The Value of Civil Discourse in Ministry

June 9, 2011


When I’ve had the opportunity to speak or present research at medical conferences, I’ve especially enjoyed the opportunities for give and take with my fellow presenters and the spirited discussion typically generated from the comments and questions emerging from the audience. Physicians typically have a healthy opinion of themselves and a high level of conviction in their opinions, resulting in debates that not infrequently get a little heated. But at the end of the day, everyone usually gets together for drinks or dinner with relationships intact and mutual respect for colleagues willing to engage in a process that helps us to reach conclusions about the best ways to treat the patients under our care.

One of the biggest adjustments I have to make when I take off my doctor hat and put on my ministry hat is to recognize the sensitivity that some leaders in the church have to any comments that could be perceived as criticism. It seems that social media in the ministry arena has become an echo chamber of mutual admiration. I wish some folks would do a little growing up.

A ground rule I hope we establish within the Special Needs Ministry community is that it’s OK for us to disagree about ministry approaches and strategies in a way that is respectful of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Such discourse may be more difficult during a time when we communicate through keyboards and computer screens as opposed to connecting in person. Lots of meaning is communicated through body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and inflection of voice.

Our team exchanged a flurry of e-mails recently after spotting a blog post from a colleague for whom we have great respect who voiced an opinion very different from ours on a subject of keen interest to us. I found myself thinking twice, and ultimately choosing not to respond. We didn’t want our comments misconstrued because we value our colleague. But our community may have missed out on an interesting discussion of an important topic because of our concern.

If we can all agree that the importance of what we do in ministry from an eternal perspective dwarfs the importance of what physicians do on a daily basis, isn’t it even more important for us to be able to set our egos aside in order for us to challenge one another in a process of collectively discerning the best ways of sharing the love of Christ with kids with special needs and their families? Let’s not worry so much as a ministry community about the possibility of hurt feelings that we lose sight of what’s most important.

Feel free to respectfully disagree. We won’t disinvite you from any of our conferences or blackball you from future events. And we hope everyone emerges from the discussion better equipped to serve our Master.

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, 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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3 Comments on “The Value of Civil Discourse in Ministry”


    Steve, it’s time for “keepin’ it real” within the Body of Christ! My Board isn’t composed of a bunch of “yes men”, and that is a tremendous blessing. Their not-always-easy-to-take words are a true exemplification of: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) They make me better for their admonitions and questioning of how I proceed. When we share our disagreements without being disagreeable, we improve one another as servants of God. I appreciate you being so frank in this post! …And it better not have been me you kept your differing opinion from! (Ha!) I expect and appreciate honest differing opinions from others!


  2. drgrcevich Says:

    Barb…our area of ministry is in its’ infancy. We’re all continually learning. If we run the risk of a little personal embarrassment from time to time in collectively trying to discern the methods that will be most helpful in building the Kingdom, it seems to me that’s a risk worth taking.


  3. katiewetherbee Says:

    Great truth spoken here…thanks, Steve, for the reminder to speak the truth in love…and also to realize that there usually is more than one good way to accomplish Kingdom-building. And Barb…you are right: Iron sharpens iron! When we are willing to sharpen and BE sharpened in the name of doing God’s will, everybody wins.


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