Helping the Marriage of Parents of Kids with Special Needs (From The Orange Conference)
In the Orange Conference workshop Encouragement Events for Special Needs Ministry, Katie Garvert shared how her church is using MarriedPeople.org’s Can’t Wait Date Challenge as a tool to help parents to reconnect with each other and build a stronger marriage.
For several years, Woodmen Valley Chapel’s Access Ministry (Colorado Springs, Colorado) has offered regular respite events for its participating families. Katie has led the Access Ministry with the mindset that special needs ministry is a whole family ministry. And logically, as the special needs ministry grew the church added the respite piece of programming. Part of the goal in providing respite was to help married parents of children with special needs reconnect during the time alone. About a year ago Katie began noticing that mothers who once showed up at respite checkin with their husbands now arrived without their spouse. Instead of heading out for a date night, parents were independently running errands. As a mother herself, Katie recognized the value of a shopping trip in peace, but was sad that parents weren’t taking the opportunity to refuel their marriage. At the same time, Katie noticed that some parents who were spending the alone time with their spouse were showing up at pickup tense and sad, sometimes still crying. Katie began to realize that these parents were coming back after a “date” had not ended well. Fresh off these observations, Katie felt burdened to make the respite time more meaningful for married parents.
Katie’s research led her to MarriedPeople.org’s Ted Lowe. Many parents of kids with disabilities need help reconnecting. Katie wanted to give these parents something that would keep them focused on each other, engaged in constructive and encouraging conversation. Ted introduced Katie to the Can’t Wait Date Challenge Kits and Woodmen Valley Chapel began using them in conjunction with their respite events. At respite checkin, parents were were handed a CWDC script to go through during their time alone. The response was immediate. Parents were going on dates again and more importantly, arriving at pickup showing evidence of a positive time together.
“We realized that these parents had forgotten how to connect. They didn’t even know what to talk about aside from managing life details, usually related to the complex needs of their children. And many of these spouses had forgotten how to laugh. The ‘Can’t Wait Date Challenge’ questions gave our couples fun conversation starters. And for the first time, husbands and wives were focused on each other. And we saw this in their eyes and attitude when they arrived to pick up their children from respite. I honestly had no idea that adding this simple tool would have such a huge impact on the families and in our entire ministry.” ~ Katie Garvert
Katie Garvert is the Access Ministries Coordinator for Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 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 and summer camp experiences for children and students with special needs. Prior to joining the WVC staff, Katie was a special education teacher in the Colorado public school system.