Last week, we talked a little bit about proactive strategies to enhance communication between parents and church staff. When adults put their heads together, great things usually happen. However, we need to be sure we include the “most valuable player” in all of this: the student!
“But wait!” you might be saying, “We need to leave the decision-making up to the adults. After all, they know best!”
There’s truth to that statement; adults do have wisdom and perspective when it comes to educational or church planning. However, when we include the student, we accomplish some important things:
- We encourage the student to understand him/herself better
- The student (hopefully!) learns that pastors and teachers are approachable and available.
- The student may have more “buy-in” to the programs and classes because he/she feels a measure of participation and control in the planning.
When we include students, we also help to lay a foundation for life-long spiritual growth. Each of the students in our programs and families has unique and special talents and strengths. Part of our jobs as parents, pastors and teachers involves helping kids understand and appreciate their own strengths so they can use them for the Kingdom. In addition, we can help students know their areas of weakness or need; we can then demonstrate support and encouragement in those areas. In short, we need to teach kids that EVERY member of the Body is useful and necessary!
So, how can we accomplish this? Children and youth–with or without disabilities– have varying levels of ability to understand and communicate their strengths and needs. However, the adults in the child’s life can ease the process by creating meaningful opportunities for the child to interact with the pastors or teachers. Some ideas:
- Help the child to create a picture of him/herself (or, depending on the child’s skill level, create a piece of art rather than a self-portrait)
- Take a picture of the student and help the student to send it via email to the church staff or teacher, with a list of the child’s strengths/needs or with a note of introduction.
- Consider using some or all of the questions on this template for students who can dictate answers or write them independently: Let Me Introduce Myself
Bear in mind: This is not appropriate for all students and all situations…and that’s okay. As parents, we don’t want to overwhelm church staff and volunteers with information, nor do we want to withhold information. In addition, we don’t want to press children or youth into disclosing needs in a way that would embarrass them or deter their participation. This is, however, an excellent opportunity to model communication about our own strengths and needs, with honesty and humility; kids will often follow our lead if we can do this in healthy and productive ways.
What ideas do YOU have for including students in proactive communication? Tell me here or leave a comment below.
Power to the (little) people!
Stay tuned: JAM Review, training opportunities, and a bit of fun