Join us for some JAM in Knoxville, TN!

We’re excited to announce our next JAM Session…

We’ll teaching in Knoxville TN at Two Rivers Church on Saturday, April 28.

For those of you who don’t know, a JAM Session is Key MInistry’s day-long intensive designed to help churches Jumpstart an All-inclusive Ministry. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • Disabilities 101: Understanding Common Disabilities and Their Effect on Faith Development
  • Logistics: Volunteer Recruitment, Safety, Budgeting, Ministry Environments
  • Modifying Curriculum and Managing Behavior
  • Working Collaboratively with Parents of Students with Disabilties

We also have a “make it and take it” session, during which you’ll create materials that you can use the very next day at church. In addition, each participant will receive the documents for our KeyRing Binder; these files include forms, resources, and articles that will give your ministry a boost.

We also have breakfast and lunch together…that’s my favorite part, because we all get to tell stories, compare notes, share ideas, and encourage each other. Great things happen when the Church has a chance to do this!

Guess what?
YOU are invited!
{And we’d love it if you’d join us!}

And guess what else?? This whole day is 100%, absolutely, positively FREE!

So…what are you waiting for?

You MUST pre-register for the JAM Session so we can be sure we have enough materials and food. To reserve your spot, click here: For directions to the church, please visit the website at

If you have questions, or if you need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Team WORK: Transitioning from School to the Workplace

Photo courtesy CEVEC

Last week I attended a career assessment meeting with a client at the Cuyahoga East Vocational Education Consortium.(CEVEC). This center is designed to provide “vocational and work training to high school aged students with disabilities.” CEVEC is now housed in a recently renovated building, and it positively  buzzes with productivity.

The team assembled in a quiet, comfortable conference room near the main office. Tim Velotta, Career Assessment Specialist, reviewed the results of the testing and educated the group about the next steps in the process. He also explained some of the differences between services and supports at high school and the workplace. Students who are identified with a disability that affects education have Individualized Education Plans, which, as TIm described are “designed to help students succeed.” However, when students transition from public school services to the “real world,” they will receive accommodations–not services– under the Americans with Disabilities Act. At this point, Tim said, “Success is no longer guaranteed.”

This is a scary, and sometimes difficult transition for parents (and for students, too!). For many parents, this presents a touch point of grief; the realization that the child is not following the same college and career path as his/her peers hurts. Even if the parents feel that they have accepted their child’s disability, these kinds of transitions often involve “re-grieving.”

In addition, there are questions! Parents and students want to know what the day will be like, how goals will be accomplished and what the expected outcomes might be. Finally, students and parents might also be excited about the possibilities and experiences ahead, as well as the new levels of independence and fresh experiences in the offing.

In reviewing the variety of job opportunities, Tim described how he and his team evaluate students for job training. The three main criteria assessed are work speed, work accuracy, and level of independence.  In addition, the team assesses  students’ employability skills…the “soft skills” that are necessary for successful employment. These include seeking help when needed, ability to recognize and correct mistakes, flexibility and respect for self and others. Once the assessment is complete, students are placed into a job training program that meets their individual needs. The exciting part? The training they receive involves tasks that directly benefit the community!

What lessons can the Church learn from this process? How can we support families in this unique transition to adulthood?

  • Recognize that this transition might evoke sadness or loss in parents and students. Be willing to affirm those feelings and listen without judgment.
  • Celebrate the transition with the family. If the parents and student are excited about the possibilities, by all means, send a card or make a phone call to give your best wishes. Taking a step toward adulthood is a big deal! Follow the family’s lead and rejoice with them in this new opportunity.
  • Offer opportunities for service at church. It’s important to think beyond the service opportunities we usually assign to teens. Not every student will be able to play the guitar, volunteer in the nursery, or go on a mission trip…and that’s okay. It’s important for us to consider the gifts of the students in our churches and provide opportunities for them to make a contribution to the Body using those gifts. (this is true for both typically developing students as well as students affected by disabilities!)
  • Emphasize the “soft skills.” Reinforcing students’ ability to respect authority, follow directions and make good choices not only builds their employability…it  builds the Church.  When we teach these qualities at church, we can emphasize the greater purpose in demonstrating these qualities, and give our students the knowledge that they can glorify God in the workplace through their attitudes and behavior.
  • Consider collaborating with a center like CEVEC. During my visit at the center, I asked Tim Velotta if students can be placed in jobs at churches. “Absolutely!” he enthused. He listed several “go-to” community organizations that have provided support and training to CEVEC students. If your church feels led, explore this opportunity to reach out to the community.
  • Be a safe haven. Transitioning to the work world can be scary. Students need to know that their church stands with them, ready to commisserate about the rough days and celebrate the successful ones…because that’s what families do.

Working together~

IEP’s at Church: Yes? No? Maybe So?

I’m a planner.

Anyone who knows me well can attest to this. (In fourth grade, I apparently made a full plan for my birthday party, calculating the time each activity would take and taking into account that guests might arrive at slightly different times…I also made sure that there would be enough time to ensure everyone’s comfort.)

Good teaching takes good planning…I talk about this often during lectures at schools and churches. The Federal Governement thinks planning is a good idea, too. In fact, every student who is identified with a disability that affects learning has a plan called an IEP (Individualied Education Plan). This plan lists the child’s strengths, needs, and current levels of performance. In addition, the plan, formulated by teachers and school staff, includes goals and objectives that create the basis for the child’s school year. Finally, the plan includes all of the supports, accommodations and related services the child needs in order to make appropriate progress toward the identified goals. Every member of the child’s team–including the child, when appropriate–works on this plan, signs it, and helps to monitor the progress.

So, If a student needs an IEP at school, then we should definitely have one at church, right?

A planner like me inwardly, gleefully shouts YES! YES! A PLAN!! Let’s make a PLAN!

We do need a plan…but the way we form a special needs plan–and the kind of plan we form–  really depends on many factors…

It depends on the parents…Some parents are very excited to share their child’s needs with a church staff, and want to collaborate with the team about goals for church. Others just want Sunday to feel “normal” and would like their child, as much as possible, to just blend in with everyone else.

It depends on the church staff and volunteers. Some churches might decide that part of their mission and ministry is to offer as much support as possible to families. We won’t assume that these are “big” churches or churches with large budgets…nor will we assume that churches that provide in-depth, individualized planning or therapeutic supports are “better” than those that don’t. Those assumptions are not grounded in truth. Every church should approach this issue by taking into account a number of factors, such as  the church’s culture, staffing, facilities, vision of the senior staff, and availability of volunteers.

It depends on the child/student. Some students are eager to accept help as they work toward goals…others are just really ready for a day of rest and fun (and that is the purpose of the Sabbath, isn’t it?) And…I haven’t met any teens with disabilities who have told me that they really want to have extra focus on their needs during youth group time…that is a normal and expected part of teen development, and we need to respect it.

It depends on the plan itself. We need to remember that the purpose of a plan at church will most likely be very different from a plan at school, because the purpose of church is different that school or work. I believe that what kids are learning at church is way more important than anything that will be taught at school, so I do recommend that churches and families work together to create a plan for EVERY child’s spiritual growth (not just kids with special needs!) In our ministry, we have created this form to facilitate the process:
GROW Plan for Spiritual Development
This also allows parents, churches and students to develop shared expectations; when we communicate about what our hopes and plans are, we are more likely to develop strong relationships that facilitate growth.

Mostly, it depends on God
. Before we plan anything, we really need to ask God what He thinks about our ministry and where He would like to see it go:  “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.” Psalm 33:11 NASB

Will He give you the guidance you’re looking for?
You can plan on it.