Network News - May 19, 2017

In this week's Network News, we are looking at inclusion for special needs children and adults. Churches can meet this need to varying degrees, but all of us should be aware of this important ministry and how we can accommodate as much as possible for families and individuals in our communities. As the mom of three children on the autism spectrum and the pastor's wife of a church that has a thriving special adult ministry, this is near and dear to my heart. The need is great, and the workers are few. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38, NIV)
"In church world, we're at a fork in the road. Up to now, it's been an accepted norm that not all churches could or should accommodate kids with autism and other special needs. (And I share in my book that not all churches can accommodate to the same degree.) But times are a changin. It is no longer acceptable for any church to be unaware of and unprepared to welcome families with special needs. Every church needs a plan for inclusion. And the best place to start is by hiring a special needs-friendly family ministry leader." (Lee, Amy Fenton, "Autism and the Church", The Inclusive Church: Helping Churches Successfully Include Children with Special Needs, April 2, 2014 post, accessed May 16, 2017,

This blog post is so good, sharing the heart of a mother and educator whose child has autism: Why You Should Not Welcome My Special Needs Child to Your Church from Love in a Different Language
She lists and expounds on these points:
-You should not welcome my special needs child if you believe the Holy Spirit is only able to work in the hearts of some people, but not others. As the parent of a special needs child, I beg you, please do not pre-determine who is able to be reached by the Holy Spirit.
-You should not welcome my speical needs child to your church if you believe that church is not a place for the "messy."
-You should not welcome my special needs child to your church if you do not recognize that "special needs" is a mission field. But let me warn you, this is not a mission trip that you can just donate to or visit for one week and walk away. If your church should accept the mission to minister to special needs families like mine, it will be a continuous labor of love.
-You should not welcome my special needs child to your church if you believe that God does not specially call every member of the body of Christ to serve.
Read the full article here.

This article may help encourage you in the difference we can make for youth: California Church Gives Special Needs Youth 'A Night to Remember' by Christy Heitger-Ewing from Outreach Magazine.
Though trying to “fit in” can be challenging for those with special needs, seamless blending in is precisely what they crave. That is why three churches—Mission Church; First Presbyterian Houston; and Willow Creek Community Church—have each found ways to introduce normalcy and inclusion into the lives of special needs individuals in their communities.
Every spring, Mission Church, whose average weekend attendance is 1,300, hosts “A Night to Remember”—a fun-filled, fast-paced prom for “the overlooked and the undercelebrated.” Lead Pastor Mike Hickerson and Jen Oaks, outreach director, hosted the first prom in 2012, hoping that 20 guests might come; instead, 200 people showed up. Each year since, that number has grown by about 100, so now they hold the event at the local fairground.
“This enables us to never have to cap the event,” says Oaks. “We want as many people as possible to participate.”
It takes 1,000 volunteers to ensure that every last detail is covered. Paired with a volunteer student-host from the community, each guest gets their hair and makeup done, a prom dress or tuxedo and a boutonniere or corsage—for free. They are then treated to a limo ride by the ocean before arriving at the “Red Carpet,” where they are announced by name and greeted by “paparazzi” who cheer, clap and offer high-fives. After a formal photograph is snapped, the guests dance the night away to fast, fun songs.
“We really blow it out,” says Oaks, who notes that the dance floor acts as the great equalizer. “You can’t tell who has special needs and who doesn’t. Everyone is the same for a time.”

This is a powerful article from a pastor who is on the autism spectrum. How I Leverage My autism for Pastoral Ministry by Lamar Harwick from CTPastors
On Monday, December 22, 2014, I walked into the office of my therapist. I sat down on her couch with my wife by my side. I took a long deep breath and slowly exhaled, waiting for answers to my 36-year-long question. She grabbed her clip board, glanced over the assessments we had completed in weeks prior, looked me in the eye, and uttered three words that changed my life: “autism spectrum disorder.” While the diagnosis didn’t change who I was, it did change my understanding of who I had been. In many ways, I have spent the years since that diagnosis learning myself all over again.
As early as seven years old, I was self-conscious about the differences between other children my age and me. I had difficulty understanding other people, and they had equal difficulty understanding me. It felt like the entire world was sharing an inside joke that I did not understand.

I was extremely stubborn, more so than other children my age. I struggled with change. Simple shifts in schedules or environments put me on edge. I operated with a robotically calculated persona. I took almost everything literally. Teachers discovered that I had been having accidents on the playground for weeks during my lunch period because I took the instructions of teachers literally when they told us the building was “not open until the bell rings.”
In the midst of social and educational struggles, I was often characterized as weak, weird, or just plain wrong. I was bullied by peers, by teachers, and on occasion by other parents because I seemed strange, stoic, and sometimes rude or arrogant. I became afraid of people, and at the age of 14, I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.
In my first year of college, I decided to leave the life of drugs and alcohol behind me. A near-fatal car accident caused me to re-evaluate my lifestyle and recommit my life to Christ. As a result, I grew more and more successful in school, but I silently continued pretending to be someone that I was not created to be. It was decades before the therapist appointment in which I discovered the language to describe my life.
Adults who grow up with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder learn how to blend in as a matter of survival. In my early adult years, I did this successfully. I learned how to mimic the behaviors, attitudes, and opinions of others so that I could have a shot at being “normal.”
Called into Ministry
Then one day, just over one year after graduating college, God called me into ministry. I was frightened but intrigued. What could God possibly do with me? I was still so socially awkward; why would God want someone like me? To be honest, I ignored God for almost a year. Surely he had the wrong Lamar. As it turns out, God knew exactly who he was calling.
Read the full article here. 

Ministering to Parents of Kids with Special Needs by Delanee Williams from LifeWay Kids Ministry 101
The number of children with special needs is rising. These needs may include physical, emotional, or cognitive differences. Some needs are obvious, while others may not be. I am not an expert in special needs ministry; however, through my years in ministry, I’ve learned parents of special needs children need to be ministered to as much as their children. Parents have shared their stories of heartache. Unfortunately, some of these encounters were at church. Use the four ways listed below to minister to these parents and families.
1. Listen and pray.
2. Always welcome them.
3. Share encouraging words and affirm parents.
4. Educate teachers and parents of typically developing children.
Read the full article here.

5 Strategies to Include Teens with Special Needs from The Inclusive Church (a 3-part post you can find here, here, and here)
...We use five strategies to craft a plan for students with any sort of disability, learning difference, or unique needs.  We recognize that God created these students as a distinct individuals.  And we allow God to pursue each one of them through the abilities and passions He gave them.
1. We help the student feel in control.
2. We create jobs inside the student ministry.
3. We’re strategically creating opportunities for spiritual growth.
4. We solve problems before they become problems.
5. We look for opportunities to multiply our own success.
Read the full article here. 

Letting People with Special Needs Minister
Amazing things happen when we allow people with special needs to minister to others.
As I sit at my desk and write this, my younger sister Annette–a special needs adult–is parked in a nearby cubicle, helping our marketing team with a project. Well…she’s supposed to be helping. Co-workers keep popping by her “office” with cheery greetings, warm hugs, and even a soda! Most folks are sure to tell Annette they’re glad she could make it today, which is true because she’s usually too busy volunteering at church or a local senior day care to lend a hand around Group.
Special needs adults, teens, and middle schoolers are a volunteering gold mine too–often overlooked. We pour time and effort into ministering to kids with special needs, but frequently forget that they have countless gifts to give. As special needs kids “age out” of children’s ministry, it’s important that we give them opportunities to feel like part of the body of Christ. Just like the rest of us, people with disabilities need to feel loved, valued, and important. We all need a purpose-special needs youth and adults aren’t any different.
Read the full article here.

Resources for building a special needs ministry:
enlightened Lifeway curriculum for Special Needs groups:
Adapting lessons for special needs:
enlightenedOne Roof Initiative:
enlightened6 Ways to Start a Special Needs Ministry on a Budget:
enlightened"The Exchange" from Christianity Today: Special Needs Ministries and the Church: Research, Ministrsies, Links, Leaders, and More:
enlightenedStarting a Special Needs Ministry from The Inclusive Church:
enlightenedWitnessing to Friends with Special Needs:
enlightenedAsperger Experts:
enlightened5 Ways to Start a Special Needs Ministry at Your Church from Vanderbloemen Search Group: 
enlightenedSeveral Articles from Group on Special Needs Ministry:
enlightenedSpecial Needs Summer Program at Camp Alta:

Job & Ministry Opportunities
Youth Leader Internship
First Baptist Church of Winters (FBCW) is seeking a Youth Leader Intern.
The job requires about 15 hours of work each week, offers a competitive salary along with a generous budget for Youth activities. The youth group consists of 10-20 students at the Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday gatherings.
For more information, contact the church at 530-795-2821 or or you can contact SRBN.

Education Internship
Education internship with stipend, housing, and airfare at Lake Tahoe, California
August 9 through December 22, 2017
4 Preschool interns and 4 School age interns needed.
We are looking for energetic, diligent, and happy people to join our team. We need leaders who possess strong character, are teachable, and who have a heart for working with children.
We will train you and invest in your life. All our lead staff have been either summer or semester staff. You will work with a team of eight other college students.
For more information, contact Debbie Wohler Reasoner at 530-583-2925 or 530448-9359 or or
Apply at:

Youth Director
New Hope Community Church (NHCC) in South Sacramento is searching for a part time (20 hr/wk) youth director. The position will report directly to the senior pastor and offers a competitive salary and some flexibility of work hours. The intent is to grow the position to full time and eventually a pastoral position. Some Bible college or seminary study is a plus, and candidate must be a self-starter.
For a full job description and other information, please contact NHCC board of deacons:
Board of Deacons
New Hope Community Church
1821 Meadowview Road
Sacramento, CA  95832

Camp Volunteers

19-21 Ministers' Wives Retreat 2017
         Jenness Park Christian Camp

19-20  Volunteer Weekend at Camp Alta, $20

20   Act Now: Addressing Health Issues in African American Communities
       New Love Ministries
       6412 Tupelo Drive, Suite H, Citrus Heights

21-28 Associational Missions Emphasis (AME)
        Week of Prayer and Mission Emphasis

3      By All Means Youth on Mission 2017
        1B Hispana el Calvarios/Calvary Baptist Church
        1321 Hudson Street, Redwood City
        register online

6      Pastors and Staff Lunch, 12 noon
        Roseville Baptist, 1301 Coloma Way
        Bring your own lunch 

10    2nd Saturday Outreach
        10 AM - 1st Time orientation

11    DadFest at The Church on Cypress
        9 am to 2 pm

18-22 Middle & High School Camp Session 1
         Camp Alta

27-29 Hope Renewed/Purpose Driven 2017
         Pastor/Church Leader Event, So. Cal. 

9-12   Kids Camp, 4-6 grades, $155 

13-15 Kids Camp, 1-3 grades $140 

16-20 Middle/High School Wilderness Camp
          Session 2, Camp Alta, $225 

23-27 Middle/High School Wilderness Camp
          Session 3, Camp Alta, $225 

7-10 Special Ministries Camp
        18 & older, $280, (volunteers free) 

10-11 Global Leadership Summit simulcast



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