A book to help churches welcome families affected by mental illness

Many of our readers are aware that our ministry has been working on the development of a unique resource that we believe will address a significant unmet need in the worldwide church.

Key Ministry has identified the need for a comprehensive model for including children, teens and families impacted by mental illness into the local church, providing churches an opportunity for evangelism and outreach in their local communities while addressing the unmet spiritual needs of the largest segment of the disability community. We're now advancing such a model from the accumulated experience of the Key Ministry team in serving churches since 2002 and the decades of personal experience members of our team have acquired through caring for thousands of kids and families with a broad range of mental health conditions.

Sadly, persons with mental illness have been overlooked as disability or “special needs” ministries proliferated in recent years. The typical church with a disability ministry has little to offer persons with mental illness and their families. Pastors and church leaders recognize both the need for mental health ministry and their inadequate preparation to provide such ministry. A 2014 study from Lifeway Research reported that…

  • 49% of pastors rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group messages about acute mental illness. 
  • 56% of pastors strongly agree that local churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support to individuals with mental illness and their families.
  • 68% of pastors indicate their church provides care for the mentally ill, but only 28% of family members of persons with mental illness reported such care was available.

While some churches offer counseling services or host support/educational groups, supports are typically limited to adults and do little to welcome and sustain children, teens and families impacted by mental illness into the daily activities and relationship structure of the local congregation. The 20% of American kids and adults with mental illness and their families represent an enormous underserved population for the local church. This book will help church leaders better connect and minister with families living within the shadow of their steeples.

We're delighted to share that the team at Harper Collins Christian Publishing and their associates at Zondervan (which, along with Thomas Nelson is one of their two foundational publishing groups) has recognized the same need and has extended a contract to work together with us in making the book a reality.

We believe that the book will be...

  • The first title to address the need for “externally-focused” ministry with persons impacted by mental illness and their families.
  • A “how-to” for churches interested in evangelism and outreach to affected families in their local communities.
  • A unique tool that applies understanding obtained from treating children and families for thirty years in developing a comprehensive resource for churches useful in ministry to persons of all ages.
  • Of great value in directing the development of a church-wide mental health inclusion strategy or to guide inclusion efforts in an identified ministry department.

Special thanks go out to Karen Neumair and her team at Credo Communications for bringing us together with the folks from Harper Collins and to Ryan Pazdur for advocating for the book among his fellow editors and teammates at Harper Collins/Zondervan.

Similar to my experience in publishing medical research, the process of publishing the book is quite a lengthy process. I'll be taking off from my practice for much of July in order to write the book. The final manuscript is due at Zondervan in January. The book will be available for pre-order next year, but the actual hard copies will be available in bookstores in February, 2018.

In the meantime, our ministry team will continue to offer lots of resources for churches looking to include kids and families impacted by all manner of disability. I also hope to have an opportunity to meet more of our readers from around the U.S. at ministry conferences and other speaking and teaching engagements as the publication date for the book draws near.

Our followers can help with the process in two ways...

First, both myself personally and our team collectively would ask for your prayers for God's wisdom in guiding the content of the book and making the book as practical as possible for as many church leaders as He would have read it.

Second, I hope to use lots of stories and illustrations throughout the book, both to demonstrate how church involvement can be hard for families impacted by mental illness, as well as "success stories" I might share to illustrate how churches have done an excellent job including affected kids and families. If you have a story you're willing to share (your name and the name of the church may be withheld at your request), please feel free to pass it along to me at steve@keyministry.org.

Join with us in celebrating this magnificent opportunity to help the church be the church for kids, adults and families impacted by mental illness.


Key Ministry encourages our readers to check out the resources we've developed to help pastors, church leaders, volunteers and families to better understand the nature of trauma in children and teens, Jolene Philo's series on PTSD in children, and series on other mental health-related topics, including series on the impact of ADHDanxiety and Asperger's Disorder on spiritual development in kids, depression in children and teenspediatric bipolar disorder, and ten strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church.