Thursday, May 4, 2017

My take on Special Needs Ministry

The first thing in the first book I read about Special Needs Ministry was "don't ask a parent to run a special needs ministry".  It meant don't ask a parent of a special needs kid to run a special needs ministry.  So, right out of the gate I'm a rebel.

At Orange last week, I found out I'm a bigger rebel than I thought.

My goals in Special Needs Ministry is for kids to know:

  • They are made in the image of God
  • God does not make mistakes, He loves them just the way they are
  • Jesus died for them
  • They are loved
We don't try to make anyone is still for the Bible lesson.  Kids are jumping on trampolines.  Kids are sitting.  Kids are wandering around.  Kids are in a tent.  Kids listen and pay attention in lots of different ways.  

I believe God has a plan to bring everyone to Him.  To quote Emily Coulson, "He speaks their language."

I want church to be a warm, inviting place where kids (and adults) feel comfortable being themselves.  I feel like kids work so hard to fit in at school all week. They should have places to be themselves.  

I went to a breakout session at Orange that really upset me.  The speaker is a trained ABA therapist.  I have some SERIOUS objections about ABA.  To me, it seems to focus on kids' weaknesses and I'm not down with that.  The speaker was talking about using ABA ideas to help kids participate at church.  For example, having a goal of sitting at story time for 5 minutes without being disruptive.  If the goal is met, a treat is given.  This reminds me a whole lot of dog training.  

I know every church and every kid has different circumstances and are equipped differently.  But, please in your efforts to help a kid do not harm a kid.  Don't accidentally say, by your actions, God didn't create you right so we need to fix you.  Don't let your need for order send a message to a kid that they are 'less than'.  

There are difficulties in Special Needs Ministry.  I get it.  You have to think about all kids.  You have to do what's in the best interest of all kids.  You MUST keep all kids safe.  I'm just asking, please put yourself in the place of the kids.  Would you want to go to the place where you are to be loved the most and have someone focus on your weaknesses for an hour (or two) a week?  Or would you rather go and be loved.  

Please choose love.  Jesus did.

This article sums up my thoughts on ABA and links to some adult autistic people's takes on it as well.  

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