Church, We’ve Got a Problem

How will the church serve a generation of families with kids who have issues with emotions or behavior that interfere with their ability to function on a day to day basis?

Kids with “hidden disabilities” like these are gradually becoming the new normal. Check out this study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. To summarize:

22 % of U.S. children entering first grade met criteria for at least one mental disorder. Kids with autism spectrum disorders or developmental disabilities were excluded from this sample.

The most common condition experienced was Simple Phobia (9.0%). Other common conditions included ADHD (8.7%), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (8.4%), Separation Anxiety Disorder (2.1%) and Tic Disorders (1.7%).

An important point the authors of the study made was to note that the 22% figure applies only to kids who demonstrated problems that interfered significantly with their ability to function normally on a day to day basis. In lay terms, that means the child is able to learn at a level consistent with their intelligence in school, make and keep friends in an age-appropriate manner, function in an age-appropriate way as a member of their family and participate in extracurricular activities common for that community… like church.

The numbers quoted in this study from Yale are pretty consistent with data reported elsewhere. If you were to look at the kids involved with children’s programming at your church, do you think anywhere near 22% of the children being served experience one or more of these conditions? If not, let me welcome you to the new mission field down the street and around the block from your church.

Next, we’ll talk about how the church can be equipped and unleashed to welcome and minister to the families of this generation and their kids.

Updated January 27, 2014