I’m thrilled to announce the special needs workshops for the upcoming Orange Conference, April 30th – May 2nd, 2014. With today’s CyberMonday $59 Preconference special, you can register for a complete conference experience for a total of $318. After today, Preconference pricing returns to $89. And after Thursday, December 5th, the discounted Conference registration ends ($20 savings through 12/5/13).
Each workshop and breakout is held at a different time so that if a participant chooses, they can attend everything on the special needs track. Details for the special needs networking event are not yet finalized, but rest assured our popular gathering will be part of the OC14 schedule. We know special needs leaders value conversation and connection with one another.
The Orange Conference 2014 Special Needs Track
April 30th – Preconference Workshops
Training Volunteers to be Prepared for Children and Students with Autism
Dr. Stephen Hunsley
We’ll offer best practices for training volunteers and trouble-shooting so to engage kids of different ages and stages along the autism spectrum.
Transitioning Participants with Special Needs into Middle School, High School, and Adult Ministry Environments
We’ll look ahead, proactively creating church supports and transition strategies, as students with learning differences promote to the next ministry life stage.
Navigating Behavior Challenges
We’ll cover best practices for hands-free strategies to reduce anxiety in ministry participants and to de-escalate unsafe or undesirable behaviors in the ministry environment.
5 Things Every Special Needs Leader Needs to Know
A special needs ministry veteran will provide insight from two decades of challenges and successes in disability inclusion.
May 1st – Conference Breakouts
Strategies to Engage Every Child
Amy Fenton Lee
30+ tips and tools to successfully include children with ADHD, autism, sensory needs, and other learning differences.
Promoting Spiritual Growth Inside the Family Impacted by Disability
We’ll offer practical ideas for how a church can strategically support the parents, siblings, and (often struggling) marriage inside the home of a child with special needs.
Leading Teen Volunteers
We’ll show you how to train teens to be your ministry’s best asset while intentionally creating an environment that fosters life-change for serving teens.
Special Needs Ministry Top 10
Amy Fenton Lee
We’ll talk through current trends and issues a church can anticipate as they welcome more kids with special needs.
Katie Garvert is the Access Ministries Coordinator for Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Woodmen Valley Chapel currently serves around 90 individuals affected by special needs. Over the past nine years Katie has helped WVC establish special needs inclusion programming over virtually every age group and stage of life for this multi-site church. The Access ministry hosts a dad’s support group, regular parent respite events, sibling retreats and respite camp experiences for students with special needs. Katie also oversees the church’s deaf and hard of hearing ministry. Through her role with WVC, Katie connects attending families to different agencies in the Rocky Mountain Region while also serving as a family advocate at students’ meetings in schools. Katie frequently speaks at other ministry conferences to train church leaders for better special needs inclusion. Prior to joining the WVC staff, Katie was a special education teacher in the Colorado public school system. You can follow Access Ministries on Facebook.
Dr. Stephen “Doc” Hunsley is the Special Needs and People Care Pastor for Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas. Doc started Grace Church’s Special Needs Ministry in 2011, helping it to become a hallmark ministry for the church. The SOAR (Special Opportunities, Abilities, and Relationships) Special Needs Ministry serves over 170 individuals with special needs through weekend church programming, family support groups, and regular respite events. SOAR also has adult programming on the weekend and plans for a Special Needs Day Camp and VBS this coming summer. Doc leads the Kansas City Special Needs Ministries Network, for area church leaders. Prior to serving as a special needs pastor, Doc was a children’s pastor. Doc is a retired pediatrician while his wife, Kay, continues practicing pediatrics. They are proud parents to three beautiful children: Luke, Mark & Sarah. The Hunsley’s middle child, Mark, is presently running the halls of heaven. During Mark’s 5-year earthly stay, he gave his family the opportunity to learn from and love a child with autism. You can follow SOAR on Facebook or Connect with Doc on Twitter: @DocHunsley
Connie Hutchinson is the Director of Disabilities Ministry at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California. Considered to be one of the longest serving special needs ministry staff leaders, Connie has lead EvFree’s disability ministry for nearly twenty-two years. Connie oversees ministry participants’ individualized inclusion plans, 5 Sunday school classes, weekend programming, and respite, as well as teen and adult connection events. Connie also directs EvFree’s summer experience for kids with special needs, trained teen buddies, and typical peers. Connie has directed camps for teens or abused children in the foster care system for more than 10 years. Connie’s husband of forty-two years, Mike, is her most important ministry partner. And Connie considers the lessons learned from her thirty-eight-year old daughter Julie, who has Down syndrome, to the most valuable training for her work in the disability arena. Connie proudly shares that Julie was the first person with intellectual disability elected to EvFree Fullerton’s deacon board.
Meaghan Wall is the Pastoral Leader of Special Needs at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas where she has served for the past seven years. Stonebriar Community Church currently welcomes around 100 students with special needs in the GIFT Ministry, providing various opportunities for their families to be actively involved in the church. The GIFT Ministry offers specialized classrooms and inclusion programs on Sunday mornings, a weekly Art Class for teen and adult participants and monthly respite. Meaghan leads training events to help other churches develop and grow their own special needs ministry. Meaghan is a licensed and experienced social worker with a degree from Texas Tech University. Meaghan is currently pursuing a Masters of Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. Connect with Meaghan on Twitter: @meaghan_wall
Amy Fenton Lee is the Director of Special Needs Initiatives for The reThink Group. Amy is the author of Leading a Special Needs Ministry: A Practical Guide to Loving Children and Including Families (Orange, 2013). Amy has written extensively on the subject of special needs inclusion in children’s ministry for in-print publications, journals and websites, including the www.TheInclusiveChurch.com. Along with her husband and young son, Amy lives in Cumming, Georgia. Connect with Amy on Twitter: @AmyFentonLee and @SpNeedsKidmin
In honor of CyberMonday, Orange Store is selling Leading a Special Needs Ministry for $13.99 (reg. $18.99) and offering FREE standard shipping. Use code “cybermonday” in the coupon field to purchase the book for $13.99 including shipping. This offer is good through midnight tonight!
Yesterday I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw this picture and status:
“This little turkey came home from school today. As I pulled it out of my son’s backpack, my heart overflowed with joy. I am so thankful for our church’s Hearts & Hands Ministry and for many who show the love of Jesus to our son each Sunday.”
I caught myself fighting back tears. I personally know the mother, her sweet son, this church’s children’s pastor, and the special needs ministry coordinator who facilitates this little guy’s accommodation each week.
Every Sunday morning when my young friend arrives at church, he goes to a room where a screened and trained buddy is awaiting his arrival. That buddy has one agenda; helping their assigned student experience success in church that day. One Sunday our young friend may participate in an environment among his typical seven-year-old peers. And another Sunday this same little boy may remain in the Hearts & Hands ministry room with his assigned helper:
…to take a few extra jumps on the mini-trampoline;
…to work on a simple activity in a quiet environment; or
…to read a Bible story book while perched on a beanbag.
This child’s mother knows that she’ll be greeted by smiling faces inside the Hearts & Hands room, who without explanation seem to know of the major feat it was to arrive that day. Through their warm welcome and extra hugs, she sees the joy the volunteers receive in knowing they are the reason she can attend worship. And she anticipates being met with laughter and acceptance, never judgement, on the days she arrives at pick up and learns that her son:
…asked to ride the church elevator 15 times;
…attempted a Houdini-esque escape on a trip down the hallway; or
…expressed the desire to leave large group by screaming his “request”.
When I saw the turkey picture and it’s simply written answer of “my church”, I knew it communicated a much bigger story. Writing those two words probably took several minutes for my little friend to scribble out because his penmanship is still evolving and requires a labored effort. For a child who has a fleeting attention span and is in constant movement, the investment of those few extra moments is significant. What’s more significant is the evidence of success it provides to a church team who devotes several hours of the week coaching volunteers, coordinating their schedules, and ensuring there are safe, clean and appropriate activities inside the special needs ministry room. And today I give thanks for that church and for the growing number of churches just like it, working to successfully include children with special needs.
Psalm 100 (NIV)
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his loves endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Happy Thanksgiving! ~ Amy Fenton Lee
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Orange Conference Preconference Tickets for $59
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Offer available Monday, December 2nd (one day only!)
We’ll be announcing the full OC14 special needs track next week. But here’s a sneak peek of the Precon (Wednesday) lineup:
- Helping Volunteers Include Children and Students with Autism
- Transitioning Participants with Special Needs into Middle School, High School, and Adult Ministry.
- Navigating Behavior Challenges
- 5 Things Every Special Needs Leader Needs to Know
Last week one of my co-workers at Orange suggested I read a fantastic guest post over on Eugene Cho’s blog. One thing led to another and I eventually landed on the guest poster’s (Pam Christensen) personal blog, discovering a number of brilliant pieces. I contacted Pam and she was gracious enough to allow me to re-run a particular post here.
Before I share Pam’s great guest post, I wanted to start with a personal note partially to explain my appreciation for the piece below. By now, more than a few of you have probably connected the dots (especially those of you who have heard me speak). You aren’t gonna be shocked at what I’m about to tell you.
I have ADHD.
Yep, I do. This is not a self diagnosis. This is a bonafide diagnosis made by a physician who specializes in these types of issues.
For those of you shaking your head thinking, ”No way! You seem anything but inattentive“
Well, there’s this little term called hyperfocusing that pretty much sums me up. And by no means is that my only ADHD attribute! (I actually have many indicators.) Oddly enough, I received this diagnosis one month after my book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, was released. That book was essentially the end result of years of hyperfocusing and then a rough 6-week period of ultra, mega, over-the-top hyperfocusing. (Balanced, healthy people do not write and edit a 55,000 word book in less than two months. This is true.)
So, the last few months I’ve been processing my own ADHD diagnosis and reflecting on how my wiring has impacted me for the last 40 years and even now. The diagnosis does explain a lot, especially some difficulty feeling misunderstood at various points in my life. Some days my personality has felt like a blessing and other days a curse. If you know someone with ADHD, and particularly a female with the hyperactive form, then perhaps you can appreciate the upsides and downsides of my life experiences. Fortunately, I’ve experienced the joy of seeing God’s redemptive hand in my own “disability”. Without my quirks, I doubt I would have started this blog, written a book, or helped any church ever include a kid with special needs.
It is because of Pam’s post (below) that I’ve decided to share more personally today. Virtually every reader of this blog has someone in their life with some sort of diagnosis or difference. As you love and lead a child with a disability, may you give them a God-view of their personality, ability, and life journey. Pam says this much better than I ever could. ~ Amy Fenton Lee
“I like that I have ADHD”: Speaking into the Narrative of our Childrens’ Lives
Ever have one of those amazing conversations with your kids? The ones you have when you least expect it, doing the most ordinary things? The ones that remind you that you, in many ways, have as much to learn from your child as they do from you? Recently, I had just such a conversation with my eight year old. And, as they so often do, it happened in our mini-van just driving down the street (it’s a very strange thing, but we almost always have the BIG talks in our van: salvation, sex, baptism, and even anarchy-but I’ll share that one another time). From the seat behind me came these words:
“I like that I have ADHD.“
He then proceeded to list all the things he liked about himself that could be attributed to having ADHD:
-I have a lot of energy.
-I am creative.
-I’m a good problem solver.
-I notice things that not very many other people do.
I agreed that these things were in true. Then I asked him how he knew these things about himself. His response? “You told me.” I did?
While I could (and may) write a posting about how “able” kids (and adults) with ADHD are, that’s not what I learned through this conversation with my then 8 year old, driving through our town. What I was reminded of was this: the influence we have over our child’s narrative.
When our boys each received their respective diagnoses, it was important to my husband and I that we help them understand first of all that there is nothing “wrong” with them, but rather that they have some challenges that we as a family, along with their teachers, doctors and counselors, we’re going to help them learn to live and succeed with. The reality is that most children who have ADHD will not “outgrow it”, as was previously believed (hence the recent upsurge in adult diagnoses as medical and mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that this is not just a children’s issue), so they need to be aware that these challenges will affect them long term. However, we also wanted them to know that ADHD also contributed to many of their strengths and so, in that way, is also a gift. As with so many of the hurdles in life, this comes with challenges and blessings. Your prayer is that God truly helps them “hear” these things.
Our child’s “story” (or our own, for that matter) does not start when they 30 or 25 or 18. In Psalm 139, we are told that God knows everyone’s story, intimately, even before we are created:
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before they even came to be.” (vs. 16, NIV)
Our children’s narrative is a life long sculpting by them and God, and yet we, as parents are called to play a critical role as collaborators in that story. He chose to put this child in our lives. As we are awed and overjoyed, exhausted and impatient, humbled and overwhelmed, God comes along side and reminds us in little and big ways, that we are helping to shape our child’s story.
I can so easily get bogged down in the ways I may have spoken impatience and frustration, monotony and mediocrity, criticism and complaint into my child’s life. It is important to recognize these things, address them and seek forgiveness for them. It is equally important to recognize those times, when God reminds us of the good, that by his grace working through us, despite our sinful nature, we have breathed into our child’s story. Most of all, we need to remember how our influence helps shape our child’s story. My prayer is that it will keep them coming back to God’s story. ~ Pam Christensen Reposted with permission from 924Mark.Blogspot.com
Pam Christensen is the Associate Director of Children and Family Ministries at Quest Church. She has a passion for early childhood ministry as well as ministry to children and families with special needs. In her free time, Pam loves to read, study history, go on road trips, and play outside with her family and their dogs. She and her husband, have two boys and live in the Seattle area. You can reach her at email@example.com. Pam is currently leading a new “Faith + Ability” class for Quest Church.
A couple of years ago I was looking for resources to help typically developing kids understand and interact with peers who have autism. Somewhere amidst an online search I stumbled onto Good Friend Inc. Through the website, I contacted the company and received 2-Disc set of peer sensitivity films. I was anxious to preview the DVDs to see if they could be helpful to a church audience. So I popped in the videos (one for elementary and another for middle school-aged kids), and invited my son, who was age six at the time, to watch along side of me.
I was a little surprised how uncharacteristically quiet my son was through both 16-minute films, including the one for middle schoolers. As soon as the videos were complete, my young son wanted process aloud the stories shared on the DVDs. It was evident that my little guy had taken in more than I expected. And at one point he commented:
“Mom, I think I understand what you do now…you are writing to help churches understand kids just like the ones we heard about on the video.”
Because my family does often make sacrifices for my writing and all that goes along with it, it was great to have my son “get it”. I loved that he caught my mission and saw the value in my work. But it wasn’t until more recently that I realized just how profoundly the two films had impacted my son.
Fast-forward two years and now my son is eight years old.
Through a series of conversations, I figured out there was a new child participating in one of his after school activities. My son was often coming home from this activity frustrated. More than once he replayed dialogue where there were perceived unfair, and at times exasperating, interactions. As I asked questions about the situation I secretly wondered if there was more to the story than my son was picking up on. Perhaps the new friend had a unique way of processing information….maybe he was struggling with social interaction…and possibly the frequency of changes during the activity were uncomfortable for the fellow participant.
One day when my son was at the end of his rope with this friend, I began asking questions to prompt him to think outside the box. He played along, relaying what was happening before, during, and after the frustrating interactions. Suddenly, my son became quiet. For a moment he looked in another direction and then the furrowed brow over his eyes released.
“Mom, do you remember those videos we watched a long time ago?”
(I nodded “yes” immediately remembering the Good Friend films)
“Well, maybe my friend is like one of the kids who we on the DVDs. I bet it isn’t always easy for him.”
At that moment, everything changed for my son, it was as if 100 light bulbs turned on. A cloud of frustration was replaced by understanding and empathy.
Together we talked about how we can’t know for sure or assume that this friend has a learning difference*. But my son could be sensitive to possibility his peer might be uncomfortable with change and may not intuitively know how to play with someone he actually wants to be friends with.
In the days that followed, my son viewed his peer through a different lens. He came home with new stories about his friend. But rather than conveying an escalating sense of frustration, he just wanted to dialogue about all he was processing during the interactions. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the two boys found a common interest during their time together. And their mutual interest has led to a friendship that occasionally extends beyond the time and location of the original extracurricular activity.
Needless to say, I think the Good Friend Forever DVDs belong on the shelf of every children’s or student ministry leader. I recommend using the films as a key part of special needs ministry volunteer and buddy training events. While the DVDs are ideal to show to teen buddies and peer-helpers, I think adults would benefit from their content as well. I appreciated the everyday language used to explain sensory needs and unexpected behaviors that are common among kids with many special needs (not just autism). Ministry leaders could also make the DVDs available to mission-minded families in their church, encouraging them to use the short films as discussion starters inside their home, much like I did with my son.
The DVDs could also be used in the typical ministry setting for all children and/or teens. While the films were developed to show in secular schools, discussion questions with a Biblical tie-in can be easily added by a group facilitator. (When you watch the DVDs you will not be surprised to know that Good Friend Inc.’s founders are passionate believers.) The DVDs could used as introductory illustrations when covering Bible truths such as:
- Accepting others as God made them
- Treating others as you want to be treated
- Intentionally including others, being the light of Christ
- Not judging others
- Standing up for peers who are being bullied
To learn more or purchase the DVDs, see www.GoodFriendInc.com
For an excellent article, checkout Tips for Interacting with Individuals with Autism
*In my house, we refer to many special needs as “learning differences”. I like to use this term because the word difference is less stigmatizing than the word disability. Every child can relate to the idea of having some attribute or need that makes them different from their peers. My son and I often talk about the fact he processes new information through his listening skills (auditory learner), which is different than most of his peers who process new information by seeing pictures (visual learners). When my son was younger, we talked about differences such as needing glasses, not being able to eat ice cream (lactose intolerant), or only being able to eat gluten free cupcakes (Celiac disease runs in my family). Obviously some differences are more common and less inconvenient than others, but the important thing was to help my son develop a God-view of our differences. (In God’s economy, the person with a cognitive or physical disability has the same treasured worth as the person with a food allergy.) ~ Amy Fenton Lee
Two weeks ago I flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles for the Orange Tour. As soon as I hopped off the plane I braved the SoCal traffic in my rental car (no small feat) and headed up to Pasadena. I spent the afternoon with Julie Keith, Pastor of Special Needs at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (known locally as PazNaz). Julie is one of a small handful of leaders who’ve been directing inclusion ministry for a decade or more. When I was writing the book Leading a Special Needs MInistry, I drew from Julie’s wisdom for chapter seven. She was the source for the idea to partner with a local college or seminary for volunteer recruitment. For a number of years, Julie has worked with faculty contacts to create incentives for students in a related area of study to serve in PazNaz’s special needs ministry. I have always remembered the great interview Julie provided me where she rattled off ideas for recruiting solid ministry volunteers.
I could have spent another day with Julie just soaking in all her experiences. She is as passionate about her career calling as her faith. She has even written her own curriculum! (I’m pretty sure there will be a special place in heaven for curriculum writers. Y’all wave to me when I’m looking over from the “cheap seats” among non-curriculum writers.)
When I arrived at PazNaz Julie presented me with a Love Walk T-shirt. And for those of you who know me, you can envision me interrupting Julie before she could finish her first sentence. Of course I was begging her to guest post about this event. Oh how I wish I was within driving distance of Pasadena, California. You wouldn’t have to guess where I would be at 9am in the morning! ~ Amy Fenton Lee
Special Needs Ministry Love Walk
Tomorrow is an exciting day for my church’s special needs ministries. PAZNAZ will host its 6th annual Love Walk to publicly celebrate our ministries. We also use this event to raise scholarship funds for some of our ministry participants to attend a unique retreat designed for families with special needs. The Love walk is publicized through the church newsletter and other congregational communications. This event provides church members the opportunity to become aware of First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena’s special needs ministries and to invite their participation. For this event, we encourage our entire church family to join in the walk, to sponsor a walk participant, or to volunteer as an event helper.
By design, the Love Walk offers two short routes (half-mile and two-mile), so that individuals with special needs, their family members, and the entire community can join in the fun. Through participant sponsorships, last year’s event raised enough funds to scholarship nine families’ way to Joni & Friends Family Retreat. Joni & Friends Family Retreat provides a unique getaway with special accommodations where teams of trained volunteers infuse laughter and God’s love into every activity. Because this retreat is designed with special needs in mind, it may be the only vacation some families ever experience.
If you live in the SoCal area, come join us! Be sure to checkout our ministry Facebook page for pictures from the Love Walk and other events. ~ Julie Keith
For more than twelve years Julie Keith has been a Pastor to individuals and families with special needs. Julie has a Doctor of Ministry degree and a Master or Arts degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. Julie has served as Pastor to Special Needs at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (CA) since 2007. Julie frequently teaches workshops at ministry conferences and writes on the subject of disability inclusion inside the church. She has also worked in social work providing supportive living services to adults with special needs and support to their families through the transition. Check out Julie’s blog or follow her on Twitter.
Today’s guest post is from Meaghan Wall, who will be returning as a special needs workshop speaker at the Orange Conference 2014. (More info to come about the OC14 special needs track. Checkout the OC13 special needs breakouts in this previous post.) To celebrate opening day for OC14 registration, we thought we’d run a contest for a FREE OC14 registration along with today’s post. To enter the contest, please provide the following information about yourself or the person you’d like to nominate:
- Name and email address
- Church name, city, and state (or country)
- How you help your church with special needs inclusion
- How the OC14 special needs track will help you (300 words or less)
- Email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight 10/8/13
- Put OC14 Free Registration Contest in the subject line of your email
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….
Welcome to the Bite Club!
While it’s exciting to have fresh and enthusiastic faces, there’s always a little anxiety when a new volunteer begins serving in our ministry. I find myself worrying if I’ve given the new ministry helpers enough training, if they’ll be able to handle the kiddos who are a little more challenging, and most of all, if they’ll enjoy serving. I’ve never claimed that working in the special needs ministry environment is easy.
Six years ago Maddie, who was a fifth grader at that time, approached me with a desire to help in our special needs ministry. I was comfortable welcoming her to our volunteer team since she had been thoroughly interviewed and approved by our church’s YES! (Youth Engaged in Service) Coordinator. And like all other volunteers in our ministry, she participated in our required training before her first Sunday of service.
On Maddie’s first Sunday, she arrived dressed in her “Sunday best” and eager to get involved. Though she started out a little timid, hanging tightly to her friend who was already an experienced ministry volunteer, she began to relax as the morning progressed. It wasn’t long before she was interacting with our ministry participants. She was reading with the kids, helping them with their crafts, and encouraging them by singing all the silly songs. Everything was going great until right before it was time for parent pickup. In the blink of an eye, without any warning, one of our kiddos turned around and bit Maddie right on the shoulder. He didn’t just nip her, he sunk his teeth in. It was a true bite.
Hearing a gasp, I turned to find Maddie’s eyes as big as saucers and welling quickly with moisture. Certain that tears were eminent, I ran towards Maddie while another volunteer brilliantly ushered off our little biter to work on a puzzle. I surveyed our biter’s damage and got Maddie settled with an ice pack. After we caught our breath and determined Maddie’s injury was relatively minor, I looked at her and said,
“Welcome to your first day in special needs and welcome to the club….the BITE CLUB.”
It wasn’t long after Maddie’s infamous first-day bite, that we created a formal symbol to mark a volunteer’s rite of passage into the “Bite Club”. And for the past six years, every new club member is presented with a keychain at the time of their (unexpected) initiation. Many club members receive and display their keychain with great honor.
Thanks to the attitude of Maddie, we turned a tension into a positive shared experience that ultimately started a well-loved tradition inside our ministry. Now, when a volunteer has their first bite, after making sure everyone is alright, we call for all present club members to circle around their newest initiate. At this time I grab a keychain from an on-hand stash and present the earned award with great fanfare to the (recovering) volunteer. Inevitably our little ceremony generates a new wave of stories about the latest incident and bragging rights are quickly claimed. Not surprising, our Bite Club members proudly use their symbolic awards and love being asked about it in the community. I have lost count of the conversations that make their way back to me where a Bite Club member shares the story behind their keychain while also talking about their love for our church’s special needs ministry. ~ Meaghan Wall
Meaghan Wall is the Pastoral Leader of Special Needs at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. The GIFT Ministry currently welcomes close to 100 students with special needs and provides various opportunities for the students and their families to be actively involved in the church. Meaghan is a licensed and experienced social worker with a degree from Texas Tech University. Meaghan is currently pursuing a Masters of Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary.
For anyone registered to attend the Dallas stop of Orange Tour, we have a special treat! Orange has made arrangements with Stonebriar Community Church for up to 30 people to receive a guided tour of the church’s Special Needs Ministry space. On Thursday afternoon, November 7th, Meaghan Wall will host a one-hour tour, walking guests through the specially designed environment and providing an overview of the GIFT Ministry. There is no additional charge for this church tour experience. However, in order to make this a worthwhile experience, we’ve set up the following guidelines:
- GIFT Ministry tour spots will be provided to those who RSVP on a first-come-first-serve basis, with a maximum of 30 total tour participants.
- Orange Tour registrants who are church leaders and volunteers will be given priority to participate in the GIFT tour through October 22nd. If space remains, GIFT tour spots will be opened to others on October 23rd.
- The GIFT tour will be broken into two groups of fifteen (15) people. After you RSVP, you will be emailed an assigned GIFT tour time with more information. The first tour will begin at 3:30pm and the second tour at 4:30pm.
- As soon as your assigned tour is over, come join us at the nearby Spring Creek Barbecue. I’ll be hanging out at the BBQ place (along with some of my favorite Dallas-area special needs ministry leaders) from 4:30pm – 7:00pm. Anyone is welcome to join us during this networking time.
- To reserve your spot for the Stonebriar Community Church GIFT tour, please email RSVP@TheInclusiveChurch.com.
Many of you may remember the popular series of posts two years ago, offering a visual tour of Stonebriar Community Church’s SpNMin space. Since those pictures were posted, some areas of the GIFT environment have been updated.
There are a number of hotels in this area close to both Stonebriar Community Church and the next day’s Orange Tour site, Preston Trail Community Church. The two churches are only four (4) miles apart.
One last thing! The $49 special for Orange Tour registration ends tomorrow night at midnight. Through August 21st, use the code OT13SPNEEDS49 at checkout to receive the discounted pricing.
To learn more about Stonebriar Community Church’s Special Needs Ministry, see these earlier posts:
I’ll be leading special needs ministry breakouts on the following Orange Tour stops:
The Orange Tour is a one-day event designed for church leaders and volunteers but open to anyone. The event lasts 9:30am – 4:30pm. I’ll be leading the following workshops during the breakout sessions:
Morning Breakout: Creating a Special Needs Friendly Environment
Every kid needs a tribe, including the child with learning differences or disability. We’ll talk about how a church can appropriately respond to the discovery of a special needs situation all the way through to crafting an accommodation plan. Ideas will be shared for creating an inclusive environment, determining appropriate placement, and developing success strategies for the volunteers. We’ll also offer practical tips for small group leaders to help facilitate the spiritual formation of students with learning differences.
Afternoon Breakout: Caring for Families Impacted by Special Needs
Learning that a child has a disability is a critical moment in the life of a family. And how a ministry team responds determines the level of influence the church has inside that family. Together, we’ll talk about how small group leaders and church staff can surround the family in love, ensuring they have a place to belong inside the church. We’ll share insights related to:
- Choosing words that convey acceptance and love
- Understanding the journey unique to autism
- Praying with sensitivity to the issue healing and disability
- Navigating controversial subjects within the special needs community
- Creating a culture of acceptance
For more information about the 11/7/13 tour of Stonebriar Community Church’s special needs ministry suite and the Dallas networking event, see this post.
From today until Wednesday, August 21st, Orange is offering a $49 flat rate Orange Tour ticket price exclusively to The Inclusive Church’s readers. When you checkout, use the code OT13SPNEEDS49 to receive the $49 registration rate. NOTE: Discount does not apply to previously purchased registrations.
Today’s post is a bit of a “catch-all” with news and notes that have come my way over the summer siesta.
Beginning this fall, Dallas Baptist University is introducing a graduate level course, Ministry to Children with Special Needs, as part of DBU’s Disability Ministry offering. This class will be utilizing the new book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, as one of the primary texts. Dr. Angela Linam developed the online course and will serve as faculty instructor this fall. Dr. Linam has a PhD in Brain and Behavioral Sciences and an MS in Communication Disorders, both from the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Linam also has a B.S. Ed in Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology from Baylor University (Sic ‘em Bears!).
Dr. Linam began working with children with autism spectrum disorders in 1989 and has conducted research to identify interaction strategies that facilitate their ability to participate and communicate with others. She has worked as a Preschool Consultant in a variety of settings including public schools and private Christian schools, as a volunteer Preschool Minister, developing curriculum, and as an assessment specialist.
DBU also offers the option of an Advanced Certificate in Childhood Ministry Leadership for those not pursuing a Master’s degree. Classes begin August 26th with late registration continuing until September 9th.
On August 11th, Stacy Hodge will be leading a special needs ministry training event in the DFW area designed specifically to equip church volunteers. Stacy taught two workshops on the special needs track at the recent Orange Conference and she is my first “go-to” source for all things related to teens and technology. Stacy is the Church Relations Manger for the Dallas-Fort Worth office of Joni & Friends. I’ve had a sneak peak at Stacey’s workshop outline and teaching notes and this training event is going to be fantastic. This is a fast-paced, thorough training with practical pointers for the newbie or seasoned ministry volunteer. The cost for this workshop is only $25 per church and includes a copy of the new LASNM book. (Yes, you read the pricing correctly. It’s a steal of a deal!)
Prior to coming onboard with Joni & Friends, Stacy served as the Minister to Special Needs at Hunters Glen Baptist Church (Plano, Texas). While leading and growing her church’s special needs ministry, Stacy developed their ministry policies and procedures, wrote Bible study materials, and tailored church inclusion plans for individuals with special needs. (Stacy is also a graduate of Baylor University. Sic ‘em Bears!) For more information and workshop registration, see this flier: J&F Dallas Area Volunteer Training Flyer August 2013
This past April I was interviewed during the Orange Conference Live Stream. Many blog and Facebook followers inquired about viewing a recording of that live interview. Special thanks to Orange’s production team (ahem, Josh Lamm) who responded to the requests, wading through hours of OC13 footage to find and edit the interview. In this video, Jared Herd and I talk about:
- Special Needs Statistics
- “Growing churches care about special needs”
- The special needs track and workshops at OC13
- Specific churches leading in special needs inclusion
- The new book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry
Last but not least, I recently created a special needs ministry Pinterest Board. The new board is listed under my name, Amy Fenton Lee, and titled Special Needs Ministry-The Inclusive Church. Come follow along!
Today’s post is the second part of a short series spotlighting clever uses for visual schedules in the church setting. In yesterday’s post, we showed how one special needs ministry utilizes individual visual schedules for VBS rotations. Today, we’ll show one of the most fun special needs tools I’ve ever run across.
This past January we hosted a special needs networking breakfast in Houston. Most of us had never met before but talked as if we’d known each other for years (and for almost two hours). In the middle of our breakfast, one of the church leaders delicately interrupted conversation to say she had an idea and “ministry win” that she wanted to share. She then reached into her purse, and out popped a pill box!
The pill box quickly became the center of our conversation and this idea has since been shared with other special needs champions. I absolutely love the pill box visual schedule. Perhaps the best part of the story is the fact a teen volunteer was the creative mind behind this ingenius invention. The ministry leader who came to our Houston breakfast, Arielle Lewis, provides the background and story for the pill box below.
Faithbridge has been blessed with many volunteers wanting to invest in our church’s special needs ministry. It comes as no surprise that one of our volunteers, a faithful serving high-school student, Naomi, has put much time and effort into working alongside a beautiful child with autism. As soon as we welcomed our new ministry participant, Naomi was eager to brainstorm about ways we could help this child experience success. Providing a defined space, using a picture schedule, and working with other ministry leaders to truly include the child with her peers, have all been strategies implemented by Naomi. So when Naomi came to me and said she had an idea for communication reinforcement I was excited. Naomi proposed that we use a jumbo 7-compartment pill box (available from pharmacies) as a visual schedule and reward tool for this student.
How we created the pill box schedule & reward tool:
|Step 1||Found illustrations for each activity/setting the child participates in|
|Step 2||Created one-word descriptions & graphics to fit pill box lids|
|Step 3||Printed activity description & graphic small enough for each lid|
|Step 4||Laminated the printed graphics for durability|
|Step 5||Affixed the laminated printouts with tape or glue to lids|
|Step 6||Obtained parent advisement for a reward (edible treat)|
|Step 7||Placed 1 or 2 edible treats in each pill box compartment|
As you might guess, the pill box schedule was a huge hit with our ministry participant. The tool gave our student something to look forward to after she completed an activity. And Naomi and other ministry helpers benefitted by having something positive to talk about when reminding our sweet friend to make good communication choices.
For our lid graphics, we utilized images from Powerpoint and an internet search site. You could also print small versions of actual pictures of your church space or activities. For children who cannot have edible treats, small toys such as Squinkies could also work for a reward. ~Arielle Lewis
Arielle Lewis is the Special Needs Coordinator for All God’s Children of Faithbridge Church in Spring, Texas. Prior to coming on staff at Faithbridge in 2011, Arielle served as a volunteer in the ministry and taught special education in the Spring Independent School District. Arielle is pictured (left) with special needs ministry volunteer, Naomi.
This coming fall Naomi will be entering Sam Houston State University where she plans to major in agriculture while pursuing certification in special education.
[Naomi, we look forward to hearing more great ideas from you. And I assuredly speak for all readers in saying that we can't wait to see how God is going to grow you as a ministry leader. Please keep in touch with us here on The Inclusive Church Blog! ~ AFL]