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The Orange Conference Special Needs Track Schedule & Speakers

March 15, 2013

orange conference 2013 tile for blog

The Orange Conference is six weeks away.  Tickets are still available for the preconference workshops as well as the rest of the conference.  However, we have the strong possibility of selling out of tickets for the Thursday breakouts.  Along with the other special needs workshop speakers, I’ll be hosting a networking event onsite at the Gwinnett Convention Center on Thursday night.  This is a great way to meet other people with the same passions and experience.  Last year’s Q&A and networking event was arguably the highlight of the whole conference experience (at least it was for me!).  We had more than 50 special needs champions in one room for two hours  – and this group became fast friends.

For more details on the Orange Conference, including registration and lodging details, click here.

Wednesday, April 24th PreConference Workshops   9:30am – 4:00pm

PreCon #1 Creating a Special Needs Ministry Space on a Budget Briley
PreCon #2 Including Teens & Pre-Teens with SN Wall, Hodge & Akers
PreCon #3 Supporting the Family with Special Needs Lee
PreCon #4 Technology in the Special Needs Setting Wall & Hodge


Thursday, April 25th Conference Breakouts 11:30am – 6:30pm + 8:30pm Networking Event

Breakout A Making Bible Stories Come Alive Lee
Breakout B Creating Opportunity for Volunteers Wall
Breakout C Encouragement Events for Families Impacted by SN Wall, Akers, Garvert
Breakout D Special Needs FAQs Lee
Networking Event SN Leader Gathering Panel of all SN Speakers

For detailed descriptions of each preconference workshop and conference breakout, see this earlier post.

The Orange Conference 2013 Special Needs Workshop Speakers

Wendi Akers is the Children’s Ministry Associate for Special Needs at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall Texas.  Lake Pointe’s “Soar” Ministry currently serves 250 individuals with unique needs.  Wendi has served in this role at Lake Pointe for the past 13 years.   Lake Pointe Church offers a comprehensive special needs ministry providing multiple environments for various ages and learning levels, a sensory lab, an indoor playground, and a computer lab.  Lake Pointe recently began offering a class for adults ages 18-30 who have high functioning Asperger’s. This group enjoy a weekly bible study, great fellowship and a monthly social event.   In addition to a thriving mother’s support group, parent workshops and regular respite events, the Soar ministry hosts a summer camp experience and a fall festival for children and young adults with special needs.   Wendi lives in Rowlett with her husband of 29 years and is the proud mother of 2.   Her son Austin is in his first year of medical school and recently married Coryanne,  a high school English teacher.  Her daughter Taylor just started work on her Master’s in Special Education. Taylor also happens to have Asperger’s.

Denise Briley is the Special Needs Coordinator for Houston’s First Baptist Church.  The “Thru the Roof Ministry” of HFBC currently includes 35 families.   Prior to joining the HFBC staff in 2011, Denise led the JOY Ministry for adults and children with special needs for 16 years at Graceview Baptist Church in Tomball, Texas.  While serving as the Minister to Families with Special Needs at Graceview, Denise helped the church build a facility designed with enhancements for individuals with special needs.  Denise also launched programming for parent support groups and regular respite events.  Currently, Denise serves on the leadership team of Super Place Camp, a summer experience offered by Houston area churches for children with special needs.  Denise has led countless training workshops and written training manuals, equipping other churches for better special needs inclusion.  In Denise’s book, Feathers from Heaven, Denise celebrates the life of her son Clayton and shares the story of starting a church’s special needs ministry.   Denise was a 2012 recipient of The Orange Award, an honor Orange gives leaders who have made a lasting and eternal impact on the lives of participants in their ministry.

Katie Garvert is the Access Ministries Coordinator for Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Woodmen Valley Chapel currently serves 70 individuals affected by special needs.  Over the past eight 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 parent support group, regular parent respite events, sibling retreats as well as summer camp experiences for children and students with special needs.  Katie also oversees the church’s deaf ministry and hosts multiple sign language classes offered through the church.  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.

Stacy Hodge is the Church Relations Manager for the Dallas/Ft. Worth office of Joni and Friends.  Prior to joining JAF in 2013, Stacy served as Minister to Special Needs at Hunters Glen Baptist Church in Plano for five years.  In her role with Hunters Glen, Stacy helped the church launch a special needs ministry for all ages that involved ministry through Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, sibling workshops, parent support groups, and Vacation Bible School.  Stacy also developed a “Disciple Now” weekend experience for teens with special needs in addition to teaching a mid-week Bible study for adults with special needs.  Stacy has lead training events for the Collin Baptist Association to help other churches expand their special needs ministries.  Stacy has a degree in Deaf Education with a minor in Sign Language Interpreting from Baylor University as well as a Masters in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Amy Fenton Lee is the Special Needs Consultant to Orange.  Amy has written extensively on the subject of special needs inclusion in children’s ministry for in-print publications, journals and websites, including

Meaghan Wall is the Pastoral Leader of Special Needs at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas where she has served for the past six years.   Stonebriar Community Church currently welcomes close to 100 students with special needs in the GIFT Ministry (the Special Needs Ministry of Stonebriar Community Church) and provides various opportunities for the students and their families to be actively involved in the church.   From having specialized classrooms and inclusion programs on Sunday morning, to a weekly Art Class for the older teens/adults, to four hour respite once a month, to a dedicated Sunday simply to highlight the GIFT Ministry , Stonebriar Community Church seeks out opportunities to serve families affected by special needs.  Meaghan leads training events for other ministry leaders to help other churches develop and grow their own special needs ministry.  Since college Meaghan has worked in several roles that shaped her for eventual ministry at Stonebriar, such as working for Colorado Easter Seals, serving on a church staff in Lubbock, TX and working as a social worker in a long term care facility.   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.

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