1-4 Get the 411 on Starting a Special Needs Ministry
Has God called you to start a special needs ministry at your church but you don’t know where to start? Whether you are at a small church or a large church, this workshop will help answer your initial questions of how, what, and why. You will learn the different type of classroom environments, types of curriculum, sensory resources and options, volunteer recruitment and retention, training, how to manage behaviors, how to engage and partner with church staff and community organizations, and how to help your church become an accepting and inclusive church for special needs. Most importantly, you will be ready to go back and start a special needs ministry at your church!
Stephen “Doc” Hunsley, MD, Grace Church, Overland Park, KS
“Doc” Hunsley is the Special Needs Pastor for Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas. He started Grace Church’s special needs ministry in 2011, helping it to become a hallmark ministry for the church. The SOAR (Special Opportunities, Abilities, and Relationships) ministry serves over 525 individuals with special needs through weekend church programming, family support groups, and regular respite events. SOAR also has adult programming on the weekend, a VBS, and a Special Needs Day Camp in the summer. Doc founded and leads the Kansas City Special Needs Ministries Network for area church leaders and is currently assisting over 150 churches locally and nationally to start a Special Needs Ministry. Prior to serving as a special needs pastor, Doc was a children’s pastor and is a retired pediatrician. He and his wife, Kay, are proud parents to three beautiful children: Luke, Mark and Sarah. Mark is presently running the halls of heaven, but during his five-year earthly stay, he gave his family the opportunity to learn from and love a child with autism.
1-5 Equipping People of All Abilities to Share the Gospel
Join this mother and son team as they demonstrate very practical ways to share the Gospel. Anyone can be equipped to share the love of Jesus! Learn an intentional approach that can be used for a wide range of support needs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to share the gospel. See how to adapt and use a variety of published and available materials, as well as create individualized items. You will learn some methods to teach and understand God’s unconditional love, sin, repentance, forgiveness, salvation and God’s call for all of us to make disciples!
Mona Fuerstenau, Bethesda Lutheran Communities; Ben Fisher, Advocate
Mona has over 13 years as a Speech Language Pathologist and more than 20 as a disability advocate. The parent of two diverse learners, she is a 7-year member of the Washington State Governor’s council for developmental disabilities and chair emeritus; Chair of the National Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Disability task force; former Ministry Consultant and now Director of Ministry Partnerships for Bethesda Lutheran Communities.
1-6 The Importance of Caregiver Compassion
Whether we have a child with special needs, a parent with Alzheimer’s, or work as a nurse, therapist, or teacher, we are all caregivers. Continually being available for others can cause enormous stress. We often become overwhelmed by our responsibilities and risk burn out over time. Join us as we look at self-compassion strategies to keep caregivers physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy and able to serve those who rely on them for care and support.
Jackie Mills-Fernald, Access Ministry, McLean Bible Church
Jackie has served as the Director of Access Ministry at McLean Bible Church for 13 years. One of the largest disability ministries in the United States, Access provides a broad range of children and adult programming to hundreds of families with special needs in the Washington, DC area. She has been on multiple mission trips in recent years to India, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to present workshops to help churches minister to individuals and families impacted by disabilities, as well as training sessions for school to help them create an inclusive culture.
1-7 Outreach Events That Target Special Needs Families
The families of children and adults with special needs are often unreached and unchurched. Lee and Sandra will share outreach events their church plant uses to attract families with special needs, as they share the hope of Christ. Hear about their successful outreach events, including sensory-friendly movies; moon bounce; hosting a day of pampering for Moms and caregivers; and family photo day, to name just a few. Learn how to approach local business owners for their support to help churches make outreach events possible.
Dr. Lee Peoples, Pastor, Journey Church, Pearland, TX; Sandra Peoples, Social Community and Family Support Manager, Key Ministry
Lee (Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry) and Sandra (Master of Divinity) live outside of Houston, Texas where they are planting a church that will welcome special-needs families from day one. They have two sons, one with level 3 autism. Lee speaks around the Houston area encouraging pastors to accommodate special-needs families, and Sandra works with Key Ministry. She is the author of Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism and the upcoming book, Held: Lessons on Living in God’s Grip as Special-Needs Parents.
2-4 To, For, With, By… A Philosophical Shift To Disability Ministry
How do you approach Disability Ministry? Do you realize that what you believe about Disability Ministry determines both how you function and communicate? This workshop is designed to help people uncover how they operate in Disability Ministry, as well as challenge them to take a next step. The Church needs to move beyond doing Disability Ministry “for” people with disabilities, realizing that individuals with ID/DD are more than just objects of ministry. People with ID/DD should be encouraged to do ministry “with” and empowered to do ministry “by” themselves.
Pastor Ryan Wolfe, First Christian Church, Canton, OH
Ryan’s ministry calling can be found in Proverbs 31:8. He has been a Full-Time Disability Ministry Pastor at First Christian Church in Canton, OH since 2010. He is also a Part-Time Church Consultant for Key Ministry where he helps churches and organizations take a next step in their Disability Ministry. Ryan is an author for irresistiblechurch.org and launched a website called disabilityministry.com as part of his passion to resource people and better prepare them for Disability Ministry.
2-5 Effective Teaching Techniques for Bible Study
Jill believes all can learn, and she wants all children and adults with special needs to have the opportunity to learn God’s Word and experience Jesus through the Bible. In this interactive workshop, she will discuss her experiences teaching people with intellectual disabilities and how her interactive techniques have allowed them to learn and grow. These methods include students acting out the Bible stories; use of drawings; puppets; videos; bright colors; and props that reinforce the message. Jill also discusses the differences in learning styles and issues with non-verbal students who can communicate with pictures and other devices. Barriers to beginning a disability ministry are talked about openly and honestly with the acknowledgement that ministry is challenging and requires patience, hard work, and prayer. There is a strong emphasis on getting to know each student and what gets them excited. Content is also important. Jill uses rich curriculum that does not water down the information but adapts it to the special needs of these learners.
Jill Miller, Adaptive Curriculum Writer, Bethesda seeJesus
Jill has a BA from Gwynedd-Mercy College with dual certificates in Elementary and Special Education. She is also a Certified Wilson reading teacher. As part of the SeeJesus staff, Jill (Curriculum Designer and Seminar leader) has authored the Bethesda Series of Bible Study lessons, specifically adapted for individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities. Jill and her husband Paul are the parents of six children including their thirty-two year old daughter Kim, who has autism.
2-6 Buddy Ministry: Friendship, Discipleship, and Kingdom Building
Many churches are unsure how to integrate children, teens, and adults with various disabilities into the life of the church. A Buddy/Friendship Ministry is often the perfect way to serve families effectively and can be an essential part of your church’s Disability Ministry. A buddy provides assistance, support, and friendship to children through adults with disabilities, allowing the whole family to participate as valuable members of the congregation. In this workshop we will look at different models of Buddy Ministry.
Sib Nafziger Charles, Community and Church Relations Manager, Joni and Friends Eastern PA
Sib has been involved with the ministry of Joni and Friends since 1986. In 1991 she helped spearhead the Family Retreat program for Joni and Friends, which now has 28 Family Retreats throughout the country and 16 internationally. As Community and Church Relations Manager, Sib equips local churches to welcome and include individuals affected by disability into their church life. She is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, married to Jess Charles, and the mother of one grown son. A farming accident in 1983 left Sib’s husband, Jess, a quadriplegic. Together they advocate for the needs of individuals affected by disability. They are members of Manor Brethren in Christ, Lancaster, PA.
2-7 Recruiting, Teaching, and Keeping Volunteers Excited About Serving
Volunteers are critical to every ministry. Finding volunteers is not always easy; training and preparing volunteers for special needs can be complex; and keeping them motivated and passionate about serving is often the greatest challenge of all. Join this panel of experienced ministry leaders as they share innovative ideas for finding sources of and building a committed core of volunteers; providing appropriate training; and keeping everyone excited about serving.
Amy Kendall, Saddleback Church, Lakemont, CA; Susan Pannell, Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, AL; Stephen “Doc” Hunsley, Grace Church, Overland Park, KS; Joe Butler, Ability Tree, Siloam Springs, AR
Amy has been the Disabilities Minister for nine years at Saddleback Church. Before coming to Saddleback, she spent 10 years in the educational sector as a behavior specialist, specializing in children on the autism spectrum. Amy graduated from Pacific Christian College with a BA in Ministry and from Hope International University with her MA in Marriage, Family, Child Counseling.
Susan is very passionate teaching people about Jesus so they can know Him and discover their God given purpose on this earth. She is the Highlands Haven Central Director for Church of the Highlands, which has 16 campuses across the state of Alabama and serves over 400 families through their disability ministry, Highlands Haven. Susan is a graduate of Auburn university, where she studied Early Childhood Education and Family and Child Development. She lives with her husband, Mark, and son, Ben, in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Doc” Hunsley is the Special Needs Pastor for Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas. He started Grace Church’s special needs ministry in 2011 and the SOAR (Special Opportunities, Abilities, and Relationships) ministry now serves over 525 individuals with special needs through weekend church programming, family support groups, and regular respite events. SOAR also has adult programming on the weekend, a VBS, and a Special Needs Day Camp in the summer. Doc founded and leads the Kansas City Special Needs Ministries Network for area church leaders and is currently assisting over 150 churches locally and nationally to start a Special Needs Ministry. Doc and his wife, Kay, are proud parents to three beautiful children: Luke, Mark and Sarah. Mark is now running the halls of heaven, but during his five-year earthly stay, he gave his family the opportunity to learn from and love a child with autism.
Joe is an ordained minister who pastored for five years, a missionary, and the founder of Ability Tree, a nonprofit that comes alongside families of children with disabilities through respite and recreation. He and his wife, Jennifer, have been married since 1997 and are the proud parents of three children. Their middle child, Micah, has multiple special needs. Joe holds a B.A. in Bible from the University of Valley Forge and an M.A. in Disability Studies, with a concentration in Disability Ministry, from California Baptist University. Joe is also a Beyond Suffering Certified Leader through Joni and Friends International Disability Center.
3-5 Practical Strategies for Growth and Renewed Vision
Join this base-line ministry discussion, which will include practical tools and strategies that can be applied to strengthen the overall impact of disability ministry on families in your church. Hear exciting ways in which your ministry can further grow and expand. Topics will include: Parent Involvement; Prayer; Curriculum Adaptation; and new programming ideas like Awana and Student Ministry Small groups.
Gina Spivey, Calvary Community Church, Westlake Village, CA
Gina is the Special Needs Director at Calvary Community Church. Since becoming the Director in 2014, the ministry has nearly tripled in size, and the church as a whole as caught the vision and value of the special needs ministry. Prior to ministry, Gina was a Child and Infant Development Specialist for twelve years, working with foster children who had pre-natal drug and alcohol exposure. She also worked in Autism Diagnostics and ran a speech therapy clinic.
3-6 Getting Your Senior Leadership on Board
Are you facing objections and obstacles in casting vision for special needs ministry to senior leadership at your church? Effective ministry flows from the top down. How can the importance of a special needs ministry be explained in a way that senior leadership will understand and get behind, so it doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of a few parents or lay leaders? Hear ways to cast an inclusive philosophy of ministry that can include up to 20% of families in a church community. Learn how to address objections such as lack of interest; no budget; fear of liability or lack of safety, ensuring the ministry thrives instead of falling by the wayside. Participants will be given practical and proven strategies for getting senior leadership on board and for creating an inclusive environment in the church.
Joe Butler, Founder, Ability Tree
Joe is an ordained minister who pastored for five years, a missionary, and the founder of Ability Tree, a nonprofit that comes alongside families of children with disabilities through respite and recreation. He and his wife, Jennifer, have been married since 1997 and are the proud parents of three children. Their middle child, Micah, has multiple special needs. Joe holds a B.A. in Bible from the University of Valley Forge and an M.A. in Disability Studies, with a concentration in Disability Ministry, from California Baptist University. Joe is also a Beyond Suffering Certified Leader through Joni and Friends International Disability Center. Joe understands ministry from a parental, pastoral, and missional perspective.
3-7 The Nuts & Bolts of Starting a Respite Program
Join 3 respite experts as they walk you through the steps to begin a successful respite program to serve families living with disabilities. Learn how to start or grow your current ministry; the importance of building relationships with families and volunteers; finding the right template for your church; and how to build Respite around your church community and your church community around Respite. Reach out to families who are hurting from being excluded with a church ministry that embraces, values, and welcomes them with the arms of Christ. Discover God’s heart for disability; listen to true stories of families touched by respite; and ask questions about a simple, easily replicated respite program
Shelley Neal and Deborha Sutherland, Kingsway Baptist Church, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada; Matt Mooney, 99 Balloons
Shelley is a Special Education Teacher with Toronto District School Board and has enjoyed this job for the last 32 years. She is presently working at Rivercrest Junior Public School as a special education teacher and the Teacher Librarian for JK- Grade 5. Her past teaching experience includes 7 years at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation as a special education teacher in the Integrated Education and Therapy Program and teacher/librarian for students from JK to Grade 12. She is the co-founder of the “Kingsway Respite” program. Shelley’s training includes a BA in Sociology, B.Ed in Primary/Junior, B.Ed in Special Programs and a M.Ed in Holistic Curriculum Development. Shelley was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2015.
Debbie has worked for 11 years as an Education Assistant for Children with Moderate to Severe Medical/Physical Needs at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Centre. She also provides a variety of respite for private clients with autism, developmental delays and physical disabilities. She is the co- founder of the “rEcess Kingsway” program. Debbie’s training includes a BA in English and Diplomas in Educational Assistant, a Graduate Certificate in Autism and Behavioural Sciences and Applied Behaviour Analysis for Educators. She is currently studying at Tyndale University, Bachelor of Religious Education.
Matt and his wife Ginny were expecting their first child when they received a diagnosis of trisomy 18. Eight weeks later, their son, Eliot, was born. He lived only 99 days, and Matt chronicled his life through a blog that would be the beginnings of A Story Unfinished– a book about Eliot’s life and God’s lessons. Eliot’s story has since been shared through a short video that has been viewed millions of times and was featured on The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Matt and Ginny founded 99 Balloons, an organization working with persons experiencing disability locally and globally. The organization grew out of a respite night called rEcess that the Mooneys started in their own community. rEcess has now spread to 33 sites across 13 states in the United States, as well as sites in Canada and Australia. Matt serves as the executive director of 99 Balloons, is the host of The Atypical Podcast, and lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he is busy raising Eliot’s siblings: Hazel, Anders and Lena. Matt & Ginny adopted Lena, a child with severe disabilities including autism and cerebral palsy, from Ukraine, who came to that they came to know through their global work. All of these experiences have instilled in Matt a passion for championing more inclusive communities across the globe.
4-5 Building a Successful Adult Adaptive Minsitry
In this workshop, the steps to develop, launch, and grow a Ministry that includes and serve adults with special needs will be discussed. Strategies will be shared for reaching out to participants, as well as recruiting parents, volunteers, group home leaders, companions, and all who share a passion to serve. Hear how to combine worship services with numerous social activities, as well as the benefits of partnering with others in your community to expand your program. Learn how to start an Adult Ministry at your church and create an environment of fun and excitement, while sharing God’s love and encouraging disciples to follow Him.
Horton Townes, St. Paul Handicapable Ministry, Largo, FL
Horton earned a Banking/Finance degree and MBA from the University of Mississippi and was one of the pioneers in the growth and development of the home satellite business in the early 1980s. He became involved with Handicapable Ministry, a Ministry for developmentally disabled adults, in December 1997, when St. Paul’s launched its Ministry with 7 members. Horton has served as the Director of the Handicapable Ministry since July 2002 and today, the ministry serves 300 hundred adults with special needs. Horton was awarded United Methodist Church’s Robert M. Pitzer Award in 2006 and selected as a Bay News 9 Everyday Hero in 2015.
4-6 Naked, Vomiting & Afraid – A Typical Weekend Service
Working in a classroom during a weekend service for individuals with disabilities can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. However, it can also be extremely challenging. Join us as we discuss a variety of situations that can arise during a typical weekend service and how to best handle them. Hear practical strategies to take these challenging opportunities and turn them into a win for God’s kingdom.
Amy Kendall, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA
Amy is the Disabilities Minister for over nine years at Saddleback Church. Before coming to Saddleback, she spent 10 years in the educational sector as a behavior specialist, specializing in children on the autism spectrum. Amy graduated from Pacific Christian College with a BA in Ministry and from Hope International University with her MA in Marriage, Family, Child Counseling.
4-7 Reaching the Deaf for Christ
Deaf people have the right to read, study, pray, worship, serve, and meditate on God’s Word. The focus of this workshop is on reaching a new generation of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is more inclusive and welcoming with regards to the Deaf World. All are created equal in God’s image, and the gospel must be preached to and available to all people. Come and learn how to reach the deaf and hard of hearing and bring them into your church community.
Dr. Gabriel Love, Program Coordinator, Deaf Ministry, McLean Bible Church
Dr. Love became deaf at the age of 13, and God called him to the Deaf Ministry in 1980. He attended Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. and completed his seminary training at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in 1989. He received his doctorate in Education degree in 2012 from Seattle/Argosy Universities in Chicago. Gabriel has served in Deaf ministry for over 30 years. He has been a Sunday school teacher, pastor, evangelist, and Church Planter and is presently the Program Coordinator for the Deaf Ministry at McLean Bible Church. Gabriel also performs sacerdotal duties for the Deaf Ministry at McLean Bible Church. These are spiritually-related tasks performed by ministers for a church or ministry. Gabriel has been married for 29 years and has four grown children and three grandchildren.