Keeping Peace on Earth: Coping with special needs this season

RadioToday, I’ll be spending time with my friend, Vangie Rodenbeck on the Shaping Special Hearts radio show. (noon EST) We’ll be talking about some solutions for managing the stress and unpredictability that often accompanies Christmastime. I hope it will be helpful!

I’ll be referencing some of the ideas that have been posted here in the past. I’ve compiled those below for your convenience…

Accommodating Special Needs
Prep for the Pageant
Dealing with Relatives and Visitors
Creating Hands-on Opportunities for Kids

Neighborhood Outreach: Birthday Party for Jesus
Activities for the Party
Stories, Service Projects, Sweets

Resources and Ideas
Sensory-Friendly Christmas Carol
“Why Do We Call It Christmas” DVD
Free Download: Holiday Treasure Hunt
Christmas M&M Story

Peace: Wholly Holy
Peace in the Ordinary Days
Great Gifts: He Was Here
Preparing our Hearts

Do you have a question, or an idea to share? Call in during the show: (424) 258-9286. We’d love to chat with you.

Relational Recruiting: Finding volunteers through friendship

Today, I want to introduce you to two wise ladies who are expert volunteer recruiters: Margo and Marilyn.

Margo Most is the Director of Middle School MInistries at Fellowship Bible Church. In addition to planning retreats, teaching Bible Studies and working with parents and students, Margo devotes time and energy to recruiting volunteers. Recently, Margo told me, “I always try to build relationships with people BEFORE I ask them to volunteer; No one likes to be hunted down by a stranger on Sunday morning and asked, ‘Hey, do you want to teach a small group?'”

Oh, how right she is!

Often, we recruit out of necessity and panic.Weary from the lack of response to bulletin blurbs and pulpit announcements, we scan the fellowship hall for anyone who might be willing and able. Sometimes, we resort to that most-dreaded phrase: “Hey…I just need a warm body for my ministry. Want to volunteer?”

Enticing? I don’t think do.

By taking a page out of Margo’s book, we increase the likelihood of recruiting volunteers for inclusion ministry that will be a good “fit.” Here’s why:

  • By building a relationship, we learn about the volunteer’s gifts. We might find out that someone has a background in speech or occupational therapy, or that he enjoyed working for a camp for kids with disabilities while in college. We might learn that she has a fabulous sense of humor or a talent for music. With this information, we can ask God how these gifts might be used with the children in the program.
  • We learn about the volunteer’s temperament and personality. Some very successful volunteers don’t have a background in education or therapy, and yet, they have experienced great success in inclusion ministry. Through relationships, we might learn that a prospective volunteer has a wonderful sense of humor or immeasurable patience or a calm, quiet presence.
  • We learn about the volunteer’s life. By building relationships, we find out who is out of work, and who has just signed a contract to build a new house. We know that someone is dealing with a challenging teen or providing care for aging parents. While we never want to presume that someone is “too busy” or “too overwhelmed” to volunteer, we do want to be sure that our timing and our words are appropriate.
  • We build the Kingdom. When we recruit through relationships, we increase the likelihood that our volunteers will experience success in their service…and the resulting enthusiasm will be caught by others!

Recruiting for a new program year can be intimidating. However, by considering relationships you have, and purposefully forming new ones, the process may be more manageable.  My friend Marilyn Johns, from Union Presbyterian Seminary, offers this encouragement: “Never be afraid to ask people to volunteer; you’re giving them an opportunity to serve the King!”

Serving with you!


What’s in a Name? {Why greeting students matters in a BIG way}

This summer, I’ve been working with a church staff on their inclusion efforts. It has been a joy to watch the staff and volunteers in action. They plan carefully, arrange the classrooms effectively, and redirect the students in positive ways. As their programs grow, I know they will be ready to include learners with diverse strengths and needs.

As I observed on my first Sunday there, I enjoyed watching the kids bound into their rooms enthusiastically. The hallways were full, and, as is often the case with Sunday mornings, the pace was quick between services. Nevertheless, the Director of Children’s Ministry remained placid. She checked in with each volunteer, helped with administrative tasks, prepared for her large group lesson, and communicated with other staff. However, none of this interfered with what was obviously the most important: Greeting the children.

I watched in amazement as she greeted every single child by name. “Good morning, Michael! It’s great to see you today, Tiara! I’m so glad you’re here, Kieran!” Every greeting–just like every child–was unique. As the students passed, she was able to tell me a bit about them. She knew their likes and dislikes, strengths and needs. She shared information about their families, her fondness for all of them evident in her warm smile. She spoke about their faith development and their progress.

This reminded me of Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting. One of the basic components is a greeting. Several schools in which I work use this program, which is designed to create a strong classroom culture. One colleague reflected, “By the end of morning meeting, every single child has heard his or her name spoken aloud. That sends a powerful message that each individual matters to the group.” Clearly, this Children’s Ministry Director understands the importance of this.

In addition, she is modeling something even greater for the students in her program. In Isaiah 43, we hear the Lord say,

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine…
you are precious and honored in my sight…because I love you…

By calling her students by name, she models for them the Father’s love.

As I got ready to leave, one of the students with multiple special needs smiled at me, and said, “Goodbye, Katie!”

The Children’s Ministry Director looked surprised. As we walked away, she said, “I can’t believe she remembered  your name! That is really hard for her!”

I wasn’t all that surprised, though. I smiled at the Director, thinking,
This child learned it from her…
who learned it from Him.

He knows our names!