Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Invisible Ones

There is a group of people that sometimes get left out of the church. Some people call this group the "invisible ones", we know this group as the people with special needs. There are many stories from Special Needs families similar to the one shared by a Pastor in North Carolina: “I remember meeting a single mom and her two sons after a church service one weekend. The eldest did not have a disability but the younger son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with Psychomotor Retardation at the age of three. As I grew to know this mom, she shared that they had been asked to leave many churches because of her youngest son. The churches didn’t know how to care for him and instead of learning how to serve these families, they excluded them.” Statistics show that incidences of Special Needs children are on the rise. A study from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities show that incidences of special needs children have risen. Data from the study showed that developmental disabilities (DDs) are common: about 1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a DD in 2006–2008. These data also showed that prevalence of parent-reported DDs has increased 17.1% from 1997 to 2008. This study underscores the increasing need for health, education and social services, and more specialized health services for people with DDs. Here are a few statistics regarding Developmental Disabilities (DD) from 1997 - 2008. Prevalence of any DD in 1997-2008 was 13.8% Prevalence of learning disabilities was 7.66%; Prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was 6.69%; Prevalence of other developmental delay was 3.65%; and, Prevalence of autism was 0.47%. Over the last 12 years the prevalence of DDs has increased : 17.1%—that’s about 1.8 million more children with DDs in 2006–2008 compared to a decade earlier; Autism increased 289.5%; ADHD increased 33.0%; Hearing loss decreased 30.9%. Males had twice the prevalence of any DD than females and more specifically had higher prevalence of ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, stuttering/stammering and other DDs; Statistics today show that about 1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. Other studies show this rate to be as much as 1 in 5 people having any type of disability. With the statistics going up like this the church needs to find away to become more inclusive. We cannot let the families of the special needs children fall away from church because we lack the help in a children's church situation. There is a simple way to meet the needs in a children's church situation and that is through the buddy system! A lot of these parents judge our churches by the question "Can they meet my child's need?" In a special needs situation it is "Are they going to pull me out of service for my child?". As a former pastor implementing the buddy system may appear to be difficult. But with a little forethought it is not as difficult as it appears. First, let's take a look at what a buddy system is. The buddy system uses one person to assist the special-needs child. You use this person as an assistant to the special-needs child in times of children's church or Sunday school. They can be used to help explain principles taught in those classes. Or they may be able to assist the child, when the child begins to get agitated or out of control. They are to be considered part of the children's staff. But are not assigned specific assignments, like music, storytime, or games. They are assigned to one specific special needs child. These helpers actually are an extension of the child. They help the child process the information that is coming in, they also help the child with any situation they face. They in effect become like a wheelchair or assistive device which allow the child to be themselves, but not a distraction to the service or class they are participating in. When assigning a buddy to a child it must be a one to one ratio. The buddy may be a teenager aged 16 or older or any adult willing to assist the special-needs child. The full purpose of this article is to show there is a need for special needs children out there. A lot of special needs children desire to be in church, and we need to give them opportunity with a buddy system. They need the opportunity to hear the gospel at their level and come to Christ. There is also a need for special needs families to be able to participate in the church that you pastor. They have spiritual needs just like anyone else in your church. The article also emphasizes that setting up a buddy system does not have to be difficult. It can be accomplished with relative ease. It takes two people in your church to run. Can be used as a tool to reach the special needs children for Christ. For further information on setting up the buddy system please contact: Shepherd's Staff ministries at

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Camp - Squamish

We recently helped in a Joy Fellowship fall camp with close to 30 campers.As always we are treated like family and go away tired but satisfied that spiritual growth is taking place. During this camp we were able to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving (a treat since we in America celebrate it in November so I get to celebrate 2). This camp focused on the book of Acts and emphasized the point we are all witnesses. Our group had the longest story in Acts chapter 10. The story when Cornelius sends for Peter. Peter goes to Cornelius after having a vision from God that all things are clean to God. We emphasized the point that it is our choice to follow where God leads us to represent Him. It was Cornelius's choice to send someone after and angel told him too. Peter chose to go with Cornelius' men when they came to ask him to see Cornelius. Take a moment to think what would have happened if one of those men didn't chose to follow God's direction. If one doesn't chose, I believe the salvation's recorded in the tenth chapter of Acts don't take place. Maybe God would have sent someone else, the point that they submitted to God's will and followed through with their witness speaks volumes to us. They chose to be the harvester's God desires them to be. A harvester is one who not only looks at the harvest, but goes into the harvest to produce fruit. God equips us all to be a "witness of His truth". It is up to us to chose to be that witness. We don't need to know all the right things to say, but we are to live humbly as Christ did and let God do the rest. It is as simple as ABC! We must Accept the fact Jesus died and rose again for us. We must Believe that His death and Resurrection is a gift from God to restore our relationship with God. We must Confess with our tongue and pray that God would forgive us and accept us into His family. With that we recognize God does what He said He would do and accept us. Camp went well and all were reminded we must be witnesses to our group homes, day programs and neighborhoods to bring people to God with our lives. It was a privilege once again to share with Joy Fellowship- and look forward to continue to assist them in the future!!! We are headed to Minneapolis to meet with other leaders in the special needs community.I will post pictures of camp when I get them from Joy Fellowship. God Bless! Still working on scanning some pictures.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Orlando day 7

As I sit to write this I feel my mind has expanded by learning a lot from the ministries we are visiting. Basically we have seen two models here in the Orlando area. The church we visited taught us about the inclusion model. That is how to assist the special needs student into the church she works for in Longwood, Florida.She has primarily done this with the addition of a "buddy". A person who helps the special needs child with the surroundings and who assists them with their special needs. Most of these children actually attend their age groups class. Though some of the students who have "behaviors" not conducive to their classroom meet in a separate special classroom and study their lesson in that class. All the special needs people were learning something and we got some great material to help others use this method. The organization we met with today believes the churches of a community need to band together and minister to it's special needs congregants. As a result the churches in one community band together and support a ministry called "Special Gathering" to have a chapel service for their special needs congregants. Learning this philosophy is eye opening because of the inter-denominational cooperation it takes to run. I may write more about this philosophy later, but for now let me say this.... We are truly being challenged and love to see both ministries succeeding! As always, God Bless - Will post pictures later!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Orlando Trip (day 2)

Wow, we had a two hour layover in Denver and got to our hotel at 2:30 am. Up the next morning and went to a very interesting festival. It's sponsored by a ministry here in Orlando that is staffed by 4 people. It is called Nathaniel's hope "Make them smile" This 10 year festival now draws over 12,000 people around a lake near downtown Orlando. Every disabled child was treated like a "VIP". It was not only informational where hundreds of businesses, social services and churches showed how they can help children with disabilities. It had activities that the disabled children could do! We talked to Lady who helped with organizing it and they had over 400 leaders and volunteers at the park at 5:00 am to prepare for this event. It looked like it accomplished what it set out to! This morning we learned a lot as we observed two different children services (1-5th grade) (4 and 5 year olds). They have also installed a "Buddy Program". This program allows less special needs children to attend their services and regular Sunday Classes. They also have a separate classroom for more difficult special needs children. I wish I could share what we learned (Sue and I). We are pleased to have had the opportunity to see how others accomplish the task of Special Needs people. Until Tuesday - God Bless!Pastor Craig
Nathaniel's Hope 10 year cake.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Story shared at St. Regis Community Church

The Bear Story

by on Feb.21, 2012, under Faith

The following story was written by my friend, Craig Sheppard. It is a good story to share with children, but adults will enjoy it too.

There was once a family of bears who lived in a cave high on the side of a mountain. There was a momma bear, a papa bear and a baby bear. The mama and papa bear had one rule they taught the baby bear. The rule was never cross the big creek outside the cave, for beyond the creek lay a deep, dark forest. They reminded baby bear of the rule often. But baby bear really wanted to cross the big creek.

One day baby bear couldn’t stand it any longer. He waited until momma bear and papa bear were very busy. Then he went outside and quickly crossed the creek!

At first, baby bear thought it was exciting to be on the other side of the creek. He ran along the bank, always staying within eye distance of the cave. Then he became bolder and followed a trail he found heading into the forest. Soon it became very dark all around him. When he saw it becoming darker he became frightened. He tried to follow the trail back to the creek, but somehow he’d lost the trail. It was getting late and he finally realized he was lost. This made him more frightened and he began to cry.

As he sat and wondered what to do, he heard a noise in the woods drawing near him. This frightened baby bear even more. He was about to run away from the noise, when suddenly a big moose broke through the trees. It was just the moose that had made all the noise. The moose saw the baby bear and greeted him.

“Hi baby bear, it is nice to meet you. But what are you doing in the deep, dark forest? I thought all the papa and momma bears taught their babies not to walk in the forest.”

Baby bear said, “I’m lost, big moose, and I’m very scared. Can you tell me how to get to the big creek?”

The moose recognized baby bear as belonging to the momma and papa bear that lived in the cave on the side of the mountain. The moose told baby bear to follow him.

After a little walking baby bear heard the creek and recognized where he was. They finally came out of the dark woods and crossed the creek to his cave. Mama and Papa were worried and jumped for joy because the moose brought baby bear home. They thanked the moose greatly, and baby bear gave the moose a big hug!

To us, the world is like the forest. When we are given boundaries like the creek, we have a natural desire to go where we should not go. When we do something we shouldn’t do it feels good at first. But then we often get lost – and frightened. The moose is like Jesus Christ. He knows where we are, and if we ask Him he’ll bring us to safely back to God.

Luke 15:11-24.