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This Thanksgiving I am Thankful for My Church

November 27, 2013


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


Don’t miss these Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals!


$5 off the new book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry
($18.99 Regular Price; $13.99 Purchase Price with Discount)
Available through the Orange Store
Checkout with Coupon Code:  LASNM5
Offer good today through Tuesday, December 3rd
Discount does not apply to books ordered through Amazon

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 11.59.58 AM

Orange Conference Preconference Tickets for $59
($109 regular price)
Available through Orange Conference Registration
No Coupon Required
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
  1. Amy thank you for this post. My wife and I are the parents of a 5 year old name Jamie. I was referred to you by a friend and I am expecting your book any day now. We have found it challenging as well to go to Church without bring called or paged about our son. Thanks again and Blessings to you, family and ministry in that order.

  2. tfreema3 – Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for your kind blessing. I am well aware of the fact too many parents have not yet had the type of church experience I described in today’s post. And that is why I do what I do! Praying now for your family and for your church, that God would provide them with whatever tools or leadership they need for more successful special needs inclusion. ~ Amy

  3. Elisa James permalink

    Hi Amy, I am following from Australia. We’re part of a growing church. So far we haven’t managed to put in place any provisions for our champion kids but we’re about to get a room in our new building.

    I have a 9 year old son with autism and have spent the better part of 2.5 years trying to support him in our mainstream kid’s church.

    Thank you so much for painting a picture of what can be. It’s a great tool for me to be able to pass along to our leadership team. often other people don’t see the difficulties being experienced right in front of them and this really helps.

    I am keen to read your book but the shipping price is very high. Do you have any plans for a kindle or electronic copy?

    Thanks so much Elisa James

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Elisa – I am so glad this post could be helpful. Of course mainstreaming is a big step forward but it is so helpful to have a safe and appropriate environment for kids to retreat to as needed. I do talk about this at length in the book and I hope you’ll be able to read it.

    Yes! An electronic copy of Leading a Special Needs Ministry is soon to be released. In fact that’s a great reminder to me (thanks!) that I need to review the manuscript in my email inbox awaiting my approval for upload to Amazon. You can keep checking Amazon because it should be uploaded sometime in December. And I will also write a post to let everyone know as soon as it is available.

    Thanks so much for your comment and for the question/reminder about the ebook. Blessings as you help your church expand special needs ministry!

    ~ Amy

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