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Mental Health Inclusion Ministry Intensive Inclusion Fusion Live 2018


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The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in five U.S. children and adults have a diagnosable mental health condition, and attributes of common mental health conditions often create barriers to church attendance and engagement for persons with mental illness and their families. Participants in this intensive, led by Dr. Steve Grcevich of Key Ministry, Catherine Boyle of Outside In Ministries, Brad Hoefs of Fresh Hope and Jolene Philo will be introduced to a model for outreach and inclusion of children and adults with a broad range of mental health conditions into weekend worship services and other ministries and activities that serve as catalysts to spiritual growth and will be provided with the necessary tools for crafting a mental health ministry strategy consistent with the unique mission and calling of their church. Registration includes a copy of Mental Health and the Church by Dr. Grcevich, along with Key’s Mental Health Ministry Planning Tool.

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Mental Health Inclusion Ministry Intensive Inclusion Fusion Live 2018

  1. 1. Developing a Mental Health Inclusion Strategy in Your Church Stephen Grcevich, MD President and Founder, Key Ministry Inclusion Fusion Live Ministry Intensive April 20, 2018
  2. 2. Building a bridge between two worlds…
  3. 3. Why hasn’t the church embraced mental health inclusion ministry? • Stigmatization • Failure to recognize how the presence of common mental health conditions might limit church participation • Variable levels of understanding of mental illness among pastors, church leaders • We don’t have a ministry model
  4. 4. A different way of thinking about mental health ministry How do we connect churches and families impacted by mental illness for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ? • Why mental illness is different from other disabilities • Why church participation is difficult • What would a mental health inclusion model for churches look like?
  5. 5. How do we define “disability” • “A person who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.” • An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities to be considered a disability
  6. 6. How we understand disability in the church Disability Ministry Special Needs Ministry
  7. 7. How is mental illness different from other disabilities? • Often episodic • Hidden • Situation-specific
  8. 8. Can someone be “disabled” at church and function well in other life activities?
  9. 9. Why is church involvement so difficult? • Attributes of common mental conditions cause difficulty functioning in common ministry environments. • Church culture – our expectations for how people should act when we gather together
  10. 10. What might an effective mental health inclusion strategy look like?
  11. 11. A foundation for a mental health inclusion ministry model • Recognition of how non-essential attributes of our ministry environments and practices interfere with participation for children and adults with common mental health conditions • Implementing a set of strategies across your ministry environments to help individuals and families join activities most critical for spiritual growth.
  12. 12. What gets in the way of church participation for families affected by mental illness?
  13. 13. Seven barriers to including families impacted by mental illness at church… • Stigma • Anxiety • Capacity for self- discipline-executive functioning • Sensory processing differences • Necessary social communication skills • Social isolation • Past experiences of church
  14. 14. How might we help individuals and families affected by mental illness become more active in our church?
  15. 15. Seven strategies for promoting mental health inclusion (TEACHER) • Assemble your inclusion team • Create welcoming ministry environments. • Focus on ministry activities most essential to spiritual growth • Communicate effectively • Help families with their most heartfelt needs • Offer education and support • Empower your people to assume responsibility for ministry
  16. 16. Who needs a seat at the table? Building an inclusion team • Senior leadership • Ministry directors on church-wide implementation team • Ministry departments may have their own team • Consider gifts, talents, passions of church members, attendees
  17. 17. Welcoming ministry environments… • Promote focus, attention • Help attendees prioritize most important takeaways • Support those with difficulty processing directions. • Sensory stimulation engaging, not overwhelming • Supports kids in maintaining self-control
  18. 18. Inclusion in high-impact ministry activities What do you MOST want people to do to grow in faith? Prioritize that! • Weekend worship? • Small groups? • Prayer/family devotions/serving
  19. 19. Communicating about mental illness • Preach it from the pulpit! • What NOT to say • Pictures, video • Bulletins, printed materials • E-communication • Social media • Online church inclusion • Inclusion “concierge?”
  20. 20. Helping families with their most heartfelt needs… • Casseroles • Respite • Referral services • Counseling • Special worship services • After-school programs • Parent advocates for kids on 504 plans, in special education • Tutoring at-risk kids
  21. 21. Education and support • Fresh Hope • “Grace Groups” – individual, family, PTSD curriculums • NAMI Family to Family, Peer to Peer • Diagnosis-specific groups (CHADD)
  22. 22. Empowering your people to assume responsibility for ministry • Inviting • Responding to needs • Grabbing a mop • Relational respite • Business cards with respite invitations • 1:1 discipleship • Parent mentors • “Ministry of presence”
  23. 23. Using the ministry planning tool…
  24. 24. What might our planning process look like? • Leaders in each ministry area might identify potential barriers, useful strategies within their area of responsibility. • An alternate approach might be to focus on a strategy (or several strategies) and implement the strategy across your ministry departments or environments. • Assigning responsibility for the plan (or components of the plan) with deadlines for implementation important.
  25. 25. Meet the Phillips Family… • Josh is “neurotypical.” His friend from school invited him to your VBS. Josh had a great time and wants to come every Sunday. • Jennifer (daughter) struggles with separation anxiety • Tammy (mother) has social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia What challenges might they face the first time they attend a weekend worship service at your church? How would your church serve them?
  26. 26. Stigma as a barrier… WHAT THEN IS WRONG WITH THE “MENTALLY ILL?” THEIR PROBLEM IS AUTOGENIC; IT IS WITHIN THEMSELVES. Jay Adams • Mental illness defined as sin or a parenting problem • If it’s not a disability, why would disability ministry serve them? • Widespread perception they’re not welcome at church
  27. 27. Overcoming Stigma… Key Strategies • A comprehensive mental health communication plan • Providing mental health education and support groups • Serving the needs of persons with mental illness in your community • Using your people to change perceptions of the church’s receptiveness to individuals with mental health issues
  28. 28. A perception we need to overcome among outsiders
  29. 29. Talking about mental illness
  30. 30. The challenge involved with helping those who won’t self-disclose… Church… Helping them fit in • Consider interventions to help all kids, families • Review registration materials • Communicating with parents • Floating support in your children’s, student ministries
  31. 31. Anxiety as a barrier… CORE DIFFERENCE: PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY MISPERCEIVE RISK IN UNFAMILIAR SITUATIONS • Social anxiety • Separation anxiety • Agoraphobia Fears specific to church: • Fear of scrutiny • Performance worries • Anxiety results from lack of faith
  32. 32. What strategies are most important for overcoming anxiety? • Identifying challenges in assimilation to weekend worship, small group activities • Examining how your church prepares prospective visitors and long-time attenders for new experiences • Your channels for communicating – and supporting the communication needs of persons with anxiety • Empowering your people to help friends and neighbors with anxiety to navigate potential landmines?
  33. 33. What church activities are challenging for persons with anxiety? Children/Teens • Separating from parents at worship • Speaking in front of peers • Retreats/mission trips • Self-disclosure in small groups • Transitions between age-group ministries Adults • Visiting a church for the first time • Meeting new people • Using the phone • Joining a small group • Volunteering
  34. 34. Preparing for an initial visit… Offer the child/family a tour of the church before the first visit –familiarize them with your environments. Share pictures, video of their leaders, teachers Include lots of pictures of worship services on your website, video of your worship services
  35. 35. Tips for church staff and volunteers for kids with anxiety • Don’t call attention to an anxious child • Avoid interventions that make them feel “different”… buddies, being part of “special needs ministry” • Train greeters to observe for problems at “drop-off” • Designate a private place for kids/parents in distress • Watch for kids who are alone • Offer to meet with parents when a child’s anxiety appears to interfere with ministry participation • Remember…anxiety generally decreases with experience (exposure)
  36. 36. Ideas for including adults with anxiety • Role for a mental health liaison • Alternative path for connecting with groups • Reserved seating (end seats, near exits) or alternative seating outside the sanctuary • The role of your media team • Alternative paths for communication • A role for your media team • How regular attendees can support friends
  37. 37. Executive Functioning as a barrier… COGNITIVE ABILITIES INVOLVED IN MODULATING OTHER ABILITIES AND BEHAVIORS • Behavioral inhibition • Verbal working memory • Non-verbal working memory • Emotional self- regulation • Reconstitution
  38. 38. Strategies for overcoming executive functioning challenges • Addressing stigma toward persons who struggle with self-control • Minimize stimulation, distractions that detract from cognitive capacities for self-control, learning • Adaptations in teaching, communication • Prioritizing most relevant, important content • A role for your congregation in providing accountability
  39. 39. Who said this? “A respectful and mannerly 5-year-old unbeliever is better for the world than a more authentic defiant, disrespectful, ill-mannered, unbelieving bully. The family, the friendships, the church, and the world in general will be thankful for parents that restrain the egocentric impulses of their children and confirm in them every impulse toward courtesy and kindness and respect.”
  40. 40. Helping kids who struggle to regulate emotions and behavior… Church Helping them fit in? • Friendly physical environments • Sequence of activities? (high-energy last?) • Supervise transition times • Developmentally- appropriate content • Some may be better with physical activity, movement
  41. 41. The more they have to process, the less capacity they have for self-control
  42. 42. Communicating for Change…
  43. 43. Easy to follow signage…
  44. 44. Better at doing than listening?
  45. 45. Relationships are important for accountability!
  46. 46. Sensory processing as a barrier… PERSONS WITH SENSORY PROCESSING DIFFERENCES MAY EXPERIENCE AS AVERSIVE NOISE, LIGHT, TOUCH AND SMELLS THAT OTHERS FIND ENGAGING Challenges for kids: • Pick up and drop-off times • High energy worship • Aggression Challenges for adults: • Greeting times (hugging, handshakes) • High-energy worship • Multiple conversations in close proximity
  47. 47. Minimizing obstacles from sensory processing differences • Common among persons with autism. Also seen in… • ADHD • Anxiety disorders • Persons without a mental health diagnosis • Hypersensitivity AND hyposensitivity
  48. 48. Predominant strategy: A sensory- friendly ministry environment • Sound (volume, simultaneous conversations) • Lighting • Flooring • Window treatments • Wall color • “Fragrance-free” zones • Seating • Dress code
  49. 49. Where to start in becoming sensory-friendly? • Consider starting with… • Entrances • Worship spaces • Children’s/student ministry spaces • Vacation Bible School • Sensory-friendly movies • Online church
  50. 50. Social communication as a barrier… WHAT CHALLENGES MIGHT SOMEONE ENCOUNTER AT CHURCH IF THEY STRUGGLE TO PICK UP ON SOCIAL CUES? • Body language • Tone, inflection of voice • Facial expressions Church-specific challenges: • Small groups • Small talk • Bullies • Unfamiliar situations
  51. 51. Two key concepts… • Most persons who struggle with social communication desire authentic friendships • Despite the struggles to participate in church life, many desperately want to belong to a church
  52. 52. Welcoming persons with social communication challenges • Extending opportunities for friendship • Address bullying • Alternative paths for discipleship • Options for electronic communication
  53. 53. Additional ideas for supporting kids with social communication challenges • Address sensory component of ministry environments • Let them use precocious gifts to serve others • Identify “friendly” small groups • Provide opportunities to rehearse new experiences • Alternative paths of discipleship (mentoring)
  54. 54. Social isolation as a barrier… HOW DO FAMILIES FIND YOUR CHURCH IF THEY DON’T CONNECT WITH FAMILIES ATTENDING YOUR CHURCH? • Kids seen as less desirable friends • Less involved in extracurricular activities • Time, financial burdens of pursuing treatment • Lack of affordable child care leaves parents with fewer social outlets
  55. 55. Strategy for overcoming social isolation Mobilizing your church • Who has relationships that bring them in contact with affected individuals, families? • Take the church to them! • Small groups • Christian-based support (Grace Groups, Fresh Hope) • Online church • Relational respite
  56. 56. The importance of closing your back door… • Persons with depression may begin to isolate themselves after long periods of church involvement • What systems are in place to follow up with regular attenders who are absent?
  57. 57. Past experience of church as a barrier… THE APPLE OFTEN DOESN’T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE! • Children of parents with bad (or no) church experiences aren’t going to church • Kids depend on parents for transportation • Parents struggle with mental health issues too! • Inconsistent attenders?
  58. 58. Strategy-Disrupt multigenerational absence from church • Change perceptions of church through provision of service, support • Coming alongside parents of faith raising kids with mental health concerns • The need for an inclusion plan supporting kids and adults
  59. 59. Mental Health Ministry is Family Ministry!
  60. 60. A family-based approach to mental health ministry • Leveraging the influence of parents, extended family • The importance of the “4 to 14 window” • Coming alongside divorced parents • The role of adults from outside the family • Reinforce important faith concepts taught at home • Provide support when affected parents are struggling
  61. 61. Including kids…when parents have mental health concerns Church… Helping them fit in • Parents of kids who are inconsistent attenders? • They may need more reminders to come • Watch for folks who haven’t attended for some time • Community helps with accountability
  62. 62. Defining the “win” • Your ministry achieves a win when any family member of someone with mental illness has a meaningful encounter with your church. • Persons with mental illness have spouses, parents, sons, daughters, siblings who need churches too! • Mental health ministry and foster care/adoption ministry go hand-in-hand
  63. 63. Putting the model into practice…
  64. 64. For children’s/family ministry staff, volunteers • What are some strategies you might implement to help kids prone to impulsivity and distractibility to fully benefit from your ministry programming?
  65. 65. For student/youth ministry pastors and volunteers • What steps might you take to help more kids who are anxious, shy or with less well- developed social skills take part in your worship activities, small groups and special events (retreats, mission trips)
  66. 66. For pastors, staff and volunteers in adult, discipleship ministries • What processes might you put in place to minister with individuals/families with a connection to your church who become socially isolated as a result of their own mental illness, or mental illness in their family? What about persons in the larger community?
  67. 67. For pastors and ministry leaders involved with missions, outreach • What are some components of a ministry strategy to share Christ’s love with individuals and families impacted by mental illness in the communities you serve?
  68. 68. For executive pastors, church administrators and social media directors • What would a communication strategy look like that addresses the needs of individuals and families impacted by mental illness who are already connected with your church, as well as persons in the surrounding community with no connection to a church?
  69. 69. For senior pastors and leaders • How would you help your people to take ownership in addressing the seven barriers to church participation we’ve outlined?
  70. 70. Questions and Discussion
  71. 71. After lunch… Three ideas for your church • Jolene Philo on becoming a trauma-informed church • Brad Hoefs (Fresh Hope) on a mental health support model your church can implement • Catherine Boyle (OutsideIn Ministries) on creating a role for mental health liaisons in your church
  72. 72. Taking the Next Step…Together Stephen Grcevich, MD President and Founder, Key Ministry
  73. 73. Key considerations for an effective mental health inclusion strategy… • Inclusion is a mindset – not a program • Buy-in from senior leadership is absolutely essential • A good strategy benefits everyone and doesn’t require anyone to self-identify • Consider creating a role for a mental health inclusion coordinator or “concierge” • Ministry is owned by the people, supported by church staff • No church will be able to include everyone with mental illness, but every church can welcome, serve and include more people with mental illness
  74. 74. The First Step… • Senior pastors • Pray for discernment • Pursue buy-in from staff, board • Church staff, volunteers • Approach senior leadership for support, guidance • Developing a personal ministry • Respect church leaders • “Be the church” where you’ve been planted
  75. 75. Coming Alongside Your Ministry
  76. 76. Key Ministry promotes meaningful connection between churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Free training, consultation, support and resources What Does Key Ministry Do?
  77. 77. Help from Key Ministry • Training • Conferences • Video training • Book study • Consultation • Available to church teams • Resources • Networking with other ministries • Social media, sermon videos, research to support your ministry • Support
  78. 78. Connect with Key Ministry • • Twitter: @KeyMinistry • •
  79. 79. Stay in Touch! Key Ministry Website: Church4EveryChild…Key Ministry Blog: www!/drgrcevich!/KeyMinistry