No doubt about it, these transition times of the year are challenging for all of us. Besides getting kids into a different sleep schedule, there's the school supply mega-acquisition and getting our kids accustomed to new teachers. And if you're anything like our family, you're also dealing with 504 Plans and IEPs.
But the adjustments of this time of year don't end at the door of the school house. They also continue into our halls of worship as well. This can be especially trying if your church is not properly equipped to minister to children with special needs. Back-to-SUNDAY-School can be even more trying than weekday education!
Here are a few ideas to help you in that direction. First, pray before doing anything. Nehemiah did such before he went to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and God prospered that approach greatly. Praying before acting helps align our will with God's will for His people.
Next, realize that the leaders in your church more than likely have no formal training on dealing with kids who have special needs. Instead of coming at elders, pastors or staff with guns a-blazing, soften with the knowledge that this is a segment of society that has not been required to be trained in the arena of inclusivity up to this point. Approach gently and helpfully in building awareness that a church needs to establish or develop programming for those with special needs.
In addition, make sure to build an awareness of the tools and resources now available to churches in disability programming. We LOVE Key Ministry's ability to train churches and get them excited about reaching out to children with unique abilities. Also, for a good, quick-start, easy curriculum for those with intellectual challenges, Friendship Ministries is a place we like to direct people. Interested in seeing what other churches are doing with excellence in the area of special needs? Amy Fenton Lee's The Inclusive Church is a great go-to resource. Shannon Dingle's The Works of God Displayed is a terrific blog to follow as well! And CMConnect is a wonderful social networking website that integrates every facet of Children's Ministry including ministering to challenged kids.
The sites mentioned are not only good for starting to accommodate every child in a Sunday School, but they're also extremely helpful with improving existing programs. These leaders help churches of every size address concerns or discover new ideas that never would have otherwise occurred to them. Best-practices in this area of service can be determined by referencing these tools.
As the school-year begins, don't forget that your school-year at the feet of Jesus and hopefully, your child's new year at Sunday School are equally, if not more, important. Being mindful of these few things will help in removing hindrances that would keep you all from the church family that God intended for you!