The mission of Grace Children's Ministry is to assist parents in leading their children toward a Gospel-centered life, to equip volunteers to shepherd children, and to encourage children to grow in Christ by teaching them biblical truths in meaningful ways. Here are some general thoughts on how this mission statement is fleshed out for children with special needs:
- We can assist parents by helping them feel comfortable leaving their children with capable and loving volunteers, so that they can feel free to attend our corporate worship services. Additionally, we can provide support and equipping during the week. We know that parents who have children with special needs need to not just "manage the situation," but need to help their children move towards God, as best they can. We have a number of families who are striving to lead their children in the context of the Gospel. We can help by connecting parents, so that they can talk about what it looks like to shepherd children with special needs.
- Our goal with our weekend services is to allow children to participate in the appropriate programming, so that they can fellowship and build relationships with their peers. Therefore, we need to equip the volunteers who will be serving them, so that they can feel confident in how to minister to each specific need. We have parent-teacher liaisons who communicate with both parents and volunteers, to help ensure that children with special needs have meaningful and enjoyable experiences in our Children's Ministry programming.
- We already have noted that we want children to participate in our weekend programming. We all have an innate need for community and acceptance. Of course, there may be situations that will hinder this goal for mainstreaming children into the classroom, but we hope that this will always be the extreme exception. It is a blessing for the child with special needs to be with their peers, as it is equally a blessing for the other children in the class to learn that every person is uniquely created by God and is deserving of love.
There is a lot that we are already doing well, but we also have much to learn about how to minister to families who have children with special needs. We are imperfect in both our understanding and execution of this ministry area, but if parents are willing to partner with us and help us learn, we would love the opportunity to come alongside them.