“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Mental Health and the Church

I have just completed reading Dr. Steve Grcevich's new book Mental Health and Church. In a nutshell, I highly recommend it for any reader. Steve takes his incredible wealth of knowledge and experience as a child and adolescent psychiatrist and applies it to the Christian community. The book is so practical and takes the mystique out of the question of "What do I do?" in relation to inclusion and ministry with persons with mental illness.

I particularly enjoyed Part 2 where he helps the average person to "overcome" in a variety of areas leading to an inclusion strategy. But chapters 10, 11 and 12 really grabbed me. As chapter 12 exhorts, we have some apologizing to do to those we have excluded before we can ask them to trust us to the point of being among us.  Chapter 11 points out the hardship of social isolation while at the same time providing, dare I say obvious or intuitive ways, we can assist people to not be socially isolated. The ways are obvious but they are things we are NOT currently doing, so perhaps they are not as obvious to most. Then chapter 10 speaks of developing friendships among other great suggestions.

I walked away from Part 2 feeling like there can be no excuses for not taking the next steps toward an inclusion strategy. Steve, once again, removes the "I don't know what to do" excuse and replaces it with so many great ideas.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Leading social change

I was reviewing an article I wrote with Jennifer Baca that was published in 2013. In that piece, we comment on an article by Hutchinson published in 1990. The author describes six new roles for professionals in human services. Here is how we translated those proposed roles.
"A 1990 paper by Hutchison proposed six new roles for professionals in human services.
First, formal services should recognize their limitations for relationship development and rely more on connecting people with informal community groups.
Second, rely less on getting people into programs exclusively for persons with disabilities which rarely lead to development of community relationships.
Third, traditional volunteer programs should be evaluated and changed to be better vehicles for friendship development.
Fourth, attempt to develop more reliance on community members for “services” rather than being completely reliant on paid services.
Fifth, remove segregation in services such that there would be enhanced possibilities of participation with community members.
Sixth, recognize the limitations of human service professionals to actually facilitate friendships, looking instead to age peers, community members with common interests, and others who are already community-connected.
McNair (2008) described the church as playing the role described by Hutchison (1990) in the community. Human service workers would be wise to consider employing churches in their efforts to develop friendships for their clients."
(Baca & McNair, 2013 based on Hutchinson, 1990)

The church offers so much potential for facilitating microcosms of social change, reflecting the direction and vision we have for the larger society in the future. As we embrace inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Christian community, we have the incredible opportunity to demonstrate the way things should be. We can do the six things listed above. We have the potential to not just be relevant in the societal change that inclusion would bring, we could be the leaders.  We should be the leaders!


Hutchison, B. (1990). A qualitative study of the friendships of people with disabilities. In B. J. A. Smale (Ed.), Leisure challenges: Bringing people, resources and policy into play. Proceedings of the Sixth Canadian Congress on Leisure Research, May 9-12, 1990. Ontario, Canada: Ontario Research Council on Leisure. Retrieved from http://lin.ca/Uploads/cclr6/CCLR6-12.pdf 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

New curriculum on Romans from The Light & Power Company

As many readers of this blog will know, I have taught an adult Bible class at my church on Sunday mornings for the past 27 years. This class is somewhat unique in that it includes adults with various disabilities. I have collected those lessons and at times have made some of them available on the internet.  We are now in the process of publishing the lessons in a series of volumes. This second volume is devoted to the book of Romans. It contains 35 lessons. These lessons were developed, then taught, then revised, then taught again, then revised again. It is now available on Amazon. This Romans curriculum accompanies volume 1 which we published last year on the Psalms. Here are links to the two curricula.

If you have followed this blog over the years, you will know that Kathi and I have a very specific approach which is age appropriate treating adults with the respect they are entitled to. The material covered in these lessons are the same types of concepts you would teach any group of adults. 

There are also videos to accompany the curricula. You will be able to see how I teach some of the lessons.  A link to a 360' video from the Psalms curriculum is available here. You go to this site and then there is a link there with a description of the video.

So please take a look a the curriculum. It might be useful to you in your ministry.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Social skill deficits in people without disabilities

In an article published by Wallin (2004) he discussed categories of social skill deficits, in particular related to the experience of ASD. His categories were

Social indifference
Social avoidance
Social awkwardness

As I thought about those categories, it reminded me not of autism but of those without disabilities in their interactions with those who do have some form of impairment. If you think about it, people without disabilities have social skill deficits in the way they interact with persons with disabilities.

Perhaps at first they are socially indifferent. Maybe they really don't know about persons with disabilities. Because they don't know they are kind of indifferent, not really caring one way or another. But then something happens in their lives where they are confronted with the reality of the experience of disability. Because they are inexperienced or scared or just don't want to be bothered, they then move into social avoidance. They know, but they avoid any involvement. Ultimately, perhaps they cannot avoid interactions with someone with a disability so they move into a phase of social awkwardness. As we have discussed elsewhere in this blog, if I am in a situation with someone with a disability and it is socially awkward, chances are, I am the one bringing the awkwardness to the situation. See  "I bring awkwardness to the situation."The person with the disability is fine. Those three areas are where Wallin left off, and he once again was talking about social skill deficits. But these social skill deficits in those without disabilities may indeed be a progression and perhaps they lead to a fourth category, social involvement. I care now. I want relationship now. I am involved now.

So perhaps it is a progression from indifference to avoidance to awkwardness to involvement. Are you on this progression? Work through YOUR awkwardness and find your way to involvement. People with disabilities are just people. Maybe if you choose one of them as your friend, that person will choose you back.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Maturity is increased depth of relationship"

"Maturity is increased depth of relationship" is how my friend Bryan McKinney phrased this thought. Hopefully we are all interested in maturing in our ministries whoever the focus might be. For their to be increased depth of relationship, there must be a definitive discussion on the part of those in relationship to commit to relationship and depth thereof. Maturity implies change. If it is maturity, the changes are the changes that bring relational depth. Maturity implies change.

What then are things that lead to relational depth and thereby maturity?
Time given freely, in seeking the good of others and finding out what that good is. "I didn't know" implies the potential for growth in maturity.
Knowledge of someone, who they are, what they need, what they can contribute and then facilitating that contribution.
Commitment, in that one is in the relationship through good and difficult times, embracing the changes that one needs to make in themselves in order to make relationship work.
Resources dedicated to depth of or deepening relationships, recognizing and embracing  personal cost.
Sacrifice in the willingness and conviction to give one's life for another as Christ did for us (Phil 2:1-11).
Vision for others as an aspect of spiritual maturity for all believers independent of personal characteristics (Colossians 1:28-29).
Desire for relationship and depth in relationships too.

The word increased, implies movement toward an objective that has no point of achievement or arrival. We are constantly striving, seeking betterment, seeking improvement, seeking intimacy, and constantly striving.

How does change occur? It comes through awareness intentionally, unafraid of change and of being changed, knowing Biblical plans and God's plan moving toward a vision. Knowing where you currently are so you can move forward toward a Biblical understanding of relationship among all people. Being reflective about relationship is a critical aspect of change. Intentional shepherding and care of everyone, not just from the leadership, but the responsibility of all towards all.

Some of these aspects of maturity might seem a bit redundant, but it is like a multifaceted stone that you turn around and around looking at the same thing in different ways, sometimes perhaps feeling like it's the same thing but actually revealing different facets of the the stone.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Be a thought leader

The term "thought leader" has come into vogue and is often used to describe someone who is providing leadership in the way that people think about things. If you search the term, there are lots of ideas or recommendations about how you can be a thought leader in your particular area of expertise.

In the area of disability ministry, if you are attempting to lead the ministry of a local church, you must do the work to become a thought leader. You need to understand the why of what you do. If someone were to ask you a question, you must have a response that indicates that you have thought it through. If you are unsure of how to respond to a particular question, it could mean that you have more investigation to do. Not every question has an answer, but if you want to lead others in the changes that ministry to persons with disabilities will bring, you need to have a response. And there are people available who will give you input about how to answer specific questions if you will only ask.

People don't know what to do when it comes to including persons with disabilities in the church. Sometimes because they haven't thought through the issues sufficiently, they can lead a group of people in an entirely wrong direction. I would argue that segregated ministries reveal a lack of thought. I would argue that age inappropriate ministry reveals a lack of thought.

We may have a vision that is not entirely attainable at the moment. I do! But we still must work toward the changes that need to come to achieve that vision. Sometimes thoughts lead behavior and sometimes behavior leads thought. I might tell you something that can influence your behavior. But I might also give you an experience that will change your thoughts and behavior.

I have mentioned before in this blog how I bring adult friends with intellectual disabilities to some of my university classes. I interview them briefly and then just facilitate my students having a meal and conversation with the folks. At the end of the evening they tell me how so many of their preconceived ideas were changed just with a friendly interaction over a meal. No scripted questions, nothing orchestrated other than people chatting together over a meal. This is just one way to provide thought leadership without a sermon or list of readings. If you understand the ways that change can occur, you facilitate those ways. But once again, questions will come back to you and you need to have done the requisite work to respond in a way that guides people. That is thought leadership.