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#SpecialNeeds & #Church: What My Church Did Right at VBS via manyhatsmommy.com

Special Needs & Church: What My Church Did Right at VBS

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Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Home Educating Family Magazine. If you choose to subscribe, I will receive a small commission.

Many special needs families don’t get to church.

Some can’t make it–their child just can’t leave the house or handle being at church. For others, they tried, and it didn’t work. What makes me really sad is that there are many families who have been ostracized from their church due to outspoken actions and attitudes or subtle hints that they’re not welcome.

My church is not one of those churches. Over the last year I have watched how they reach out to the five families with kids on the autism spectrum. I excitedly ponder the potential as we grow and expand our ministries.

This summer was Community Bible Church’s first-ever Vacation Bible School (VBS). Prior to this, they did not have their own facility to host such an event. I didn’t volunteer to work during the week because I didn’t know what my husband’s schedule would be. I did get there four out of the five days, and it was very exciting. I watched through the eyes of a special needs mom, and this is what I saw that my church did right….

#SpecialNeeds & Church: What My Church Did Right at VBS! via manyhatsommy.com

1. They asked for information ahead of time.

Our church had online registration for VBS. In addition to the typical questions–age, address, contact information–the form also asked if the child had any medical needs or allergies. This let them know in advance of special needs so they could be prepared.

2. They made special needs families feel welcome.

A friend at church asked me to help her prepare allergy-friendly snacks. I remember her words, “We want ALL of the kids to enjoy the treats.” I was very touched that she went through the extra effort to ensure this. In the end, my boys were the only ones there with food sensitivities, but that’s not the point. They were very prepared–down to keeping the food separate. My sister commented to me, “How nice that they’re not making you feel like your food sensitivities are a burden.” Very true.

Additionally, I had the pleasure of taking a mom and her son down to a classroom because they arrived a few minutes late. She mentioned to the teachers that her son might be on the autism spectrum, and both teachers made her feel very at ease and explained that that was not a problem and they were able to care for him. What a blessing to make a visiting mom feel at ease!

3. They had teens help the kids who needed it.

I was so proud of our teens during VBS! They volunteered throughout the program. What touched me most was to watch teen boys be a buddy to boys who needed it–one who liked to escape and one who needed to take breaks. They were kind and gentle, and you could tell they were happy to help and did not consider it a chore or “I got stuck being a buddy.”

If you have the opportunity to influence your church in the special needs area, these are things I recommend. Another thing I recommend is Leading a Special Needs Ministry by Amy Fenton Lee. Amy sent me a copy of her book and I consider it a must-have for each church, whether or not you have a designated special needs ministry. I give it five stars. You can read my review over at HEDUA’s review site. You’ll see exactly why I love it!

#SPecialNeeds & Church: What My Church Did Right at VBS via manyhatsmommy.com

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Author: Jenny Herman

Jenny Herman is not anyone special or a hero. She's just a working special needs homeschool mom who uses the Power of One to "just keep swimming". Visit her blog jennyherman.com to learn more.

7 thoughts on “Special Needs & Church: What My Church Did Right at VBS

  1. I just started attending a church in our new neighborhood and was hoping that my daughter might possibly have a Sunday School teacher that wasn’t going to treat her as some behavior problem / spoiled brat. I come to find out during a service that they were losing their only Sunday School teacher! She was the local librarian that I already knew very well (of course.)

    I had prayed that there would be a way for my daughter to attend class without me hovering in the room, etc. Well, I ‘heard’ in my head, DO IT DO IT. I am far from the most qualified but know enough to follow the supplied curriculum… God really gives me what I pray for, I’m so blessed. And he obviously has a sense of humor. So now I’M the Sunday School teacher! The class is very small, about five right now. And my daughter does great because her teacher ‘gets it.’ 😉 So far, I enjoy it except without the ‘Mom power card’ there is weak respect.

  2. We had a fabulous experience at VBS this year also! I dropped in on a random church and my son’s teacher ended up having a spectrum child herself. The kids still talk about VBS. Such a blessing

  3. I am the children’s minister at our church and in 2 Sunday’s we will open our town’s (of 70,000) only special needs ministry. This ministry will be for everyone birth – 6th grade, developmentally. Needless to say it is daunting and so exciting all at the same time. I we are going to adapt everything for our special needs and I would like to know what you liked and what you would change from family point of view.

    • Hi, Shannon. I really recommend you get Amy’s book. She covers everything you need, from both perspectives. It’s not high priced. I would focus on two things first because they will go a long way as you progress. First, get all the information you need from the parents to be able to care for the chikdren. Second, do what is in your power to make the families feel comfortable and not a burden. Thanks for asking. That will take you far!

  4. I wish my own church would be this welcoming to my son. He is on the low-functioning end of the spectrum, and their excuse is that they “don’t have the resources” (they have about 20 adult & teen volunteers, and about 40 kids), and their other excuse is that he distracts the normal perfect children. So they want me to keep my little guy home. They tried it for 2 days, and now I’m supposed to drop off his older brothers while I drag him back home kicking and screaming? He had so much fun there! Or am I supposed to punish his brothers along with him by keeping them at home too? I’m so unbelievably upset right now, I feel like leaving this church altogether. I’m just so sick and tired of my son being made to feel like a problem. They started relegating him to the nursery during story time in Sunday school too, because “he’s a distraction”. Here’s a novel idea: Rather than teaching my son that he isn’t good enough to belong, how about teaching the OTHER kids that he DOES belong, even though he’s different?! Another thing, why is it that everything at church has to be geared toward typical kids, and NOTHING for kids with special needs? I’ve just never felt so rejected by any non-Christian. That’s what I find the most sad.

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