Interview With CMConnect’s Michael Chanley
Michael Chanley is the mastermind behind CM Connect, CM Connect Radio and imakidmin.com. As an ordained minister and a former family & children’s pastor, Michael is a gifted communicator and respected thought leader in family ministry circles. Michael authored the popular book Collaborate: Family + Church and has contributed to an endless list of other children’s ministry publications. Michael is also an Excecutive Search Consultant with the Vanderbloemen Search Group.
AFL: You have shared that your family was affected by special needs growing up. Tell us a little about your brother.
MC: When I was four years old my older brother Jason, who was age seven at the time, was diagnosed with Rye syndrome. The brother that emerged from a three month coma and came home from the hospital was very different from the brother I remember before he got sick. The illness caused my brother to experience a significant loss of loss of muscle control, a severe speech impediment, and a number of cognitive challenges. So I grew up with a brother who looked, acted and sounded different than other kids.
AFL: How did having a sibling with special needs shape you as a family pastor and children’s minister?
MC: At an early age, I learned to feel empathy and compassion for people who weren’t accepted by our society (especially in the 1970’s and 1980’s). I remember defending my brother when he was made fun of – even when I was really young. My Saturday mornings were spent alongside my brother, who regularly participated in the Special Olympics bowling league. As a result, my world included all the kids who were typically segregated from our everyday society. I learned to look at people and see them for who they are and appreciate their unique qualities. Our culture labels people as normal and whole verses imperfect. Really, we are all different. My experience shaped my passion as a minister for engaging families and individuals affected by special needs.
AFL: Is there a value in networking for the children’s ministry team starting or growing their special needs inclusion efforts?
MC: Yes, for sure. Most CP’s (Children’s Pastors) are not trained professionally in children’s ministry. Even more are unfamiliar with special needs. CP’s need to know how to plan for first time visitors where special needs exist. Ministry teams should anticipate a growing need for special needs inclusion and accommodation. Small churches aren’t exempt because these families exist in every community. Unlike public schools, no one is forcing churches to adapt. Churches need to take the initiative in modifying our ministry settings in order to reach out to or respond to the individual that doesn’t fit our definition of normal.
Through a network ministry teams can learn from other people’s mistakes and successes. The blogs and the forums on CM Connect allow you to ask a question and get feedback. CMConnect is set up so that a kidmin team member (or anyone!) can come onto the network and ask specific questions to get ideas for how to talk to parents or equip the volunteers.
**On Monday, January 24th, 2011, Michael Chanley will be my first guest as we launch the The Inclusive Church CMConnect Radio Show. Join us at 2pm Eastern on Monday 1/24/11 to hear Michael share how he started a special needs awareness month for his church’s family ministry.**