Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Do you find understanding in your church about ADHD?

My intention in writing this post is certainly not to accuse or complain. But I want to point out an observation I've made throughout the years that rather bothers me and I really have no good answers to it.

In our churches, the claim is made, and rightfully so, that God and His Word (the Bible) have all the answers for all the problems of mankind. But from my experience over nearly 40 years of church attendance in several different denominations is that church leaders across the country have absolutely no idea how to address the needs of families with children who have special needs whether they be physical handicaps or neurological differences (i.e. autism, ADHD, asperger's syndrome, etc.). In fact, in some cases, there seems to be a denial that some of these conditions even exist. They are brushed off as bad parenting, a poor home environment, a lack of education, a spiritual problem in the life of the child, or a need for even more discipline.

Let me make some clarifications at this point, if I may:

  1. I am NOT excusing a child who does have one of these conditions to use it as an excuse for intentional bad behavior, nor am I excusing parents who just won't address behavior issues in their children.
  2. I am also aware that there are definitely some churches who are seeing this as a tremendous need in their congregations, and are taking amazing steps to meet those needs.
In the informal "poll" that I did of parents with ADHD children, they ALL stated that not only does their church NOT have any kind of support group or training classes for parents living with such issues, they expressed a tremendous lack of compassion and understanding on the part of church leaders and teachers, and that their children are being kicked out of Sunday School classes and Youth Groups because of their child's behavior!! My response....

WHAT???

Now being the wife of a man who was formerly a youth pastor, I'm all too familiar with the frustrations and challenges of working with many different teenagers from a variety of backgrounds with never enough volunteer youth workers to help shoulder the responsibility. Plus the parents of these teenagers who have their own set of expectations for what their child should have available to them in the way of activities, teaching, and support, and who rarely lack an abundant supply of criticisms if things aren't done they way the think they should be or if they see an obvious weakness in the man leading this youth group.

Nevertheless, my observation is this:
I am finding that most of the training, support, and treatment options for such issues as ADHD come from SECULAR sources. Why are the Christian colleges and universities graduating elementary and secondary teachers and Bible majors who are moving into church ministries not being taught that ADHD (among other neurological "impairments") is a very real brain disorder. It is the root of the cause of so many behavior issues and that they are management techniques that help these children perform better. Why is there such a huge gap in resources, support groups, and counseling that come from a BIBLICAL worldview rather than a secular worldview.
I'm not out to bash counseling that does not come from a Bible point-of-view, but that is what I prefer for my family and what I know hundreds of families would love to have? Why can't we go to our church FAMILY for support and lack of judgement when our children are running around seemingly "out-of-control?" I wonder if those in our churches understand really how exhausting it is to have a child with these issues? I wonder if they understand that we've have tried all the charts, and games, and making of every list under the sun, and doctors, and supplements, and spankings, and reading endless numbers of books, and we're exhausted!!! Remember, these children don't seem to need as much sleep!! If they ever do sleep, it's only for a few hours at a time. When they wake up.....they hit the ground RUNNING!!
So we take them to church, as we are supposed to do, and hear things like:

"That child just needs to be spanked more."

Excuse me here again.....but that is a heartless statement spoken by a person truly ignorant of the brain differences in the child with ADHD!! Have you ever spanked a child who has neurological disorders? Have you ever seen how they completely misinterpret it and it sets them off even more into a rampage and gets worse if you try to spank them some more?

"You should try.......(insert here your discipline technique, chart, supplement)."

Then just wait until your child walks out of their classroom upset because in their mind they were "good" and had been sitting still and listened, and were meeting the criteria, 
but they did not win "best boy or best girl" yet AGAIN or EVER.

Again, I certainly don't intend to accuse or complain, I just am making observations that are becoming ever more crystal clear to me.

On a more positive note, I have a few suggestions:

Church leaders should take this seriously,
 and realize that their churches have lots of families 
dealing with this on a daily basis
 who are exhausted and looking for answers and support.

Christian colleges and universities should better equip their future teachers 
to know how to manage these students and help 
to educate the parents FROM SCRIPTURE how
to balance their lives and families with these extenuating challenges.

Church leaders should understand the need for and allow the start of support groups
and services within the church to families living with children who have neurological dfferences.

Church leaders should offer training to teachers and youth leaders to know how to better address the needs of these children as well as how to manage the classroom with them.

Church leaders should encourage the members of their congregations to be aware of this growing problem and to be willing to offer themselves as "mentors" for these children. A mentor is one
that sits with that child in his class to encourage appropriate behavior, and gives the parent an opportunity for one or two hours a week to be spiritually refreshed and taught. The mentor keeps in contact with that child throughout the week and encourages him, and even invites him to go out for some special activity further giving the parent a break from the daily stress of managing him/her. These children do so well hearing positive things, especially from those outside their family.

"But we just don't have enough people in our church who would need
this kind of ministry."

And why do you think that is?
To quote one of my husband's favorite baseball movies,
"If you build it, they will come."

Finally, ADHD is NOT a "spiritual problem."
It's a real learning difference.
They simply learn differently, that's all.
They are desperate to be understood.
To be seen for the great things they CAN do,
and not for the things they can't (like sit still, or write, or be constantly quiet.)
They need love, and grace.
Everything that Jesus offers.
Let them SEE Jesus in you!!


4 comments:

  1. Our son has Asperger's and I have had 3 separate conversations about this topic just this week. Our kids are in public school and the support, understanding and experience offered is tremendous. He spent half a year in a prominent christian school here in Greenville, SC and it was ENDLESS complaints from the teacher about his lack of compliance and defiance to her instruction. We pulled him out. It saddens me the number of kids in those environments where they are literally trying to beat or spank it out of these kids. Thanks for posting and thanks to Tommy for sharing on FB.

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  2. Thank you for this! We are just in the beginning stages of dealing with this, as our ADD son is only 5...I try to remind the teachers in his Sunday School class to let him help, put him to work, etc...because if his hands are busy and he's contributing, then their perception of his "inability to sit still and listen" changes:).

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  3. Amen Brenda! We have 2 ADHDer's, one with an Asperger's dx and one we suspect. Our church isn't too supportive and we've had a few unkind comments through the years. It makes me sad because my boys are so sweet if people would get the chance to know and understand them. Hugs and thanks so much for posting this!

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  4. We'll have to chat sometime. Andrew Johnson

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I would love to hear your thoughts too.....