One of the churches that financially supports our ministry reached out to us this past week with an interesting request. They asked us to share with them areas of gratitude and praise with the intent of compiling a list of blessings that will be distributed to the congregation for members to use when they gather around their Thanksgiving tables in a couple of weeks.
I was assigned the task of putting together a list of our reasons for praise as a ministry. It was encouraging - and energizing to reflect upon all of the ways that God has been at work in extending his love to families affected by disabilities.
The group we lead on Facebook for Special Needs and Disability Ministry leaders is serving over 1,400 members as of the beginning of November.
Our blog is the eighth ranked Children’s Ministry blog in the world- and second-most shared through social media.
We’ve received 139 requests for ministry training or consultation since January 1 - more than double the number of requests we received just three years ago. That figure doesn't include the 45 requests we've received for training or consultation for mental health inclusion since April. The volume of requests has more than doubled in comparison to the similar period last year.
We hosted approximately 250 disability ministry leaders and family members from coast to coast for Inclusion Fusion Live disability ministry conference this past April. In addition to those in attendance, video of the conference shared through Facebook Live has received over 44,000 views to date. Our team had the opportunity to train at a very similar conference in suburban Kansas City this past October 25th and 26th.
On the subject of training, we've continued to host our monthly Disability Ministry Video Roundtables, available to any interested ministry leader. We developed a series of instructional videos on mental health inclusion ministry. Usage of our video training (not including Inclusion Fusion Live) is up 315% over our total for all of last year.
Mental Health and the Church, our book that presents a model for mental health inclusion ministry, has been extremely well-received and has opened doors for training and collaboration with other ministries.
We had an opportunity to participate in the 2018 Evangelicals for Life Conference, sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and develop resources related to mental health inclusion for the ERLC's website.
We serve churches large and small. One of the neatest praise reports we have to share came about when I had the opportunity to preach at a modest-sized Methodist church in Central Ohio. A church staff member announced that four members had come forward after the first service to volunteer for their disability ministry/mental health inclusion team!
We're grateful for the opportunity to do training by video on mental health inclusion for from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
We launched an additional platform this past spring on the Patheos website to provide encouragement and support to families of children with special needs. That platform alone was accessed over 9,500 times in September, the last full month for which we have data. That's in addition to the 3.36 million views we've had of our blogs and website to date. We have over 11,000 people subscribed to our e-mail lists (including over 4,800 subscribers to our blog via e-mail), over 13,000 followers on our main Facebook page, and over 17,000 on our Facebook page for families.
Above all, we're grateful to be part of a movement of God that's so visibly transforming the ways in which churches minister with families affected by disability. At the same time, we recognize the need for prayer as we seek to be faithful to our mission in the coming months.
Our team would very much appreciate your prayers for the following requests...
Inclusion Fusion Live 2019: We're in the planning process for next year's conference and beginning to receive submissions from potential presenters. We've also received a commitment from a keynote speaker who we believe will help us attract more ministry leaders and families. More on that later. Prayers are appreciated for a conference that will draw more leaders from more churches interested in starting or expanding their disability ministries, promote new collaborations between existing ministries and offer up and coming leaders in the field the opportunity to be noticed and network.
Mental Health Ministry Roundtable: We're going to be launching a roundtable for churches interested in mental health inclusion in 2019. Catherine Boyle will be leading the first roundtable on Wednesday, November 14th. Free registration is available here. Pray that the roundtable will be a catalyst for more churches to become more intentional in their efforts to include families affected by mental illness.
Unexpected Blessings: Sandra from our team has a new book scheduled for release on November 20th to help special-needs families move past the pain and confusion of their circumstances and slowly, firmly face the future with hope. We'd hope that her book would find its way into the hands of thousands of people who would be encouraged by her wisdom, stories and experiences.
Sufficient financial support: Spending has significantly exceeded our donations to this point in the year. We're looking at the prospect of significant cuts in next year's budget that will greatly impact the scope of our ministry. Two of our five core staff members (myself included) volunteer their services, and our total expenses for this year will be approximately $75,000. We don't have much to cut.
We'd appreciate prayers that we'll have the resources to be able to conduct and expand our ministry in the year ahead. If you or your church would be willing to provide monthly support or a one time gift to support our work, your donation will be much appreciated and will be put to good use.