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  • Family Christian® Celebrates New Path Forward

    Family Christian® Celebrates New Path Forward Store and product improvements create unique shopping experience GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Nov. 18, 2015) – Following a 12-month operational reorganization, along with a complete store and product overhaul, Family Christian® announced today it is on the path to becoming a stronger retailer and supporter of faith-based causes.

    As part of the reorganization, Family Christian have upgraded and expanded their product selection to include a new compelling assortment of home décor, apparel, and books. “It’s not just about the new merchandise, though,” said Steve Biondo, Family Christian Spokesperson. “We’ve also implemented a new Service Promise throughout the organization, focused on loving and caring for our customers, to guarantee a shopping experience like no other.” The most important element of the organization’s restructuring is an even deeper focus on maximizing its ministry impact. Purchases at Family Christian support the non-profit’s efforts to unite with ministries that are helping children and families in need stateside and worldwide. “While our business goal is to be a first-class retailer, the heart of this organization is firmly grounded in ministry,” said Biondo. “We will be developing even stronger ministry partnerships to continue and increase our support of hands-on widow and orphan work worldwide, and sharing God’s word through Bible donations and mission trip support.”

    To locate the nearest Family Christian store, visit www.familychristian.com.

    About Family Christian Located in the United States, Family Christian is the world's largest Christian-focused retailer. The nonprofit organization has approximately 255 stores in 36 states. The organization offers a variety of Christian-themed merchandise, including Bibles, home decor, art, gifts, DVD’s, kids products, books, and music. In addition to its physical stores Family Christian provides consumers with access to all these resources through www.familychristian.com, its eCommerce platform. All earnings are donated to Christian ministries serving families, orphans and widows in distress. Learn more at http://www.familychristian.com/about.

  • Give Hope: Food

    What is hope? “A reason to live.” – Ron Morin, Founder and Director of Pray America/Manos de Jesus

    As the Christmas season draws near, we are reminded of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brought to the world. Today, so many people around the world are struggling, and are without the hope of Jesus. Our prayer is that together we can help fill many of them with that hope.

    There are three ways in which we aim to give hope this year: through education, food and water.

    Give Hope: Food

    Beginning November 20, our campaign to give hope through food kicks off. Along with our ministry partner, Pray America, we are raising funds to feed 10,000 Guatemalans for one year.

    In the late 1980s, Pray America began serving people in need in Central America. Their Christ-centered and non-denominational ministry works to bring spiritual, physical and social restoration and wholeness to Mayan widows and orphans.

    Through their programs, families are fed both physically and spiritually, meaning that in addition to the food they receive, they are taught about Jesus and the eternal hope that He provides.

    Ron shared that in the regions they are serving, “most of the people they meet are hopeless, but once Pray America introduces them to the gospel, their outlook dramatically changes.”

    Take the story of Micaela.

    After putting her through years of verbal and physical abuse, Micaela's husband up and left, leaving her and her two children to fend for themselves. Times were tough - there were days when, she Debora, 12, and Freddie, 5, could only eat once a day. Then Micaela met the people at Pray America, and her family’s life began to change.

    Now she attends the widow's discipleship program held once every two weeks, and her children attend a feeding program twice a week. Through the food provided to them, they receive hope for tomorrow. Through the teachings of Christ, hope for eternity.

    Micaela and her two Children

    Today, Pray America operates three feeding programs in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, but even the weekly programs could not make up for the food shortage that took place in 2014. Due to a drought that year, corn only grew to about half its size. Corn is a crucial food to Guatemalans, so without it—they struggle to survive.

    Ron was concerned. What if the drought returned? How would Guatemalans survive?

    Ron asked and God answered. His response was to build a bodega, which is a food storehouse. Earlier this year, construction was completed, and now the need is to fill it with dry, natural food that Guatemalans can survive on. As soon as it is filled, Pray America will begin distributing the food to the families with the greatest need.

    A full bodega can keep 10,000 people fed for an entire year, so from November 20th to the 29th, please consider helping us feed these 10,000 Guatemalans in need. For the first $25,000 donated, our nonprofit ministry, Family Christian Ministries, will match the amount.

    If you would like to join us in giving hope to the people of Chichicastenango, please visit our Give Hope: Food page, or text FAMILY to 52000 to donate $10*.

    *Your one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance. Message & data rates may apply.

  • A Loving Message of Faith, Family & Fun

    Finding a movie that is both enjoyable and safe for your family can be challenging.  At Family Christian we love finding faith based and family friendly movies for you to enjoy.  Recently a great new film called "Welcome to Inspiration" has arrived on DVD.

    Welcome to Inspiration


    Starring Jason Crabb, among others, Welcome To Inspiration has a loving message of faith, family and fun to apply study and scripture in our daily lives to achieve the spiritual success we long for. It speaks to planting seeds, discipleship, self-study, and hopes to spark a moving experience through cinema in the hearts of its audience!  This inspirational journey will be projected over an original Country Gospel and Contemporary Christian soundtrack, with artists including Grammy Award winners Jason Crabb and Larry Gatlin, and Christy Sutherland, Terri Sharp,Andrew Greer, Andrea Thomas, Paul Reter, Rob Rainwater, the Lee University Campus Choir and many more. The Movie is inspired by the scripture based principles found in the book, The Street Sweeper by Tim Enochs.

    The Dove Foundation has approved this film for children ages 12+, but of course you should always judge for yourselves what you deem appropriate for your family.  This film was released in 2015 and is now available for purchase from Family Christian.  You can order your copy of Welcome to Inspiration today.

    Meanwhile, we are offering a chance for you win a copy!  3 lucky folks will each win a dvd of Welcome to Inspiration.  Enter below for a chance to win.

  • An Interview With tobyMac

    tobyMac has had a very successful career: millions of albums sold, many awards won, and thousands of concerts performed, but he does not let this define who he is or why he makes music in the first place.


    "The music is a labor of love that I create for people to enjoy and hopefully be inspired by, it's not a self-indulgent thing. It's my way of serving the listener," he says.

    He hopes all his albums point people toward something deeper... something more hopeful. His latest album, This Is Not A Test, drives listeners to connect with God in a whole new way.

    Family Christian: What’s the meaning behind the new album title, This Is Not A Test?

    tobyMac: This Is Not A Test falls right in line with trying to pursue God in this crazy world. It’s sort of reminding us that there are no practice runs in life ... so I’m reminding people: Let’s use this time wisely, let’s use this time to bring glory to the King.

    Family Christian: Is there a common theme theme seen in this album?

    tobyMac: I think the theme comes from my life. I feel like I'm not living a life different than anyone else. You know, I live in a house with 5 kids and a wife, but I also travel on the road with a band of brothers, just doing life. I am a member of a church, but it's almost like it's a little church on our bus. It's about trying to pursue God and stay faithful to Him in this crazy world. That's what these songs are about.

    Family Christian: “Beyond Me” was the 1st single off the new album. What does that song mean to you?

    tobyMac: The heart of the song came from a prayer that I stayed really faithful to over the last 3 years. Literally as I walk into the studio I say, "God, hollow me of all my junk. Hollow me of my insecurity, my pride and my doubt. Make me hollow enough that you can breathe something through me that would turn eyes to you." And whether that's a song or a conversation you're going to have with a co-worker, or whatever you're facing, that's for everybody.

    Family Christian: Tell us a little bit about the tour this fall and which artists are joining you out on the road for it.

    tobyMac: I'm really excited about this tour. The lineup is incredible. I can't believe Britt Nicole and Colton Dixon said yes. I'm this guy doing pop, with a little bit of rock & roll and a little bit of hip-hop, and then I see Britt on my left and Colton on my right. I think the styles just work together. They're two of the best artists in our industry. They're about ministry and about art, and about putting on the best show they can put on.

    FamilyChristian: How do you stay grounded while out on tour? Do you have a daily bible study/devotion routine? Or a time in the day you block off just for “quiet time?”

    tobyMac: I set rules for myself. Sometime when I get going too fast, I lay down my little blanket rule of 'I'm not allowed to leave my bunk until I get in my Word.' So childish, but I'm still a kid at heart. Sometimes you just want to get up - you hear everybody in the front lounge having coffee and talking, or watching the football or basketball game, and you wake up and you want to get out there. You know if you get out there though, you won't look in that mirror of God's Word and spend a little time with the Lord.

    And we're gone many times on Sundays, so we will have worship service every week where someone teaches, usually me, but I open it up. But we are always talking about the Word. The Lord is just in our conversation. It's about Him and serving Him out there.

    FamilyChristian: With a wife and 5 kids, how do you maintain a healthy balance between family life and your music?

    tobyMac: I don't mean this in a cliche way, but my family comes first. If they need me, I'm running. I think I make that clear even with my record company, and my management supports that.

    I've set some things in place that are important and it's just the way we do things. I record from 10 in the morning until 6:30 at night. A lot of artists will start at noon, and if they're not married, they can work until 2 in the morning. I finish at 6:30, go home and eat dinner with my family. We sit around the table and talk about the best part of our day, then turn on the clean up song and go at it in the kitchen!

    We tour a little bit differently than others. We only tour on the weekends and don't go out for weeks at a time. I don't want to be that dad or that husband that wasn't there. I want to be there.

    Family Christian: Alright wrapping up, the first day of school outfit was crucial to get right as a kid... do you remember one epic tobyMac outfit you rocked for the first day of school?

    tobyMac: I do unfortunately. This is in kindergarten. We were deep into sports and my favorite guy on the Washington Redskins was Chris Hanburger. I think he was an outside linebacker. It was my dream to get his jersey, and they were hard to find, but I found it in the D.C. area. I knew that was going to be what I wore on the first day of kindergarten.

    I had the Chris Hanburger jersey on, number 55, with these chocolate brown and orange pants with light blue stripes. They might have even had a little bell at the bottom - I'm not sure. And I had on what we called Puma Clydes back then. I was looking good. I was as trendy as can be to an embarrassing level, but my soul was feeling good that day. I was walking on air.

  • The Rapid Rise of Christianity

    In 2013, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey brought us The Bible Miniseries, a ten episode series which aired once a week leading up to Easter Sunday. It briefly covered main events of the Old Testament, as well the life of Christ from birth to resurrection.

    Earlier this year they returned with a sequel series, A.D. The Bible Continues, which covered life after Christ’s death and resurrection. This time the first episode aired on Easter Sunday and ran for the eleven weeks following.
    A.D. The Bible Continues

    The series, which releases on DVD and Blu-ray today, follows the disciples who, after the Resurrection, received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, enabling them to go out and share the message that they were commissioned to give.

    Christianity quickly spread during this time period, but it was not without heavy persecution. However, at times the suffering believers endured was the reason that belief spread.

    In Acts 7, we read about the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death for proclaiming Christ as Lord (Acts 7: 54-60 ESV).

    Following that story, we find in Acts 8 that because of this great persecution in Jerusalem, believers were “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,” but also that “those who scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1-4 ESV)

    Even with all the torturing and killing, believers did not turn from Christ, as the combination of Roman oppression and Jewish revolt was no match for the power of God. This goes to show that God can use evil for good and will do whatever is necessary for His will to be done.

    The faith and perseverance that early believers had offers strong encouragement for Christians today. If you’ve ever been treated poorly because of your faith in Christ, remain steadfast, as “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV).

    Check out some of these stories and many more in A.D. The Bible Continues, which recreates the tense and dramatic narrative of the beginning of the Book of Acts, and encourages you to dig deeper by studying Scripture for yourself.

  • Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College: Part Two, The Scholarships

    This is the second part of a series on helping your child get into their dream college. Part one discusses testing.

    College is expensive. Tuition alone costs a monstrous amount, but then there’s room and board, a meal plan, travel costs and let’s not forget text books — yes, some really do cost hundreds.

    But one of the best kept secrets when applying to school is that you don’t have to pay it all. You can earn it.

    Most students concerned about college try to get a job to help pay for school. Instead of looking for minimum wage work, I focused on being a student. And within only two years, I’d earned $40,000 to put towards my college education.

    How? Private scholarships.

    Most students and parents assume that they will only earn what their school of choice gives them. They then miss out on the wonderful opportunities that exist through private scholarship organizations.

    I'm here to tell you that with the right attitude and diligent hard work, students can make more money studying for your SATs and applying for scholarship competitions than most who have a job all throughout high school.

    Here’s how.

    The Prep Work:

    1. Have your student study the SAT by taking practice tests. I lost count of how many times I actually took the SAT and ACT. The best way to do well is to know how the test is structured. Buy the practice test books and have your child utilize them. You can even sign up your student to receive the SAT question of the day sent directly to their email — if they take this every day, they are getting more exposure to the style and format of the questions.

    2. Help them make a resume. Students don’t need to wait until they’re job searching to have a resume. They should keep it on file and have it ready at all times. If they haven’t had much job experience, then they can include any awards or accomplishments, volunteer service, extracurriculars or special skills.

    3. Help them perfect the short bio application essay (less than 500 words). This is your student’s time to shine and tell the judges about life experience and what makes them a good contender for their competition. Word of advice: students should not over-emphasize other scholarships they have already won, as some organizations want to identify new potential winners.

    4. Guide them to read voraciously. Reading deeply and widely will help students answer scholarship questions and will aid them in writing the necessary short answer essays on the standardized tests and on the grant application forms.


    5. Assist in identifying candidates to write letters of recommendation. It’s helpful for your student to go ahead and ask important people to write a letter of recommendation for them. Consider a wide range of people — teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors, employers etc.

    The Process:

    Help your student go for it! Here are a few sample organizations that provide generous amounts of money to high school students applying for college. Your student will usually create an account and then submit your application.

    A few scholarships:

    National Society of High School Scholars - This is an honors society that I joined as a senior after receiving an invitational letter. They have monthly scholarships that your students can apply for and some are quite simple. Not only is this a great way to earn money, but membership is also a good resume-builder.

    Distinguished Young Women - I walked away from DYW with $20,000 to be put towards Wheaton College, the school of my dreams. This organization is for girls in their senior year of high school. Students compete in 5 categories: Fitness, Self-Expression (onstage question), Talent, Interview and Scholastics. Not only can this program help you gain money but it is also a thrilling experience and a wonderful opportunity for students to challenge themselves and to get involved in their community.

    National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) - This organization is for college athletes, so if your child plans on taking sports to school, look into the leadership programs, grants and scholarships with the NCAA.

    Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) - I also participated in this organization. This program serves to educate young people about patriotism and the fundamental values of our nation. Students compete at several different levels in an essay competition: Post, Regional, State, National. The competition is called "Voice of Democracy".

    Siemens Foundation - Siemens offers both a merit scholarship and a national competition for math, science and technology. Applicants create a project and write a research report on their findings to be evaluated by a panel of judges in the selected field. If your child prefers science fairs to literary analysis, Siemens is one to consider.

    Ayn Rand Institute - Every year, there is a substantial essay competition in honor of the magnificent writer and political thinker Ayn Rand. The competition for Grade 12 - College is on her book Atlas Shrugged and the winner walks away with $20,000. It's worth looking into.

    The Official College Board - This is the organization that releases the SAT. Through them, you can find online questions, study guides and other resourceful materials. There are also merit-based scholarships through private organizations. It's helpful for your student to create a profile with the College Board and browse scholarships that match your needs.

    I recently received an email from someone working at my school’s Financial Aid department telling me that I brought in more private scholarships than most students they see. She was asking me how this was possible because they’re always working to make college affordable and she wanted to know my story so that it could potentially help other applying students.

    This is how.

    In just a handful of hours, any student can apply for a plethora of scholarships. Think about the possibilities! If your child wins one quick-draw $5,000 scholarship that probably took only two-three hours to prepare for, they’ve just made over $1500 an hour.

    This is the kind of work that pays off. This is the kind of work that pays for college. Help your child do the research and learn how to apply their strengths. They can work hard and work smart — they, too, can earn $40,000 for college.


    This post was written by Ciera Horton, a unique blend of academic and artistic. She is a writer and world traveler, a lover of old books and swing dancing, and a student at Wheaton College in Chicago.  She shares her culturally-engaging outlook on literature, education and social hot topics for the Christian millennial on her blog, www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

  • Give Hope: Education

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3 ESV

    As the Christmas season draws near, we are reminded of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brought to the world. Today, so many people around the world are struggling, and are without the hope of Jesus. Our prayer is that together we can help fill many of them with that hope.

    There are three ways in which we aim to give hope this year: through education, food and water.

    Give Hope: Education, Food, Water

    Our first initiative is to give hope through education, which runs from now through November 12th.

    Along with our partner Back2Back Ministries, we are raising money and support for orphans and vulnerable children, offering them an opportunity to live in a family-style setting, and receive scholarships, tutoring, and encouragement to pursue their dreams.

    The ultimate goal is to teach these children how to become self-sufficient and to give back to their communities. With more education, children are more likely to become leaders of tomorrow and forever shape the direction of their countries.

    One of those future leaders, Madison, broke free from a cycle of physical and spiritual poverty when she entered into the Hope Program at Back2Back.

    We asked her how life changed after entering Madisonthe program, and this is what she said: “My life changed in a really radical way. Probably the coolest that has happened to me since I've been here is that I began a real relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    The Hope Program is about more than just providing young people with an education. Loving house parents nurture and care for each student, and most important, introduce them to the hope found in Jesus.

    We asked Madison what she hopes for now that she’s been through the program, and her answer brilliantly captures the mission behind the Hope Program:

    “My only hope is Jesus. My dream isn’t in a family or a job. It’s only in what He’s going to do in my life.”

    Yes, we are aiming to provide children throughout the world with hope through education, water, and food, but our ultimate hope is rooted in Jesus.

    This is because hope in Jesus is eternal, while other “hopes” fade away. That’s why Peter calls it a living hope.

    "The only imperishable hope is that which climbs above the stars, and fixes itself upon the throne of God and the person of Jesus Christ." – Charles Spurgeon

    The Hope Program opened doors for Madison that previously didn't exist. She now plans to serve one year in a mission school, and then go on to study dentistry. Even with all the new opportunities popping up in her life, her zeal for Christ has not taken a back seat.

    “I think my greatest desire is to share my testimony with many students, that they would understand the hand of God and the glory of God exists in our lives, and that He can change the bad to good and restore hearts,” Madison said.

    If you would like to join us in giving hope to students like Madison, please visit our Give Hope: Education page, or text FAMILY to 91011.

  • Spread the Warmth of God's Love with Barnabas Bear

    Family Christian introduced Barnabas Bear in 2003 to raise money for and show love to children in need throughout the world. With your help, we've donated over 800,000 bears in the twelve years since. Barnabas Bear has had many different looks, but the message has always remained the same:

    "This bear is named Barnabas, which means comfort and encouragement. Barnabas is here to remind you every day that someone cares about you and wants you to know that God loves you. To become a child of God and know that you will someday live in Heaven with Him and His Son, Jesus, all you have to do is ask Him to come and live in your heart.

    Just say this simple prayer: Dear God, thank you for loving me. I know that I have done things that make your heart sad. Please forgive me and come and live in my heart forever. Help me to do what's right. I love you. In the name of your Son, Jesus, Amen!"

    Barnabas Bear

    Offering a tangible expression of Christ's love, Barnabas Bear provides a wonderful way to share a big hug with the kids in your community and around the world.

    One of our employees from an Ohio store, Melissa, witnessed firsthand the comfort Barnabas Bear brings. In 2012 her nephew and his family were in a bad car accident. While her nephew and his 11-month-old daughter did not survive the wreck, her niece and their 2-year-old son did.

    Melissa shared that her great nephew was conscious at the scene of the accident, but was very traumatized by the machinery, sirens, and other loud noises.

    When a first responder found the young boy in a responsive state, he provided him with Barnabas Bear to help keep him calm.

    "It brings me comfort, knowing that he had this little bear with him to help provide the love and comfort that he needed in that very terrible situation," she said.

    This is one of many stories that show the impact Barnabas Bear can have in a child's life, and the reason that Family Christian created it years ago.

    Many children do not know Jesus, but Barnabas Bear gives a child the introduction, or reminder, that God loves and wants to have a relationship with them.

    Barnabas Bear with Kids

    Purchase Barnabas for only $5, and share God’s love by:

    Donating Him: When you buy at your local store, we give him to a ministry in your own community. When you buy online, your bear will be donated to and distributed through Back2Back Ministries, a non-profit organization who strives to provide spiritual, physical, emotional, educational, and social needs to orphans and other vulnerable children around the world.

    Taking Him Home: Give him to a child you know who needs to feel the warmth of God’s love.

    We look forward to teaming up with you once again to spread love to children in our own communities and to the ends of the earth.

    Have you or anyone else that you know had an experience with Barnabas Bear? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Exclusive Interview with Mark Batterson

    Mark Batterson

    Family Christian: We are excited about your new book “If”. The idea of using your worries as a springboard to a new future is an intriguing idea.   What was your inspiration for this book?

    Mark: Everybody has a favorite chapter in the Bible. Romans 8 is mine. It’s got everything! It starts with no condemnation in Christ. It ends with nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And right in the middle it says all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose! But the key verse to me is Romans 8:31—If God is for us, who can be against us. That’s the game-changer! There are 1,784 ifs in the Bible, but that’s my favorite.

    Family Christian: “If” is filled with great content, but if you could condense this down to one primary thought for readers to take away what would it be?

    Mark: God is for you every day, in every way!

    Family Christian: Same question Mark, but this time for Pastors. What do you hope Pastors, or those serving in ministry will take away from “If”?

     Mark: Pastors set the tone, set the standard. When you create a culture where people actually believe that God is for them, the church turns into a faith-filled atmosphere where anything can happen!

    Family Christian: Speaking of pastors, this is Clergy Appreciation Month. Do you have a suggestion for how lay people can show appreciation for their pastors/ministry leaders?

    Mark: I love gift cards! It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

    Family Christian: Could you share with us one encouraging verses for Pastors to focus on during Clergy Appreciation month?

    Mark: Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Emphasis on I and my. It’s His church, not ours. And if we can stay out of the way of what God wants to do, some amazing things can happen! We say it this way at NCC: if you stay humble and stay hungry, there is nothing God cannot do in you or through you.

    Family Christian: We know you are a talented author, so we have to ask…what are YOU reading right now?

    Mark: I had a little sabbatical this summer, first one in nineteen years of pastoring. So I had the chance to do lots of reading! I love biographies—helps me put my story in perspective. So I read biographies on George Washington, the Wright Brothers, and Andrew Jackson to name a few. I’m also at a place where I’m really trying to manage priorities and establish boundaries that are healthy and holy. I loved Essentialism by Greg McKeown and the classic book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries.

    Family Christian: Finally, we’d love to know how we can be praying for you and your family Mark.

    Mark: I have the joy and privilege of pastoring a church in the nation’s capital. Frankly, we’re praying for revival to start here. Why not? As we head into a presidential election year, I know all eyes will be on DC. I also know that our hope is not in the government, but in the King of Kings.

    "If" by Mark Batterson

    Order your copy of "If" today or pick this title up in your local Family Christian store.   You may visit our website to find other books by Mark Batterson as well.

  • On Dealing with Special Needs


    I will guarantee that many of you have said, overheard or seen sentiments like those pictured above. I know I did. I was one of those moms who had a perfect first child, and therefore thought I knew everything. I had no problem blaming the parents, blaming the doctors, blaming society for allowing "brats" who try to solve the problem by medicating them vs. discipline.

    Then, I had to eat my own words.

    I now find myself one of the first people to defend the child with the invisible disabilities. My second daughter was entirely different from my first. She was far more exuberant, and head strong. She had quirks about her that would make me question, from a very early age, if she suffered from some sort of disorder. I would find myself searching the internet, taking those "how to know if your child has _____" quizzes. My daughter was always the square peg in a world of round holes. Even within the scope of various disabilities, she didn't quite fit the profile. I would think briefly that she must be fine, but then with each developmental milestone we would (or should) hit ... I was searching again.

    When she was just around two years old, we got our first diagnosis. "Speech Delayed". We attended a few assessments, and had our sit down meeting to talk about her treatment plan. This was the first time someone referred to my daughter as disabled. It rocked me to my core. It doesn't matter what the diagnosis is, hearing that your child is disabled ... it takes your breath away. I cried the whole ride home. Someone actually put words to something I suspected all along. But, clearly, it wasn't just a speech delay. Many of the behaviors she was exhibiting, it was assumed, would correct themselves as she became more verbal.

    Her speech cleared up, but the quirks didn't. In some respects, it got worse.

    I remember, time and time again, telling people THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER. I actually wanted to know what it was, so I could help her. Answers evaded me. It was her second grade teacher that first mentioned autism, but my daughter didn't fit that profile either. Our next diagnosis was a positive one, GIFTED.

    I knew my daughter was exceptionally smart, which I think was part of what frustrated me about her behaviors. I couldn't wrap my head around why someone SO smart, couldn't see or correct her behaviors.

    It would not come until 5th grade that we would get another diagnosis. ADHD. You know the "brat disease", "excuse for parents who don't want to discipline their children disease", the "too lazy to parent their children disease".... yeah, that one. We would work our way through figuring out medications and dosage. What I couldn't be prepared for, was the response of others.

    "She is just being a kid, she doesn't need medication."

    "Have you tried changing her diet? I have read that _____ causes ADHD"

    "You don't have to give her medication. Mountain Dew or strong coffee will work just as well."

    "She is just head strong. You need to set firmer boundaries."

    They have no clue what it is like to live with a child that has ADHD. Let alone a GIFTED child, with ADHD. They live in a world, where their brains NEVER shut down. They are constantly on the go, on the move. They talk non stop, about everything, to the point of parental exhaustion. They are extreme about how they respond to everything. She is loud. She is intense. She is extreme. She is, exactly how God made her. And, she will happily tell you that.

    When you talk to someone about your child being disabled, and they say "She doesn't look disabled".... it hurts. They do not know what it is like to get a letter home EVERY DAY about your child's behavior, and the calls to the doctor that it may be time to increase her medication. Again. The same medication you were hoping to wean her off of in time, with the grand hope that you can help her learn to control her behavior.

    It is devastating to hear members of your own family speak about her disability. The one who calls her a "zombie" when she is on her medication. And the one, who says they can't handle her off her medication. When people who are her own blood won't babysit her because she is "too much" for them. She will spend the rest of her life unaware of the number of times she was rejected by her own family members. A burden my heart bears, to spare her.

    They also do not know what it is like to open your child's planner at the end of the school year... to find a note taped in the back. In her handwriting you see the words "Read Every Day". And, as any mom would, you open up the note to see these words written on a cheap valentines day class swap card....

    "I know some people thing you are weird,

    But I think you are awesome."

    It is great to see that someone sees the AMAZING side of your child. It is heart wrenching to know that your child needed that affirmation so much, she would put it into her planner... making sure to read it every day. She needed to know someone other than her parents (and God) liked her. She was alone, lonely.

    Everything changed when she started her medication. The notes stopped coming home. She started making friends. She was able to focus, and her behaviors stopped or at least were minimized. She has best friends now.

    In the church, it is easy for us to know how to respond to the child with a visible disability. We not only see it, but we are prepared for (or at least expecting) that we are going to need to be more patient, more hands on, more helpful and more understanding. We would be more cautious about what we said to the parents. Those parents hear things like "He had a hard day today, but we got through it" or "He did so well today!".

    When you are a parent of a child with an invisible disability, you hear things like.... "Wow, that one... she's a handful", usually accompanied by a look of complete exasperation on their face. When well meaning people off up a litany of suggestions on how to raise this child, you feel defeated. You feel judged. You feel like you are failing as a parent.

    We are now in the middle school years, and our daughter sits with us during Saturday night service. We do not give her medication on days when there is no school, we still hold out hope that she'll learn the coping skills to live off medication one day. Sitting with her, un-medicated, at Saturday night service is the equivalent to sitting with a toddler.

    She fidgets. She talks. She interrupts. She draws. She goes through the papers in the pew pockets. She touches people, gently. She asks a million questions. She hangs on you, pulls on you, sits on you. She sits up, she lays down.

    She can't help herself.

    She also sings with all her might. She raises her hands to the Lord, as she praises. She smiles bigger, and has a twinkle in her eye ... that melts your heart. She laughs with every muscle in her body. She is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. She may ask a LOT of questions, but they are good questions. Pastor, despite her fidgeting... SHE HEARD EVERY WORD YOU SAID. With certainty, we will be discussing it later. You deposited that information into a vault, a bank she will pull from one day.

    How does the church minister to people like me, to my daughter?

    1) Recognize that unseen disorders are still REAL. These families need support too, they need help... they parent the child no one wants to babysit. When mom walks into the church late (again), looking like she just went through WWIII.... Smile at her, hug her, and connect to that child. The more you make the child feel welcome at the church, the easier it is for us to get them motivated to come.

    2) Be mindful of the words you speak, and the assumptions you make. You have no idea how hard it is to parent these children, every day choosing which battles you are going to fight. While yes, there may be parents who abuse the system, most of us do not. We love our children. We are doing everything we can for them to be successful now & in their future. We need your words of encouragement. When people make comments like the one in the picture above, they have no clue WHO they are saying it to. I've heard it. It makes me cringe. I'm that parent you are calling lazy, and unwilling to discipline. You don't even realize it.

    3) When you see the parent trying to wrangle them in, understand that THIS child REQUIRES different techniques and parenting. We are not being harsh, we are holding firm boundaries. We are still teaching them, and we appreciate your willingness to teach them as well. We appreciate your patience, and that you see the best in our kids. Don't let them get away with something, just because they have a disorder or disability. Just keep it in mind, as you choose how to handle it, that you are not dealing with an average kid. When in doubt, ask the parents.

    I know there are times when my daughter will be a distraction, and you will look. I expect the look. I appreciate the smile.

    For those of you reading this, who may have a child like mine sitting in your Sunday Service, there is HOPE.

    When the pressure is removed from the parents, when they understand that you love their kids... imperfections, quirks, and all... there is an enormous release. We can engage in your message, without worry about what our kid is doing every second. And you set the tone for others, when you (especially as Pastors and Elders) say it is ok... the body will follow. Your smiles, become their smiles. Your acceptance, becomes their acceptance.

    Use your knowledge of members in the body to connect us families together, but also with people in the body that have the skills. Tell us about that occupational therapist that can give us suggestions on getting through the service, or help train the Sunday School workers on how to deal with kids that have disabilities and disorders, particularly the invisible ones.

    And, consider having some of the following:

    juniorshieldGIVE THEM JOBS!!!! - Just because a child or teen has a disability or disorder, doesn't mean they don't have gifts and talents. Giving them a job as part of the service will allow them to plug in, feel important, and something to focus on. Many would love to be a greeter, pass out welcome packets, help pass out the offering baskets, etc. Even something as simple as having a few kids restock the pens and response cards in the pews between services, it can mean a lot. Be sure to speak with the parents first, to help identify the best area to serve.

    actionbible Have a few copies of The Action Bible tucked sporadically under pews or available as the kids come in the door. They are easy to follow, and can help capture the child's attention during the service. Mom and Dad will get to enjoy the message, and their child has something appropriate to keep them engaged.

    worshipbulletins Take a lesson from the Pros! Any restaurant that serves kids has special menus and packs of crayons for kids. Why? Because, they know that kids have a short attention span & patience is not one of their strong points. Children who are disabled will often find these same activities helpful, regardless of their age. Have something like, Worship Bulletins for Kids, available at the pews, in a basket near the door, or being distributed by greeters; they are cost effective and won't take up much space. You can choose to provide crayons, or just let the kids use the pens/pencils already in the pews.

    stickersEven something as simple as stickers is HUGE for kids, it's positive reinforcement & fun. The stickers can be kept at your Information Desk, and after service Mom, or Dad, can bring their child to pick up a sticker for sitting well through service. The parents can come up with a reward system for at home (certain # of stickers collected = reward). For many special needs kids, the sticker is enough. Parents will appreciate that it is not candy too! These Very Veggie Values stickers are perfect because they are fun, but also are learning tools.


    The great news is that you can find these resources all in one location, www.FamilyChristian.com , they also have an entire section of books for Families with Special Needs Kids including: autism, add, adhd, overeating, fragile x, downs syndrome, and more.

    These books not only are helpful to parents who have children that are special needs, but are great resources to children's ministry leaders and church staff. When you take the time to make an investment to understanding these kids in your church... you minister to our hearts in ways you never will truly understand. There are times when you will treat our kids better, kinder and more lovingly than some of their own relatives. You matter in their lives.


    Matthew 25:40 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

    Matthew 18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

    Mark 10:14 He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

    This was a guest post from blogger Gena M.  You can find from Gena on her blog:  www.genamccown.com


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