Faces of the Movement…Mike Woods of First Baptist Orlando

Mike Woods was an original member of our Program Committee for Inclusion Fusion, and would have been a featured presenter if not for having accepted the position of Director of Special Needs for First Baptist Orlando shortly before last year’s inaugural Special Needs Ministry Web Summit. Now that Mike has settled into his new position, we’re thrilled that he’ll be presenting on the topic Partnering With Parents at this year’s Inclusion Fusion.

What matters more than anything else is that kids with special needs have an authentic relationship with God. Scripture reminds us that God chooses to use family as the primary place to nurture a child’s faith. Mike’s presentation will share some proven ideas on how your church/ministry can help parents actively participate in the spiritual formation of their own child (or children) with special needs.

Mike worked for 9 years as the Autism and Inclusion Specialist for a large St. Louis County school district. Mike has also worked as a Master Training Specialist for the Judevine Center for Autism and as an Early Interventionist for the Missouri First Steps Program. While living in North Carolina, Mike taught continuing education courses for special education teachers at Coastal Carolina College.

Mike is happily married to his lovely wife Linda and is the father of three wonderful boys, all of whom are on the autism spectrum.

In addition to Mike’s thriving ministry at First Baptist Orlando, he and his team developed and released The Special Friends App for iOS and Android, the first (and only) app I’ve seen for parents of kids with special needs interested in promoting the faith development of their children. Mike graciously agreed to be interviewed about FBO’s new app. Part Two of the interview will run tomorrow…

SG: What motivated your team to take on such a significant project?

MW: The genesis for our app came one question posed in a team meeting by our Children’s Pastor:  “What can we do to help parents nurture their child’s spiritual development at home?”  He gave us a week to come up with some possible answers. I searched for answers in several different books, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, Spiritual Parenting, and also read through the book study that you did last year (Steve) on Think Orange.  In the process of trying to come up with an answer to the problem other parents were experiencing, I discovered that I too had a problem.

As I read through Deut. 6:4-7, Psalm 78, and the central focus of the books I mentioned, I was reminded that as a parent I’m the one that God holds primarily responsible for my boys’ spiritual development.  My problem was that as a father to three boys on the autism spectrum, I had become so focused on their social, emotional, academic, and communication needs that I had been neglecting their spiritual needs.  Why is this a problem?  Because as Reggie Joiner said, “100 years from now the only thing that will truly matter in a child’s life is his or her relationship with God.” So at the end of the day parents have to look in the mirror and answer this question, “Have I invested my time in what really matters the most?”  And what matters most, according to our Father, is our children’s spiritual health.  The app is our attempt to partner with parents and support them in what matters most:  nurturing their child’s spiritual development.

SG: How can families who don’t attend FBO make use of the app?

MW: Great question, Steve.  As you know there are a lot of families who have a child with special needs that do not have a church to call “home.”  Between Apple and Android we’ve had almost 300 downloads of our special needs ministry app.  We have about 50 families of children with special needs here at First Baptist Orlando.  So that tells me that around 250 families who don’t attend First Baptist Orlando have downloaded the app!  We want to make sure that our app is supporting those families too.  In the bigger picture our special needs ministry app will support all parents by accomplishing two things:  1) Give them a plan.  Our app focuses on a different Christ-like virtue each and every month.  The app will provide a system of support and a steady flow of relevant information via videos and podcasts, and 2) Show them how to “take the next step.”  Nurturing a child’s spiritual development can feel like an overwhelming task for a group of parents who often feel overwhelmed already.  Simple and useful ideas are provided each week to remind parents to pause and make the most of everyday moments with their child and strengthen their faith.  For the parents who use Apple products, the special needs ministry app utilizes “push notifications” to alert parents to a recently published “take the next step” strategy.

The Special Friends Ministry app from First Baptist Orlando is available through iTunes by clicking on the icon in the right sidebar of this blog. Click here for a link to download the app from the Android Marketplace.

Tomorrow: Part Two of our interview with Mike on the Special Friends Ministry app.


Join Mike and over 30 leaders from children’s, family, youth and disability ministry serving as faculty for Inclusion Fusion, Key Ministry’s second annual Special Needs Ministry Web Summit. Inclusion Fusion is made available FREE OF CHARGE to pastors, church staff, volunteers and families everywhere from November 12th-16th, 2012. For an up to date list of speakers, topics, links to speaker blogs and a link for free registration, click here.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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