The Inclusive Church

New Special Needs Ministry Resource: Volunteer Training DVD

The Background:  For a couple of years I’ve been teaching a workshop that offers 35+ ideas  to better engage kids with learning differences in children’s ministry settings.  The content for the workshop was developed after I volunteered in a room full of 5 year-old boys in the summer of 2009.   One particular participant was especially challenging for me to understand and manage.  The mother had not been forthright about her son’s needs and they were significant enough to warrant extra supervision and assistance.  After feeling conviction to do my best to keep this child in our ministry, I began researching ways to successfully include kids like  “Jake*.”  It was out of this experience that I transitioned my writing to focus almost exclusively on special needs inclusion in children’s ministry.  Over time I have implemented all the strategies I share in various church settings where I volunteer.  I have personally used these ideas in environments that include both typical kids and kids with learning differences.  However, virtually all of the strategies work for a self-contained special needs room as well. 

As the requests to present this workshop at various conferences and churches grew, we began discussing the idea of developing a DVD.  The video recently became a reality and was launched as a new product at the 2012 Orange Conference.  And now…drumroll please…the DVD is available to every church.*name changed

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Orange Press Release

Title: Surviving to Thriving:
  Successfully Including the Child with Special Needs
Author: Amy Fenton Lee
Price: $49.99
Publisher/Provider: The reThink Group (www.whatisorange.org)
Where to Purchase: The Orange Store


Reproducible & Downloadables:
  Visual schedule with graphics, behavior management rules with corresponding pictures, and a daily participant interview/exit ticket.  Notes (with and without blanks) are provided for each segment so that viewers can follow the content through each section.  Questions to facilitate an optional group discussion after each major section (sample below).  

How to use this resource:  This 80-minute DVD is designed to be a training tool for children’s ministry leaders and volunteers.  The content is divided into 7 major sections with 13 short video clips. Each segment addresses a common challenge in the children’s ministry setting and offers various strategies to help the child with learning differences and their leaders experience success.  At the conclusion of the seven major sections, optional questions are posed to facilitate an elective group discussion time.  The video may be shown in completion or as individual segments, each spotlighting a particular teaching technique or behavior management strategy. 


DVD Table of Contents Length
1 Introduction 4 mins
Part I:  Jake, a boy we all know
2 Jake’s story 11 mins
Part II:  Jake needs a predictable routine with visual indicators
3 Set and communicate a routine schedule 4 mins
4 Offer a personal schedule and visual timer 4 mins
5 Provide tools for transitions and change, to prevent running off 3 mins
Part III:  Jake needs an interactive and engaging small group time
6 Define space, Engage a child through visual and tactile aids 11 mins
7 Translate abstract Bible concepts, provide order to Bible stories 10 mins
Part IV:  Making sure Jake got it
8 Provide independent activities and reinforce the Bible lesson 11 mins
Part V:  Understanding Jake’s needs
9 Behavior is a means of communicating 4 types of needs 7 mins
Part VI:  Helping Jake communicate his needs appropriately
10 Provide visual guidelines and promote appropriate communication 5 mins
11 Offer alternative means to communication 6 mins
Part VII:  Helping Jake meet his needs
12 Create a Chill-out space to alleviate overstimulation; meet sensory needs 6 mins
13  Concluding words, guidance for getting started in special needs inclusion 2 mins


Sample Questions to Facilitate Optional Discussion Time after Each Part
Part I: Jake, a boy we all know
1. Can you think of kids in you ministry like Jake?  What makes their successful inclusion challenging?
2. Who benefits by keeping Jake involved in the ministry environment?
3. How do those people benefit?
4. What are the possible negative outcomes if Jake is left in the ministry environment and where the teachers aren’t equipped to effectively engage or manage Jake? 
5. What factors can contribute to a child’s behavior other than a disability or learning difference? 

What Others are Saying:

Kathy Weltner, Contributing Author to Special Needs Smart Pages (Gospel Light, 2009) and Director of Bridges, CrossPoint Community Church in Modesto, California: 

“I’m only half-way in to the DVD and from what I have seen it is excellent.  You are presenting very similar material to what I present in workshops in California and in a very professional way.  What I love is how it is broken into segments.  I am already planning a training event for my volunteers where I can use some of your segments.”

Brenda Springer, Director of HOPE Special Learning Ministry of Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Florida:

“Our church’s special needs ministry is fairly new.  We have a group of volunteers who have a passion but very little professional knowledge about how to effectively communicate with those with more severe autism.  I purchased the Surviving to Thriving DVD and was excited to try some new techniques to see if we could be more successful with one particular child.  I implemented a few strategies this week and was so pleased with how well we connected with the child.  In fact, we learned that before now we had underestimated his abilities.  I can’t wait to see how much more this child’s gifts shine through in future weeks as we try new ideas.  We plan to use the DVD in an upcoming volunteer training session.   Keep the ideas coming!”