Karen at


Posted in Advocacy, Families, Inclusion, Intellectual Disabilities, Resources, Training Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What if you have a disability? Chuck Swindoll’s teaching this week at Insight for Living

Chuck Swindoll 10/7/11We heard about a couple of fabulous resources of interest to our readers being offered by Colleen Swindoll-Thompson and our friends over at Insight for Living in the next week or two that we’d like to share.

First, Chuck Swindoll will be teaching on the topic What if you have a disability? this coming Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (February 24-26) as part of his current series What If? airing from January 26-March 16. Here’s a description…

What if . . . ? What a haunting, yet profound question. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we have felt helpless to determine our next step if the unknown were to happen. Either due to lack of knowledge or lack of ability, we wonder what we should do.

And yet, that very act of wondering, of asking questions like, “What If You Have a Disability?” stands as a perfect opportunity to gain biblical wisdom about a difficult subject.

As you make your way through this series about the difficult questions and decisions we face, remember that it’s in wrestling with the questions that we come closest to the Lord.

Here’s a link to access the broadcasts this week if you’re unable to listen through a local station or SiriusXM.

During the month of March, Colleen’s new book When Life Isn’t Fair: What They Didn’t Teach Us in Sunday School will be available as a premium to those who donate to Insight For Living.

Colleen's bookTo love someone, or to be loved through tough circumstances is a gift-an opportunity to experience the fragile beauty of those made in God’s image. And it’s a reminder that all people stand broken in front of God.

In her book, Colleen weaves together Biblical truth, practicality and her own growth experiences as a mother of a son with special needs. She writes with raw honesty about her personal crisis of faith as well as the hardship and humor that come with learning to trust God through difficult times.

Colleen’s book offers a touch of hope, help and a touch of humor for those seasons when life is difficult or downright disabling.

We’ll have more here on Colleen’s book when available next month. In the meantime, we encourage you to check out her blog for a sample of the help and encouragement she’ll be offering through her book.


slide-jonathan-colleen3Join us every first and third Monday of each month at 10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central at for “Chat with Colleen,” an opportunity to interact live with Colleen Swindoll-Thompson live as she shares full-length versions of the video interviews of ministry leaders made available through Insight for Living’s Special Needs Ministry. Replays of Colleen’s interviews will be available at 8:30 AM, 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM Eastern daily.

Posted in Advocacy, Book Reviews, Resources, Spiritual Development, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One father’s spiritual legacy…

Dad and Kids - Version 2Twenty years ago today, my dad went home to be with Jesus.

While I wasn’t there when he died, the Lord honored him with a pretty remarkable sendoff.

My dad was raised in a Catholic home, but became “born again” around the time I started high school. He became a passionate student of the Bible, and for many years co-lead the Christian Businessmen’s Bible Study in our hometown of Boardman, Ohio. He served faithfully on the Board of the ministry charged with feeding and housing the homeless in nearby Youngstown. He had been asked to become a national speaker for CBMC near the end of his life, but developed heart problems and colon cancer shortly thereafter and was unable to travel.

Throughout his life, he was actively involved in the ethnic church where he was baptized. One of his passions was teaching the Bible to his fellow Roman Catholics. He developed a popular course in which participants could cover the entire Bible.

On his last day, he had the opportunity to go to his favorite breakfast place with my mother (Bob Evans)…although I suspect he would have enjoyed Chick-fil-A had they made their way into Ohio in the early ’90s. They then went to the church near their home where he taught. A woman who was active in my father’s Bible Study had died, and her family had asked him to deliver the eulogy at her funeral.

St. CharlesMy dad finished the eulogy, looked at my mother, stepped down from the pulpit and died at that very moment of a massive heart attack, right at the foot of the altar, in front of the cross.

While I was obviously bummed about temporarily losing my dad, I couldn’t help but be happy for him for achieving his life’s goal…getting the opportunity to meet Jesus. I thought it was incredibly cool that he was called home while doing what he loved in God’s house.

His outlook on life was pretty much summed up in Philippians 1:21-23…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

He made quite an impression on my wife when he was excited about having had a heart attack because to him it meant he was getting closer to meeting Jesus. He wanted to meet Paul next, because he had a laundry list of questions he hoped to get clarified about the Epistles.

Clearly, seeing the way he lived over the last twenty years of his life made a big impression on me and my family.

Friday night, I was hobbling back into the hotel after having the opportunity to speak at the Joni and Friends’ Global Access Conference thinking that I’m getting the chance to finish the work that my dad started. He never got to go on any speaking trips before he became too ill to travel.

A couple of months ago, I was digging through one of those cabinets where one hides old news clippings and found an obituary written about my dad in the Catholic Exponent. While my dad was a teacher for a time, his primary career was as a broadcaster. He had a classic, deep voice for radio, and was an early rock and roll DJ in the late ’50s. He later went on to start the telecommunications department at Youngstown State University, launching a public radio (WYSU) and television station (WNEO/WEAO). After he retired, his last job was working for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, helping to grow a cable television station started to reach people in his area who couldn’t get to church.

Two entirely different upbringings and career paths, but yet we ended up with pretty much the same task in the Kingdom, separated by a generation. I do wish I’d inherited his voice and his skills as a baseball player as opposed to his sensory stuff…he hated long-sleeve dress shirts because he didn’t like how they felt, and I have the same issue, but with collared shirts and ties. Coincidence? It’s clear to me that God orchestrates our paths.

Stephen Front Door 3While I’m glad to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my dad’s homecoming this weekend, there are only two things I’m sad he missed out on…getting to know his grandkids and being on the team for and our Front Door online church. He was quite the “techie” in his time, and he would freak (in a good way) if he saw the technology that’s available for sharing the Gospel with families impacted by disability.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to take the next step with the work God gave my dad to do and mindful of trying to be as good a model for my kids as a spiritual leader as he was. I do think it would be pretty cool if I could be serving somewhere when it’s my turn to meet Jesus and hear what he unquestionably heard twenty years ago today…

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Posted in Spiritual Development, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Including Kids and Teens With Mental Illness in the Church and Community…#globalaccess2015

shutterstock_15545299_2Here’s the Slideshare of Dr. Grcevich’s presentation today at the 2015 Global Access Conference, presented by Joni and Friends…Including Kids and Teens With Mental Illness in the Church and Community.

You can download a .pdf of the presentation here.

Here’s a link to Dr. Grcevich’s Slideshare account to access earlier Key Ministry presentations, along with lectures offered as a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Northeast Ohio Medical University.


KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

Posted in ADHD, Advocacy, Anxiety Disorders, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Families, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Training Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Matt Walsh, responsibility, stigma and ADHD

shutterstock_68372575Matt Walsh is a popular blogger in the Christian community. He has over 250,000 Facebook followers, his writing is featured on other websites and he describes himself as being part of a community engaged in the battle for the traditional family. He’s developed his following (in part) by making very controversial statements about hot-button social topics. It’s how he makes his living and supports his family. I’d like to consider this post my contribution to his family’s sustenance.

In the middle of attending a wonderful conference on the topic of how the church can better care for and include persons with disability and their families, the mother of one of my patients messaged me with a link to Matt’s blog post from today on ADHD after her teenage son read the post this morning and was concerned about what she thought. I’ll share a brief sample with you to give you the flavor of his piece.

I have all of the “symptoms,” but I don’t have a disorder because there is no disorder. There might be people with legitimate disorders who get labeled with this one, but this one, this specific thing we refer to as ADHD, is a godforsaken lie. I don’t care who is upset by that statement, who will stop reading me because I said it, or how many angry and disappointed Facebook comments are coming my way. ADHD is a fraud…

I’ll share a little more. Having read Matt’s stuff in the past, I often find a kernel of truth in some of his statements that sometimes gets lost in a presentation style that seems designed to generate clicks, tweets and Facebook shares…

ADHD is not a matter of psychology or neurology, but of institutions. Schools can’t deal with kids who act this way, parents don’t want to deal with them, daycares aren’t equipped to deal with them, and society at large has no patience for any of it — so, we call it a disease and start passing out the prescription strength speed.

Does any Actual Illness work this way? If you go to the doctor complaining about bronchitis, will he ask you if the bronchitis is “creating problems at work on an ongoing basis”? No, because that doesn’t matter. Bronchitis is bronchitis is bronchitis. But ADHD is only ADHD in very specific circumstances. Public school, by the way, is a very specific (and temporary) circumstance. A child’s inability to succeed in that environment might be troubling for his parents, but it is not itself proof or indication of a mental defect. Why don’t we ever stop to consider that the defect lies in the institution that cannot function unless millions of its students are hopped up on drugs?

It’s true that with many of the conditions we categorize as mental illness in kids and teens, kids experience difficulty functioning in some environments, but not others. Matt’s personal story is very consistent with what I see among the kids we serve in our practice as they get older…when they’re old enough to either choose their area of study in school or choose a job with functional demands that fit the way they process and experience the world around them, ADHD becomes far less of a problem.

So…when do these traits cross the line into becoming a “disorder” for which treatment (medication, educational interventions, therapy) is indicated? When they significantly interfere with the individual’s functioning in two or more major life domains (I look at these domains as school/work, family, friends, and community).

What Matt’s right about is that the expectations we have for kids in our educational system  in terms of their capacity to sustain focus and generate gobs of academic product aren’t consistent with the way many of our kids are wired. Ben Conner described this phenomena in his wonderful little book, Amplifying Our Witness

“It is our culture that disables.”

“When one is disabled, the problem is not really that they have impairments and social skill deficits. The issue at stake is that they live in an ‘ableist’ culture that rarely affords them the space or opportunity to make their unique contribution to society and does not lift up the value of choosing them as friends.”

Unfortunately, the consequences of failure in school are far more significant now than they were for my generation. Matt may have failed chemistry in high school, but modern-day Matts who fail chemistry don’t qualify for the scholarships that they need to attend college. The battles that parents engage in to get their kids with ADHD through school destroy the relationships that form the foundation of the influence parents have in shaping character.

VyvanseThe kids I see in my practice don’t want to have this. Much to the chagrin of the drug companies, most patients with ADHD take medication only take it when they absolutely need it. Try telling a kid who spends six hours a night doing the schoolwork that their friends get done in two that they don’t have a disorder. Or the kid who is having an anxiety attack at home after forgetting to bring home the right books from school for the third time in a week. Or the kid who struggles with impulse control and emotional self-regulation to the point that they can’t make or keep a friend? Or the family that has been asked to leave church because their child struggles with self-control?

The vast preponderance of parents who come through our practice are slow to accept a diagnosis of ADHD and anxious to find alternatives to medication as a treatment strategy. The ones who are out there looking for a pill after downloading a checklist from the Internet pretty much conclude that we’re not the place for them before they get to the end of our phone screen in the office. Not many realize that the odds of a marriage ending in divorce if a child has ADHD are greater than those marriages in which a child is diagnosed with autism.

Our parents are fighting to do the best they can for their kids in the face of an educational and healthcare bureaucracy with a propensity for pounding square pegs into round holes. They’re uncomfortable enough without someone in their culture with a platform shaming them by implying that their kid’s problems may result from parenting issues while communicating to their friends and neighbors that their kid has a non-existent condition. Way to go in supporting the traditional family, Matt! Sarcasm intended.

I’m speaking this Friday on the topic of how churches (and the community) can better serve and include kids with mental illness. One of the challenges we face in getting churches to serve families with the issues we see in our practice is that no one sees a need for intentional disability ministry outreach for those who aren’t thought to have a disability. Matt and others like him aren’t making my task any easier.

Responsibility comes with having a platform. Articles like this one…articles that leave my teenage patients questioning whether they have a genuine condition, have consequences. Google “Jenny McCarthy” and “measles,” for example.  We can do better than this in the Christian subculture.

For your reading pleasure, I direct you to the 148 published papers I found on the National Library of Medicine website using the search terms “neuroimaging,” “genetics” and “ADHD.”


ADHD Series LogoKey Ministry has assembled a helpful resource page for church leaders and parents addressing the topic of ADHD and spiritual development. This page includes our blog series on the topic and links to helpful videos and resources for pastors, church staff, volunteers and parents. Access the resource page here.

Posted in Key Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments