Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We have a Disability Ministry Think Tank- You're Invited

At Steps Care Inc., we are not affiliated with any one denomination. We have worked with different denominations over the years, to provide training to support individuals and families that they wished to serve as a community.   While each one of our board members, at this point, come from a Christian point of view we welcome other point of views as well. Our organization is here for educational needs and support for faith organization that are seeking to provide a more inclusive experience to those that are affected by disabilities and their families. We believe that whatever your belief looks like, you should be able to engage those beliefs no matter what your abilities, and fully supported by the faith community of your choosing. 

With all that out of the way, we would like to invite you to a round table discussion. If you are currently involved in serving individuals with disabilities or you are wanting to get involved at any capacity please join. We want a variety of minds to participate in our ongoing discussion about how we as a faith community can best serve individuals and families affected by disabilities. 

Join us in our group at 
This is a place to learn and develop with each other. I hope you will join us. 

Any Questions contact shelliallen@Stepscare.org I look forward to visiting with you. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Structure and Ministry as a pendulum

Churches can benefit from structure and operational systems. The challenge for most churches are that they hang from one side of the pendulum or the other. We have some churches that lean heavily on the organization and structure and fail to connect personally to the ministry side, the personal touch that relates and connects with an individual and their humanity. Then I have been in churches that lack in structure and organization, but seem friendly and personal. Which is great, but in these church that rank high in friendliness and likability yet struggle with structure and organizational systems which overlook crucial opportunities for ministry productivity. 

Church systems of operation help break down individual ministry to ensure that not one person that comes in through the doors of the church is over looked or are not plugged in somewhere. The longer an individual lays dormate once joining a church, the potiential of a lasting membership is less likely, especially in this generation. The moment a person is plugged into the inner workings of a church is the moment that they become an irreplaceable and truly connected memeber of the body. 

Churches that offer children's ministry, youth ministry, singles ministries, college ministries, and let's not forget disability ministry's (as well as others) can tailor programs that reaches individuals right where they are making a greater, lasting impact.  Having such ministries creates opportunities to build relationships within ones given season of life. This makes these divided groups most effective at giving individuals a sense of belonging. 

So why do so many churches struggle with developing disability ministries? 1 billion of people in the world                ( http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability/overview) are effected by disabilities in various ways. Families that are affected by disabilities struggle with feelings of isolation and because of the demands of the care needs of their children or family memebers. It makes it difficult to participate within their typical age or life groups. Without the support of ministry in the church family, involvement is scarce which decreases their opertunities to feel that sense of belonging. When a disability ministry is established, a system is put in place to create opportunities for involvement and interaction with others on the same journey. Respite nights help moms and dad connect with one another without worries of their child's needs and for a couple of hours so they can focus on each other. Accommodations being addressed in Children's programs, youth, and so on, provide an oppurtity for friendships to be formed in 'natural environments' that may not otherwise be an option in other social settings. Classes that are tailored to the parents of special needs children can be pointed to the unique spiritual needs of their families around others that "get it". This is valuable to making lasting connections.

The relaity is that this foundation for the indidual with disabilities and their family is these bonds rarely happen without the support of a working system within the church. Just as our children need supports and accommodations, the parents of these children do as well if they are going to be an active memeber in their faith community. Without the support they will be forever suspended in the hopes of belonging to the body of Christ. The reality is the state of suppension will only last so long. The burden they carry from the day to day struggle is already more than they can bare. These families are in desperate need of a connection to great people and a spiritual feeding for their family as a whole. 

Development of a disability ministry is no more of a challenge than any other working ministry of the church. Do your research and find out how others are being successful. Implement your program with key players involved that feel this is a ministry for them. Seek out seminars and conferences to attend to continue in growth and apply best practices for success. The secret is get the whole church involved. One body member can not work properly without the other. At the end of the day we all need one another in prayer and in ministry. The pendulum must be a balance of structure and genuine love. 

For training and support in forming your disability ministry contact us at Stepscare.org. We love to help in forming disability ministry. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Insight for Welcoming a Family with Special Needs to your Church

Walking into a new church for the first time can be hard for a family who is navigating the world of special needs. These families approach new situations with such caution and precision. Life is challenging in the most well planned and familiar situations. When coming into a new situation, it can throw off individuals who rely on rigid routines and predictability. Parents and caregivers will make sure they are prepared by doing a little homework. Most will call ahead or visit prior to the first visit. While they are there alone, they will talk to people who attend the church or a lot of times the pastor. They will ask questions that pertain to their situation. For some, knowing that the church is familiar with individuals with special needs will be important. "Are their others who attend who have children that have special needs?", they might ask.  "Is there a disability ministry at the church?",
is another common question. 

What they might not ask for, but would be really helpful, is a tour of the facility. It is a hospitable gesture whether a church has a special needs ministry team or not.
  •  Knowing where the restrooms are for a quick emergency is a must. Are they handicap accessible?
  •  Do you have a dedicated space for sensory breaks? If so, make sure that it is included in your tour. If you don't have a dedicated space at this point, is there a place that this family could bring an overwhelmed child? Is it a place to take an older child with special needs where they could feel welcome? 
  • Ask if the family needs special accommodations for seating? Maybe closer to the back? Balcony seating is often easier in some situations other times not, especially for wheelchair accessibility. Maybe the church could recommend placing a  "reserved seating" sign up for the family across the chairs where they will be seating. 
  •  Churches should seek to protect the dignity of the families and the individual in all situations. Keeping a door of communication open with someone that can assist in meeting the families needs is really key for success. Assume nothing. If you have a question please ask lovingly. 
  • If something doesn't quite work out the first time, be patient as you work with the family as they find their place in your community. 
  • Would the individual with special needs have a place in a classroom with same age peers? If so, arrange for the parent to meet the teachers to discuss accommodations that would need to be made for the student. Would the parent be welcome to sit in? Having a parent sit in a class would be a great idea. This would give the student time to know the teacher and the other students. Providing awareness training for the class is often helpful in building 'natural supports' (peer friendships) in the class. 
A tour and placing someone who knows the ends and outs of the facility, that has the authority to make a quick judgment call for the families needs, can make a world of difference when making them feel welcome. It is easy to get misplaced in a new community. If you don't have someone looking out for you. Not knowing what is acceptable within the church could really make a family feel uncomfortable and ultimately feel unwelcome. Having a disability ministry in place at your church can be a great support for the church and for the individuals and families that need this type of support. 

For training and other resources check out stepscare.org. We look forward to serving you.  #ChurchIsForEverybody

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Steps Care Inc

I have been stocking the mail box for days, looking for a piece of mail from the States office.  I have filed for nonprofit status through the state of Missouri. Getting Steps incorporated is just another great step in the right direction. We are looking forward to seeing this foundation unfold. Not only by providing training for churches, but also providing resources for families of children who have special needs. We look forward to growing awareness in religious/faith based organizations everywhere.

Help us spread the word. Share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Keep coming back to our blog for more helpful training tips and information.
We look forward to serving our community.

Elopement in the church-- Are there proticols???

This topic is close to my heart. This article (in the link that I have shared) is talking about public schools not having protocol in place for elopement risks.

 Autism is on the rise and as I'm always saying, "...churches are effected by autism just as much as business, doctors offices, and schools. Training is a must."

I have been on the parent end of elopement situation and let me tell you how thankful I am that nothing extreme happened, but it could have. The stories shared in this article are my greatest fears. 

So let me tell you a story about a beautiful little girl. She was six years old. You would not have known that she was autistic by looking at her. What does autism look like anyway? Right?! A lesson for a different day and another blog. 

 If you had never talked to her, you wouldn't know that she was non-verbal. You would see that she was a happy, giggly blond headed girl, prancing around without a care in the world.

 One Sunday morning, her mother came to pick her up from the Sunday morning class. The teachers were preoccupied; the mother was not the only mom picking up her kid from this class. The mom glanced around the room and did not see her blond headed little one anywhere.  

The mom became immediately alarm and interrupted the teachers to find out where her daughter was. The two teachers glanced around the room, as they obviously had no idea where this mother's child had went.

Knowing how serious this situation was, the mother darted out of the room in search for her daughter. It was a challenge. Her heart was beating like a drum, all of the "what ifs" were racing through her mind as she pushed her way through the crowds of people just standing around talking.

As the mom made her way through the auditorium. She glanced up as an usher was opening the door for the little girl to go outside. Cars where backing out of parking spots, a busy road directly in front of the church would not stop her child. Her daughter had no perspective on safety and potentially dangerous situations.

 Just beyond the road was a park that she had visited before with her daughter. They would go there during the services when her daughter would have a melt down, to calm her from the overload on her sensory system during the services. She would possibly head straight for the park.

 By this time the mom was shouting, "Please! Stop my daughter!" No one but the mom was physically process the potential danger that was taking place. Fortunately, the mom was able to catch up to her daughter. She was worn out, fuming from the lack of response, and that no one was aware.

As the mom returned back to the class, she did her best not to over react, but making sure that her daughter's teachers knew exactly how big of a problem this was.

Even the smallest churches need to have some type of protocol in place. It could mean the difference in life or death. It- IS- that- SERIOUS! Had that usher and those teachers been properly trained and been aware, that mom would not have felt so violated. Yes, I did say violated and I meant it. The mom had told them about the possibilities of an elopement risk. Teachers shook their heads in understanding, but that was it. No protocol was put in place.

When you put your trust in a person to care for your child, that has special needs and they put your child in harms way because they are preoccupied... YEAH! You feel violated!!!

Please check out these great suggestions for putting protocols in place in your local assembly. In a moment of panic is not the time to decide what needs to happen. Most of time it takes something tragic to get everyone on board to put safety measures in place. As a mom, I'd rather my kids not be the tragedy, well, no kid for that matter.

 Let's start the conversation. What does your church do to include safety measures? What do you think about the protocols mentioned in the article? Does your church need disability ministry training? I advocate for disability ministries, so that these types of conversations take place. So someone in the church is equip so tragedies like these are less likely.   

Maybe your church currently does not have anyone with special needs- that you know of. What if an individual with special needs visits your church for the first time? Is your church ready for them? If not what will your response be? Sorry-- we don't accept individuals with special needs here in our church? I don't think this would be your response. I hope not. I also hope that your church is prepared with safety measures in place. If your answer is, "no", maybe this will help start the conversation.