Families of Kids With Mental Illnesses…How Can the Church Help?

June 7, 2011

Uncategorized

By Stephen Grcevich, MD

Last week, we discussed the evolution of mental health services for kids over the past 25 years…what’s improved and what hasn’t. Today, we’ll look at how the circumstances of families struggling with mental health issues can become an opportunity for the local church to share the love of Christ with people with tangible needs. Here are five strategies a local church might consider in order to earn the privilege of sharing the Gospel with families of kids with mental health issues:

Establish welcoming and inclusive ministry environments. I’m not saying that a church has to establish a stand-alone ministry in order to become inclusive, but that’s OK. If your church has thought through ways in which your weekend worship environments and key environments in which spiritual growth takes place can work for kids with ADHD, anxiety issues, sensory integration issues and kids on the higher end of the autism spectrum as well as for THEIR PARENTS (from whom the kids may have inherited many of these traits), you’ve already accomplished quite a bit. Here’s the first and second part of a two-part blog post on creating welcoming environments for kids with ADHD.

Consider providing either respite events or relational respite as outwardly-focused ministry initiatives. The families we’re describing live in the immediate area surrounding your church, but often carry with them negative experiences of church. You may have to go to them and develop a relationship through serving them as opposed to waiting for them to come to you. Here’s a post on a church welcoming families through respite events.

Provide adequate child care so that parents of kids with disabilities, including mental health issues, can take advantage of opportunities for spiritual growth through your church. If your church leadership thinks being in a small group is key to spiritual growth, make sure you have folks trained to watch kids with mental health issues so their parents can get to small group. Here’s a post summarizing strategies for partnering with parents of kids with disabilities.

Provide support for families in understanding and navigating the mental health and educational systems. I’m meeting next week with our church’s senior pastor and the staff person responsible for care and recovery ministries. We’re getting together to work on processes for connecting members and attendees with mental health services in the community. But it may not be enough for us just to connect families up with resources in the community. We may need to help families understand how their mental health benefits work through their insurance, or help families in need get signed up for Medicaid if they’re eligible. We may need to help educate parents on how to request services through their local schools and help advocate for them (or help them find an advocate) when parents have concerns that their child’s educational needs aren’t being appropriately addressed.

Share your facilities and resources with reputable organizations (NAMI, CHADD, your local Autism Society chapter, to name a few) offering credible education and support for parents and families of kids with mental health issues. Our church recently opened its’ teaching center to a support group for parents of kids with autism that meets during the last hour of regularly scheduled church-based respite events in our immediate area. Offering to care for kids while parents of kids with disabilities are engaged in educational activities such as NAMI’s Hand to Hand program also helps meet an immediate need. Here’s an additional blog post to share with churches interested in supporting families of kids with significant mental health conditions.

In addition to his role with Key Ministry, Dr. Grcevich is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Senior Clinical Instructor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and serves as President of Family Center by the Falls, a multidisciplinary behavioral health group practice located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Check out his Key Ministry blog, Church4EveryChild.

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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.

View all posts by Dr. G

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