Amy Fenton Lee was gracious enough to give me a copy of her book Leading A Special Needs Ministry. Joel Dortch, an assistant Children’s Pastor at my church, has a real heart for special needs and does regular book reviews on his blog. I figured he would do a much better job reviewing this great book than I would…so here’s a guest post:
Just tell me HOW to do it. Then get out of my way!
I am a practical guy. I don’t get bogged down by the ethereal or the why? I am just filtering through everything keeping my eye open for the bottom line. What matters? As I begin to go through the process I will start to construct for myself why?
In college, I never had any desire to go to my theology classes or other thought-provoking classes like ethics. They all seemed useless. They weren’t practical enough for my liking. I wanted to take classes that taught me how to do something. How to public speak, how to write a sermon, how to minister to kids. These might not have been the easiest classes for me, because they made me get out of my comfort zone, but they gave me tools and directions to make something happen.
The book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, by Amy Fenton Lee, taught me just that. How to make something happen. How to make a Special Needs Ministry a success. It’s not a book that tries to convince you to have a special needs ministry nor does it talk about how it is Biblical. It will answer the question: how? You will have to read a different book to learn how special needs ministry and inclusion is Biblical or why you should have one at your church. Well enough with the introduction. Let’s get to what I like to call the quick hitters.
In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and that I will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.
1. The biggest item that I took from this book is the need for a screening process. On a few occasions I have had to ask the parents for advise on how to serve their kid that has special needs. Unfortunately, I usually ask this question because something happened that I did not know how to handle. If a screening process is in place then, I believe, the majority of these questions would already have answers to them.
The great thing about this book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, is that the questions you should ask during your screening process are provided. It does not get much easier than this. Everything is conveniently provided for you by Amy Fenton Lee. If you really want to start a Special Needs Ministry this book is priceless.
It might be uncomfortable to sit down with the parents, but the amount of information that is gained from having a screens process with the parents. Amy Fenton Lee says that the reason to have a meeting with the guardian(s) before letting their child be a part of your ministry is: to convey your intention to accept the child into your ministry, invite an open and candid relationship between the church and the family, and it might reveal other needs that the family might need. Have a screening and intake interview process.
2. Another amazing part about this book is the numerous appendices that have been included in the back of the book. While some may argue that these aren’t part of the book, I would argue against that view. The amount of hours it would take to make these forms on your own is manifold. Also, these forms ask the questions that are most common and most useful. Many of us have no idea what questions to ask parents of special needs kids. It is like you are getting the answers to a test before you take it. You almost feel guilty for having all these forms and words without having done any of the work. Amy has graciously done it all for us. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Some of the forms and resources that she has included in this section are inclusion tips, buddy training material, mission statement examples, handbook examples, and a parent questionnaire. Use the appendices in the back of the book.
3. The last quick hitter that I would like to mention about the book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, is the importance of writing a handbook and/or any other guiding documents. These documents might seem pointless and a trivial, but they are super important. The book gives some reasons as to why it’s important. First, it tells everyone what the special needs ministry will provide and what they won’t provide. It’s important to make this known at the beginning, because if you don’t tell people what you will and won’t provide, they will. Also, having these guiding documents will answer a lot of the questions and concerns that interested families might have. It will make your job easier in the long run. Take time to write out your guiding documents.
Those are my quick hitters that I learned from this book:
- Have a screening and intake interview process.
- Use the appendices in the back of the book.
- Take time to write out your guiding documents.
This book gave me a lot to think about if I want to have a successful special needs ministry. It might be easy to check off the list that we have buddies available to walk around and support your child with special needs, but to have a ministry to kids with special needs where buddies are trained is something entirely different. This book will help take your existing special needs ministry to a completely different level or will help lay the foundation for a brand new special needs ministry that God has birthed in your church.
Read the rest of the book for yourself. There is much more to learn and only a limited amount of time.