Today is this week’s final post promoting the Special Needs Track at the upcoming Orange Conference. Meaghan Wall provides a guest post that captures the very reason she’s teaching the workshop Leading Teen Volunteers.
We’d love for you to join the conversation through comments (below), on Facebook, or Twitter. Anyone who leaves a comment or asks a question BEFORE midnight tonight will be entered to win one FREE OC14 ticket. We’ll announce the winner on the The Inclusive Church’s Facebook page on Monday.
How does your ministry utilize teen volunteers?
We all have people in our lives who forever change who we are and how we see the hand of God working around us. Today as I wrote a Happy Birthday message on the Facebook wall of one such person in my life, I was reminded of the various points over the past seven years where she has challenged me, inspired me, and made me laugh so hard I had tears streaming down my face. Because of this person, I have made changes to the way I do ministry. No longer am I only focused on serving the special needs children and adults at the church, I’m now also focused on raising up leaders. Because of this person, I have learned to delegate, not because I wanted to free up my time to do other things, but because I wanted to give others opportunities to learn, grow, and make mistakes in a safe place. Because of this person, I can honestly say that I have grown as a leader and I am forever grateful.
So today was bitter-sweet in several ways. Sweet because I had the opportunity to reflect on all the good this person has brought to my life , but also sad because I know in a little over seven months this person will move on. I can’t expect to see her on a weekly basis. You see the person I’m referring to turned 18 today. Gracie is her name. She is a high school senior looking forward to venturing off to college after graduation. While I’m already prepared to be a wreck as I’ll have to write in her graduation journal and watch her stand up during Senior Recognition Sunday, I’m excited knowing what the Lord has in store for her. A few years ago Gracie started talking about the things she wanted to do with her life and what she wanted to be when she grew up. Though it has changed some, her interest in working with special needs children has been a constant and I have no doubt the Lord is going to use her in amazing ways.
I tell you this story because it came full circle when I heard Reggie Joiner speak this past Fall at an Orange Tour event in Dallas. During one of the main sessions, Reggie was working through two questions:
- What do I want someone to become?
- Where do I want someone to be so they can become who I want them to become?
Listening to Reggie, I realized he was communicating a mindset I had already adopted, thanks to Gracie. Before Gracie, I viewed my role as Pastoral Leader of Special Needs as one of caring for children and their families. But because of Gracie’s involvement in our ministry, I realized my role was much bigger. I have a responsibility and opportunity to shape future leaders of this church and other churches. And I knew I needed to start leaning into the youth serving in our special needs ministry, with the hopes they would grow into leadership in whatever ministry they found themselves in down the line.
Mentoring and leadership training has since become a major part of our church’s special needs ministry. One small way this has happened began in the summer of 2011 when I formed a leadership team. The purpose of this group was to to help me guide the ministry and keep it moving forward rather than becoming stagnant. I selected two youth to serve on the team. Both students had shown an interest in leadership as well as a desire to pursue some sort of special needs ministry in the future. Gracie was one of the students asked to join our small leadership team. I can honestly say that I saw her grow more because of the increased responsibility and the freedom to make mistakes. Reggie Joiner said it best when he said,
“You can tell a teenager they’re significant and the Lord has a plan for their life. But they’ll never know that until you allow them to be involved in something significant.”
Reggie is right. I’ve seen this firsthand.
While I’m sad knowing Gracie will be leaving our ministry, I’m determined to enjoy every moment she’s still here. I will pour into her all I can to prepare her for for ministry outside our church. And I know the Lord will continue using her to push me in my own development as a leader. I now know that I’m not only a leader of Special Needs, I am also a leader of teens. I am a leader of future leaders. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. ~ Meaghan Wall
This post first appeared on the Orange Blog, Lead Small.
Meaghan will be leading the following OC14 workshops:
Navigating Behavior Challenges (Preconference)
Leading Teen Volunteers (Conference)
More on Stonebriar’s GIFT Ministry:
Visual Tour of Stonebriar’s Special Needs Suite
Welcome to the Bite Club!
Recruiting and Training Special Needs Volunteers
Bringing a Family Ministry Approach to Special Needs