Dr. Karen Crum…10 Ways to Make Bible Camp Successful for Children with Autism and Related Challenges

summer camp“GOOD–MORNING–CAMPERS–!!!.”  In iconic Robin Williams style, my husband bellows out this greeting each morning at the annual Bible camp sponsored by the church we attend. This has become a camp tradition and one of many reasons it is special to kids and staff. But if you ask me, one of best qualities of camp is that kids with special needs have been welcomed and loved here.  My daughter, Katie, and her autism were one of the reasons this welcoming path was paved several years ago, and the tradition to support atypical children continues.  What makes it work?  Here are ten ideas for staff wanting to help children with autism succeed at a camp for typical kids. (Note these suggestions most commonly apply to children with autism who have moderate to good verbal skills, but may apply to a wider range of skill levels and other disabilities, as well).

  1. Before camp, make sure key staff members talk to the child’s parents and can reach them for questions during the week. This gives a chance for parents to give information about specific sensitivities, calming techniques, potential rewards, and anything else that would help the child adjust.
  1. Provide clear structure (post a visual schedule) and put the child in a cabin where the leaders generally follow the schedule and adhere to the rules (but are flexible too).
  1. Pay attention to communication. Be straight forward but kind in your dealings with the child. Make it clear what is appropriate and what is not.  Find out if he understands jokes, sarcasm, etc. To be sure of understanding, ask her to repeat important communications back to you. Also be ready to “interpret” camp happenings, social interactions, inside jokes, etc.
  1. Avoid the child’s major stressors, if possible, and have a plan for calming if you can’t . Make sure the child and staff know when, how, and where it is appropriate to take a break or to modify a task to increase chances of success. Identify ahead of time and provide a safe place and person (whom the child likes) where he/she can retreat to when overwhelmed.
  1. Assign staff to look out for and stand up for the child, especially during unstructured time. The child with autism may not know what to do or how to act during these times and this is when other kids tend to tease, mock, or goad the child into poor behavior. This is a sad reality that needs to be kept under control as much as possible. Provide staff to supervise unstructured time!
  1. 0511_camp_regStrongly encourage the other kids, especially those in his/her cabin or age-group, to be helpful and kind. With permission from the child and his/her parents, this might mean disclosing some information about the disability.  One year I went to every girl’s cabin to explain autism so the girls would know how to understand and support Katie.
  1. Allow for normally “unsanctioned” sensory breaks or calming activities if they help. Katie was allowed to bring her bicycle to ride around at camp during free time.  This was an exception to the rule but kept her occupied and gave sensory support during unstructured and unsupervised social time.  This prevented many misunderstandings, altercations and meltdowns.
  1. Remember he or she is a child first and treat them as such. What does he like/dislike?  What is motivating?  What makes her feel successful?  What are talents and skills?   Give the child a chance to succeed during what is likely a challenging week. For example, at Sierra Bible Camp, we’ve seen some kids with autism blossom during their performances at evenings set aside for skits and songs.

Also consider what hurts his feelings or makes her sad? Sometimes what upsets a child with autism is not related to the disability, per se, but the fact that preferences are not met, he/she feels left out, lonely or home-sick– just like other kids.

  1. Be creative and flexible, considering what the long-term goals are for the child. Do you want the child to return next year—and the year after?  Then make it a positive experience the first year even if you have to break a tradition.  At the very least, each child needs adequate sleep, acceptance, sensory breaks, and a friend or two. Sometimes activities with older or younger kids work well socially so she can either feel supported and nutured by more mature kids, or like a leader and teacher to little ones.  Don’t be afraid to step out of  “camp as usual” in order to meet the needs of a child.
  1. Most importantly—care about the child. Pray for patience, kindness and divine calm during unexpected outbursts or meltdowns. Leave your ego at home and remember you are at camp to prioritize what is best for the kids, not to do what is most convenient for staff.

I’m so thankful for the people who helped my daughter be successful at our camp from the time she was 5 until age 18. They were not autism experts—they just did their best to love and accept her.  Sierra Bible Camp also gave out an “Overcomers Award” each year—awarded to  the child who overcame significant obstacles to consistently attend camp and to maintain a positive attitude, even if their background or biology made “Christian behavior” foreign or difficult.  This was not the award for most popular camper, best behaved camper, or for the child with the most Bible knowledge.  It was for an underdog who never give up. I think Jesus must love it.  My daughter received this award her last year as a camper—it was a dream fulfilled. I recall her walking forward to accept the trophy. As she reached the front of the mess hall, I stole a quick glance at our longtime friend and camp director who was to hand her the award. What I saw were tears of joy and pride welling up in his eyes.  It’s that sort of love and commitment from God’s church that breeds success in our disabled or at-risk kids

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Karen CrumDr. Karen Crum is the author of Persevering Parent: Finding Strength to Raise Your Child with Social, Emotional or Behavior Challenges. This book points to God’s truths and to practical and spiritual principles that enhance hope, joy and effective special-needs parenting. Persevering Parent can be purchased online by following this link.

Persevering Parent Ministries is a non-profit organization and a portion of proceeds from direct website orders are donated to provide respite care for struggling families. The book is also available from Amazon and other online distributors.

Posted in Autism, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Resources, Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth A. Tucker

shutterstock_319249094Here at Key Ministry, we write about childhood trauma from time to time. The impact can be seen in behaviors and struggles in Sunday school and other children’s ministry settings. I’ve noticed many readers assume we’re focused on adoption and foster care whenever I address the topic – perhaps because I’m an adoptive mom – but research indicates that kids in all sorts of families experience trauma. Sadly, living in a fallen world sometimes means a traumatic world.

Churches need to be aware and awake to this prior to and outside of adoption and foster care. Sometimes abuse occurs at home. Sometimes the abuser is a parent. Sometimes the child is spared physical abuse, but the trauma of witnessing an abused parent is traumatic as well. Sometimes removal from the household – to a kinship placement or foster care or adoption – occurs, but not always.

And sometimes those families are sitting in your church every Sunday, with bruises you don’t see or perhaps ones you notice but overlook. It’s easy to tell ourselves it doesn’t happen in our families. But it does.

That’s why I was intrigued upon seeing Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth A. Tucker. Tucker is both a survivor and a scholar, making for a unique story. The book mixes the personal and the theological, serving as both a wife’s narrative of enduring domestic abuse by a pastor husband and a theology professor’s analysis of the biblical, theological, historical, and contemporary issues surrounding abuse in the church.

Be prepared: Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife will make any reader uncomfortable at times. For starters, she provides details of horrific encounters before eventually leaving her husband. Her descriptions aren’t graphic but they are (rightfully) unsettling. Second, her commitment to tell the full story leads her to include troubling details. A foster child in their home was assaulted by her husband, for example, and rather than reporting the crime to the proper authorities or seeking out therapeutic supports for the girl’s recovery, she simply had the child moved out of their home. I’m still struggling with that part of the story, to be honest. Finally, for those holding a complementarian view of marriage, she weaves together both experience and theology to lay out both her practical and biblical concerns with that perspective. The book has value for both complementarian and egalitarian readers, though, suggesting caution for the former in making sure extremes are avoided so abuse can be prevented and offering solid biblical arguments in support of the views of the latter. (In other words, I think you’ll find benefit here regardless of your theological perspective on gender roles in marriage.)

She challenges respected Christian leaders – including John Piper, Russell Moore, Bruce Ware, and Matt Chandler – in their theological stances on women in the church, but she does so with grace. Often personal anecdotes – like times spent in conversation with the Pipers – humanize the views of even though with whom she disagrees. I found her style both challenging and conversational. More than telling the reader what to believe, she raises questions for us to come to our own conclusions.

Overall, I found her story to be powerful. One paragraph was particularly haunting for me, and I think it serves as a stark lesson for church leaders. Years after her divorce, she crossed paths once again with Mr. Miles, the founder and president of the Christian school where she and her ex-husband had taught when their son was only four. Once Mr. Miles had come upon her walking home late one night and scolded her for violating the rule for both students and faculty: no walking alone after dark. He made sure she got home safety and, by this reunion, didn’t remember the incident anymore. She writes,

“I tried to jog his memory of that night, but he had forgotten. But I didn’t let the matter go. I chided him for assuming I would be safe behind locked doors. I told him I had walked that long block hundreds of times and that I had never even once been attacked in the neighborhood. It was inside that house, not outside, where I was assaulted.” (emphasis hers)

shutterstock_151887428Tucker isn’t alone in her experience, sadly. According to the American Psychological Association, more than one in three women and more than one in four men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. It’s not just adults, either; one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Furthermore, women with disabilities have a 40 percent greater risk of intimate partner violence, especially severe violence, than women without disabilities.

And how aware are we in the church? According to a Lifeway study from 2014, pastors grossly underestimate the prevalence of domestic violence in their congregations. When asked, “17% estimate 11%-20% of their congregations have been victims of sexual or domestic violence, 21% estimate the number at 6%-10%, and fully 37% of pastors estimate less than 5% of their congregation have been victims of sexual or domestic violence.” As a likely result of their lack of certainty about the magnitude of this problem, two out of three (65%) pastors talk about domestic violence one time a year or less. Twenty-two percent say the topic comes up once a year. Thirty-three percent of pastors say they speak about it “rarely.” And one in 10 are silent, never speaking to their congregations about this topic.

Let us not be so concerned about abuse outside of our churches that we fail to see it within. The problem is real. Stories like Tucker’s aren’t anomalies. Lord, open our eyes that we may see and care for those in great need amongst us.

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shutterstock_291556127Key Ministry encourages our readers to check out the resources we’ve developed to help pastors, church leaders, volunteers and families to better understand the nature of trauma in children and teens, Jolene Philo’s series on PTSD in children, and series on other mental health-related topics, including series on the impact of ADHD, anxiety and Asperger’s Disorder on spiritual development in kids, depression in children and teens, pediatric bipolar disorder, and ten strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church.

 

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Subversive for the Kingdom in post-Christian America

shutterstock_258951413We celebrate today the birth of a country founded 240 years ago by men willing to subvert the “old order” of doing things. America evolved into a republic in which individual rights…in particular, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion.

Within what seems to be a blink of an eye we find ourselves subjected to a new tyranny as our culture has placed higher value upon the right to self-determination and sexual liberty. Anyone who refuses to affirm the revolution is likely to face increasingly serious consequences. Those who place their trust in politicians or government to protect them will be sorely disappointed.

What are we we do?

Jesus reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world, and our primary allegiance needs to be to Him and Him alone. Our job is to reflect the love of Christ as he seeks to re-establish his kingdom here on Earth. For the time being, the outposts of the kingdom that he’s established in our corner of the world are under siege. Our calling is to wrestle against the powers that oppose the King and the Kingdom.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

Here are five ideas for Christians as individuals and churches collectively for advancing the  Kingdom in a post-Christian America…

We can go the extra mile for kids and families in need who cross our paths. As I enter the twilight of my career in my line of work, I find myself (when appropriate) looking for ways to go above and beyond the care and support families have come to expect. One way I do this is by showing up in person for a family’s IEP meeting. I want parents and families and school officials to remember how things once were.

shutterstock_419042602What might that look like for a church? Maybe it’s footing the bill for a consultation with a specialist that a family desperately needs but isn’t able to afford? Maybe it involves the special needs ministry director going with a family in need of services from their local school, mental health center or developmental disabilities board when the family feels like they’re hitting their head against the wall? Maybe it involves recruiting volunteers from your church’s respite or disability ministries to watch over a child with suicidal thoughts or plans when no hospital beds are available?

We can become far more intentional in educating our youth. We need to be at least as intentional about promoting the moral and spiritual development of our kids as we are in building their academic and athletic skills. Anyone who seeks to exercise control over society will desire to shape the thinking and culture of generations to come.

We need to provide the same (or better) quality of educational support services for kids in Christian schools that families are able to access through public schools when children have learning disorders or other conditions that interfere with their ability to reach their academic potential. The folks at CLC Network can help. We need to be prepared to come alongside parents looking for the right things to say when their kids encounter ideas in school, from friends and while surfing the web that run counter to the teachings of our faith.

shutterstock_137790215We can mirror the value God places upon human life. We’re fighting a multi-front war with proponents of radical self-determination. We need to start preparing now for how we might support families pressured to abort their children prior to or following birth. In the same way that the church supports crisis pregnancy centers, we need to be prepared to establish support centers for persons with chronic medical conditions living in places where “right to die” laws facilitating physician-assisted suicide will inevitably lead to a “duty to die” when the caregiver burden or cost to society for ongoing medical care becomes overwhelming.

We can be deliberate in seeking ways to serve the vulnerable in society that lead us into relationship with those outside the church. It’s a real eye-opener to my non-believing friends in the mental health field to see the church meeting practical needs of kids and families impacted by mental illness. It’s cool when the church decides to do this. Or this.

shutterstock_287259992We can prepare to support one another when there’s a price to be paid for living out one’s faith. There will be teachers and principals who will lose their jobs for standing up for traumatized kids forced to share locker rooms with members of the opposite sex. There are pharmacists losing their jobs for refusing to dispense the “morning after pill.” There will be physicians and nurses who will lose their livelihoods by refusing to facilitate requests for assistance from patients desiring to commit suicide. It will be easier for our brothers and sisters to live out their faith if the decision to do so doesn’t render their families destitute. I suspect that many of our future church leaders will come from among those required to sacrifice their careers in order to avoid compromising their witness.

I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with the reality that earthly life may become far more difficult for those who publicly identify as Christian and seek to live out the Gospel outside the walls of the church. At the same time, Christianity hasn’t exactly been proliferating in an environment of religious freedom and is demonstrably more vital in countries where believers face persecution. God can still love me while prioritizing his Kingdom and his glory over my comfort.

Do we cower in fear as the country around us changes, or do we fight back with the weapons we’ve been given?

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KM_ForFamilies_OrangeBackKnow a family impacted by disability in need of help finding a local church? Encourage them to register for Key for Families. We can help connect families with local churches prepared to offer faith, friendship and support, while providing them with encouragement though our Facebook communities. Refer a friend today!

 

 

 

 

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Steps to Take When a Family in Your Church Receives a Special-Needs Diagnosis

The days after parents hear their child has a disability or special need can be difficult days. It may happen in the OB’s office when they notice something on the sonogram. It may be right after giving birth. It may come when the child is a toddler, not hitting typical milestones. It may come when the prospective parents open their child’s adoption file and feel the pull to adopt.

Most parents go through a mourning process. The expectations and dreams they may have had for their child die and new ones must take root. Some are in a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments. Some feel like they are learning a new language of acronyms and medical terms.

Special-needs parents need an anchor to help steady them. Their church should be that anchor.

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All special-needs parents, no matter when they get their child’s diagnosis or what that diagnosis is, need support from friends, their family, and their church. If you want to show them how much you care, here are a few tips for the days after the diagnosis and even for the years that follow:

  • If you are a pastor visiting a couple who just had a baby and found out the baby has a special-need, first rejoice with them for the life of the child God has given them. Assure them you and the church will love and accept their child every day of that child’s life.
  • Don’t offer cliche phrases that can sometimes do more harm that good, like “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “God only gives special kids to special parents.” Instead, rely on the truth and power of Scripture. It has the power to heal and restore.
  • Pray for the family and pray over them. After our son’s diagnosis, only one person prayed out loud over me, and she was a visitor to the Sunday school class I taught. Many said they were praying for us, which was helpful, but it was even more moving to hear words spoken to our Father on our behalf.
  • Make plans to accommodate for their child to the best of the church’s ability. Pray for the resources to do so. A high percentage of families with children with special needs don’t attend church. Our church considers them an unreached people group. We are active and intentional about reaching them with the love of Christ, and we believe every church should be as well. (Don’t know where to start? We can help.)

Having a child with special needs changes everything. Relationships and routines that used to be easy take extra work, for the family directly impacted by the diagnosis and for the friends, families, and churches supporting that family. But it’s worth it, for everyone.

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Dylan Dodson: Can a Christian Suffer from Depression? My Story

shutterstock_308068409Editor’s note: I came across this post from Dylan Dodson in my Facebook feed. It turns out Dylan’s wife’s (Christina) used to serve on our social media team. We obtained permission through Christina to share it on our blog because I thought it would very much resonate with our readers. Here’s Dylan…

About a year ago I heard a prominent Christian leader whom I respect explain his thoughts on depression. He said that he did not believe true believers in Christ could really be depressed because our hope is ultimately in Christ. He talked about how Christians understand that this life can be difficult, but that in the end we know that Christ will not give us more than we can handle, and that we know in the end that Christ will prevail.

Therefore, no committed Christian should suffer from depression because we know there is more to life than our present circumstances. It did not make sense to him that a Christian could be depressed.

He was wrong.

Now for those familiar with my story, you know that I lost my father to suicide in 2009. However, this is not about him. If I were to be talking about my father then what I am saying here would be more speculation than knowledge. I’m talking about me.

2009 was a horrible year in my life. Five people I knew died in 2009, and obviously none were as difficult to deal with as my father’s death. In the fall I headed back to UNC-Wilmington for my sophomore year, hoping this would help me heal and move forward.

Unfortunately it didn’t. Many other things went wrong when school started back up. I got to the point where I feared each day wondering what bad thing would happen next. I was not happy, I was internally bitter at every single person who seemed happy, and I thought I would never feel anywhere close to “normal” ever again.

I was depressed.

shutterstock_434262010I thought I hid it well, but then people I barely even knew began asking me if anything was wrong. I must have been asked that at least twice a week by various people for about two months. I still am not sure how most of these people could tell I was “different,” they barely even knew me.

I knew many people were praying for me and my family. I was surprised by the people who knew what I was dealing with and truly cared. I was also surprised by some who I thought would care more but hardly did anything.

But how does this prove that this prominent Christian leader was wrong in his views on depression? Because I have never been closer to Jesus in my life than I was those three months that I was depressed.

I read the entire Bible through in about 70 days. I prayed more often and for longer amounts of time. I would be so upset that I would hand write chapters of the bible on notebook paper. I read the entire biblical books of Isaiah and Jeremiah in one day. That was 118 pages of the bible in one day. Bible pages have small print and two columns per page. That’s a lot of reading.

And I was depressed.

Never once did I question God’s goodness in all I went through that year. I never questioned why this happened to me or even if God existed. The only thing I did question was the power or prayer. And through it all, I knew that God was still God and that God was still good. I knew that Jesus was still greater than what I was going through and that he can bring good out of any situation.

I knew all of that. I know God cared, I knew God loved me, I knew God was in control. But I couldn’t help it, I was still depressed.

By the end of the year I began to come out of it by the grace of God. I was still a long ways away from feeling any kind of “normal” again, but I was slowly getting better.

If you are a follower of Christ and for whatever reason have fallen into depression trust me, it will get better. I like the following quote that says,

It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there.

Pain and grief were emotions created by God, you should not feel guilty for feeling them. Being depressed does not mean you no longer love Jesus or that Jesus no longer loves you.

If you need help, get help. Do not stay “stuck.”

And to the prominent Christian leader, and no doubt others, who believe that firm believers in Christ should never be depressed, you’re wrong. I’ve been there. I did not chose it, and I did all I could to get out of it. But for a while there was nothing I could do to change it.

So yes, Christians can suffer from depression. And in the words of David Crowder who wrote a song I listened to over and over in my depression:

In joy and pain. In sun and rain. You’re the same.

Oh, You never let go.

You never let go.

You never let go.

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Dylan Dodson graduated from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington in May of 2012 with a B.A. in Religious Studies, and from Liberty University with a M.A. in Religion in December of 2013. In February 2012, he and his wife helped plant a church in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he served as an intern for two years. He is getting ready to plant New City Church in Raleigh, NC in January, 2017.

Dylan’s book, True Pain, True Grief, and a True God, details his experiences in going through and dealing with the loss of his father to suicide in 2009. Dylan’s loss is a driving force for him to share Jesus in broken and hurting world. Dylan looks forward to seeing his father again in heaven due to his faith in Christ. Check out his blog.

 

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Are kids with disabilities more welcome at the Cavs’ victory parade than at church?

JR Cody 2The last seven days have felt like the best week ever for many in our home region of Northeast Ohio. Our Cleveland Cavaliers completed an epic comeback in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors to win the first major championship for a Cleveland team in 52 years. Given our city’s history of soul-crushing disappointment in athletic endeavors – the subject of an ESPN movie – the celebration by three generations of Clevelanders of the end of “the curse” was truly one for the ages. An estimated 1.3 million people (including your author) descended upon the city last morning for what was for most of us a once in a lifetime victory parade.

One moment in the midst of the victory parade received much attention in our regional media. A nine year old boy using walking crutches as a result of spina bifida was attending the parade with his father and brothers when he was spotted in the crowd by one of the Cavs’ most “colorful” players – J.R. Smith

J.R. has a long and storied history of challenges with self-control. This interview with J.R.’s daughter on SportsCenter pretty much sums it up…

“I’m just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team”

The victory parade last Wednesday wasn’t the first time that J.R. has used his celebrity to bring focus and attention to persons with special needs. Here’s a video describing J.R.’s relationship with Brad Hennefer, 2014 Special Olympics gold medalist golfer and inspiration for the Golf for Life Foundation

I had staked out a spot at the beginning of the parade route and made my way home to see the last hour or so of coverage on TV. I found myself pondering the similarities and differences between the worship of the team that ended our long championship drought and the worship our family experiences at church nearly every Sunday. It’s a little disconcerting to realize that a far higher percentage of Northeast Ohioans were at that parade Wednesday morning than were at church this past Sunday. It’s safe to say that the enthusiasm of the crowd at the parade was considerably higher than that of the typical churchgoer this past Sunday.

636023025704386034-Cody2On the other hand, I found myself thinking that on any given Sunday, most churches wouldn’t use the opportunity of their worship celebrations to intentionally welcome kids with disabilities and their families or to publicly acknowledge their value. J.R. Smith thought to do that for a boy with spina bifida on one of the biggest days of his life. Is it wrong to expect the same from our churches?

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KM greenIf your church is intentional in offering ministry to welcome and including families impacted by disability, we’d very much like to connect and and include your church as a resource to families from your area who connect with us through our website, blogs and Facebook communities. Tell us a little more about your church and and the ministry you offer if you’re interested in partnering with us in welcoming families impacted by disability seeking to connect with a local church. To learn more, click here.

Posted in Key Ministry, Special Needs Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eight Outreach Events to Target (and Bless) Special-Needs Families

Our new church plans to be special-needs welcoming from the beginning. We see special-needs families as an unreached people group we plan to target. And like missionaries, we are taking the “go and engage” approach instead of just “come and see.”

Family Watching Film In Cinema

Family Watching Film In Cinema

Here are eight outreach events we’ve come up with to target (and bless) special-needs families:

  1. Sensory-friendly movie – Rent a movie theater for the morning and make it sensory-friendly by turning the house lights up and the sound down. We are also going to have an activity table in the lobby for ours in case some of our guests need a break from the movie.
  2. Rent out a bounce house – When we lived in Pennsylvania, we were in an autism support group that invited us to a local bounce house every month an hour before it usually opened. Our son loved it! In the new town where we live, there’s a bounce house owned by a pastor and a church meets in the building (they deflate them all for church services). They offered us a discount to rent it for a couple hours on the weekend. We have that planned for next month and plan to invite families who come to our sensory-friendly movie to join us next month at the bounce house.
  3. Respite night – If you have a church building, this is a great way to reach new families. It takes planning ahead of time to train volunteers and make sure you have all the info you need on the kids coming, but they are such a blessing to families. Especially if you can host one in early December so parents can do some Christmas shopping!
  4. Fall festival – Depending on what’s available where you live, you can host a group for hey rides, corn maze fun, or even host a small group to paint pumpkins like we did at our house last fall.
  5. Day of pampering for moms/caretakers – A church in our area in Pennsylvania that had a big disability ministry had a Day of Pampering each year for moms and caretakers. The women who attended got haircuts, manicures, facials, massages, a nice lunch, and got their cars detailed while they enjoyed the pampering. They also had a speaker to encourage the women, worship music, and a blessing of the hands. It was a day I looked forward to each year!
  6. Family photo sessions – It can be hard for special-needs families to get their pictures taken. If you have a photographer in your church or have a friend with this talent, advertise for 30-minutes photo sessions at a local park. Make sure the photographer is patient and knows the parents don’t expect perfect pictures, just lots of options to pick from.
  7. Pool party – Is there a community or YMCA pool you could rent? Or a splash pad? Make sure your guests sign waivers and know they are responsible for their family members, and have lots of fun. You may even rent an ice cream truck or snow cone machine for when your guests need to cool off.
  8. Produce picking (seasonal: strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, apples) – Our autism support group in Pennsylvania did this also! James may have eaten more strawberries than he got in our bucket, but it sure was fun.

We’re doing the sensory-friendly movie this weekend, and the short video we made to talk about the event reached 55,000 people on Facebook and was shared 163 times! Clearly there’s a need for activities like this, especially during the long summer months.

What outreach events have worked for your church? Or, if you’re a special-needs family, what events would you love to attend?

Posted in Key Ministry, Sandra Peoples, Special Needs Ministry | Tagged | 1 Comment