Beth Golik will be serving on our faculty for Inclusion Fusion 2014 and discussing the topic How to Incorporate the Special Needs Classroom into a Church-Wide Curriculum Alignment. Here, Beth shares five specific tips for special needs ministry leaders…
As a leader of an established special needs ministry, I’m often contacted by individuals whose churches are looking to launch their own program. Here are five tips and techniques that, in my experience, are key to get you started and keep you moving and growing.
- Training. Whether you are starting a special needs ministry from scratch, or are leading a program that has been in existence for some time, there is much to learn from your peers who have “been there, done that.” When I started my position as director of the special needs ministry at Bay Presbyterian Church (a very large church in the western suburbs of Cleveland, OH whose special needs ministry had existed for years), I had plenty of enthusiasm but was short on experience. I was fortunate to attend several in-person trainings and conferences and, like a sponge, soaked up the information on best practices to bring back to our ministry. Key Ministry provides incredible online training opportunities that are available to all – regardless of your location or travel budget. Some of the best practical advice that I’ve received has come through these video trainings.
- Volunteers. We value all of our volunteers and their hearts for the kids and families that we serve. We have been blessed to have several volunteers serving in our ministry whose background and expertise is special education. Ask your volunteers for help in planning and implementing classroom management techniques and tools. Need help writing social stories? Need to create visual communication tools? There’s a pretty good chance that a member of your congregation has the ability – and the desire – to help your ministry out. Ask them. Their contributions are valuable. When your volunteers have ownership of best practices in the classroom, it’s a better experience for everyone.
- Market Your Ministry. Guess what? It’s not your church’s job to figure out that you exist. Promote your ministry to your congregation and to your fellow staff members. The families that you serve are a vital part of the body of Christ. Keep them – and your ministry – in front of people all the time. While you don’t want extra foot traffic through your classrooms on a Sunday morning, you do want folks to know that you’re there. So bring the message to them. Utilize existing communication channels such as info tables on Sunday mornings, church-wide bulletins or email, and updates to your colleagues at staff meetings. Continually invite adults and teens to serve in your ministry, particular when you have fun-factor events such as Respite Events. Potential volunteers will lose out on the opportunity to be blessed through serving if they are not aware of the possibilities. Just like the parents you serve are the advocates for their children, you are the advocate for your ministry.
- Try New Things. Earlier this year, we felt called to create a Sunday morning fellowship/worship/classroom experience for our adults with special needs. Can we be honest here? I was scared. This was brand new territory for me and I was more than a little intimidated by the prospect. Well, here we are, with several months of Sunday morning classes under our belt and I can tell you that this particular initiative has been one of the hugest blessings in my life, both personally and professionally. We (the participants, the volunteers and I) look forward to being together each week. This was all the Lord’s timing. Have faith to take a leap every now and then! The success of our adult class has encouraged us to use it as a model to revamp some our kids’ programming.
- Pray. Our children’s ministry staff incorporates prayer into our weekly meetings. We pray for our volunteers – the ones we have and the ones we have yet to meet. We pray for our kids and their families. We believe in the power of praying for others by name.
What tips and techniques could we add to this list? I’m looking forward to the upcoming Inclusion Fusion web summit and the inspiration, motivation and innovation it will offer to those of us serving in special needs ministries.
Beth Golik serves as Special Needs Ministry Director at Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, Ohio.
Join keynote speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, Emily Colson, Barb Newman, Matt Mooney, Cameron Doolittle and 20+ leaders representing the scope of the disability ministry movement this coming November 12-13 for Inclusion Fusion 2014, Key Ministry’s FREE, worldwide disability ministry web summit. Engage in interactive chat with many of our speakers and watch each presentation at the time of day that works best for you in the environment in which you’re most comfortable. Click here to view our entire speaker lineup and register for Inclusion Fusion 2014.