Tag Archives: Key Ministry

Leading online support groups…Lorna Bradley

Providing support and nurture to special needs parents is at the heart of my minsitry. Recently I had the opportunity through Key Minsitry to pilot an online support group. This was a something new for me and Key Ministry as well. I want to share with my followers what I learned in the process in case any of you want to try starting your own group. Feel free to get in touch if you have questions about how best to use this format for connecting with other parents.

Church4EveryChild

Lorna_Bradley“Can you hear me now?” Leading online support groups at times may feel a bit like a Verizon commercial as you iron out the technical issues some may experience when videoconferencing for the first time. However, once the technology becomes familiar to everyone online support groups create pathways of connection and support for even the most isolated of special needs parents.

Recently Dr. Steve Grcevich at Key Ministry provided to me the opportunity to lead a seven-week special needs parent support group online using material I wrote that will be published in early 2015. The purpose of the book is threefold. First, I want to provide a solid theological understanding of God’s presence and love in the midst of the journey with special needs. Second, I want to provide practical strategies for coping with challenges faced by virtually every special needs parent: grief, guilt, patience, self-care, and relationships. Third, I…

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Confusion About Inclusion

Help And Care For Disabled Person by Teerapun

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10:13-14 NRSV)

I wish Jesus had been more specific in his command, “Let the little children come to me.” For some reason it seems to cause a lot of confusion.

That’s right. There is confusion about inclusion.

For some, inclusion means there is a space and activity offered that is appropriate to a particular person’s needs.  For others, inclusion means being in the same room with everyone else doing what they are doing alongside them. The way that individual participates may be different from everyone else, but they are still part of the bigger group.  To my way of thinking, those are both examples of inclusion.  It all depends on the perspective of the individual.

Inclusion is whatever feels welcoming and comfortable to the person who wishes to be included. For some, that means having  a separate space and activities geared to their unique needs.  For others it means jumping in with everyone else and feeling welcomed to do so. If they don’t feel welcome and wanted, then it isn’t inclusive.

Surprisingly, folks can be rather divided on this topic, which I find puzzling. Thinking of my own experiences raising a child with special needs there were times when what others decided was inclusive didn’t feel at all inclusive to us. My son is greatly bothered by loud noise due to life on the autism spectrum. His time in student ministry when they gathered and listened to loud praise music for fifteen minutes prior to breaking into small groups was stimulatory torture.  In his case, being inclusive by saying “just come be part of the group, you are welcome to join us,” didn’t work.  From his perspective, it was like a weekly invitation to listen to fingernails on a chalkboard.  It also triggered obsessive thoughts about hearing damage that were only relieved by taking him for hearing screening. Following the example of Jesus each Sunday morning he went away to a quiet place alone, though in his case it had more to do with sanity than piety. He was welcome as part of the group, but he couldn’t tolerate being there. It really didn’t feel very welcoming despite good intentions. This was a great group of folks. I know they meant well, but…

Wouldn’t it have been nice for him to have company when he left the gathering? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have an alternate activity planned for him and others who share the same spectrum? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a “non-loud” Sunday every once in a while so that everyone could be welcome as part of the larger group?  Any of those things would have felt much more inclusive and welcoming.

The best way to know what feels inclusive to those we wish to include in the church is to have a conversation and ask them. Then actually takes steps to make the needed modifications so that everyone feels welcomed and included.

This week Key Ministry is hosting Inclusion Fusion. It’s a chance to learn more from leaders in special needs ministry about how to offer inclusive ministries.  Check out this link to get the schedule of free webinars and to register:  www.inclusionfusion.tv. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to get fresh ideas and connect with others who love kids like ours.

Holy God, help us to hear those who ask for change and truly make a place for everyone. Amen.

“Help and Care for Diasbled Person”  Image courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Planting a Spiritual Garden

To The Garden Sign With Pot by Simon Howden

A young mom raising three kids was going through a hot, dry Texas summer.  The garden was wilting, grass withering to dry, brown patches.  She moved the garden hose around back, filling a small wading pool for her kids to play in. She meant to reconnect the hose to the spigot out front where it belonged, but instead left it in a heap in the back yard. She’d get to it later when things weren’t so busy. There were so many other things that were more important.

One day she looked out the front window to see that the dry front lawn had caught fire, probably from a cigarette butt tossed out a car window.  She ran to the spigot she had forgotten. No hose!  She ran to the back yard, dragging the hose around.  It was a tangled mess, full of kinks and knots.  She ran back to get her children’s sand castle buckets abandoned by the wading pool.  Racing back and forth from the spigot to the front lawn, she tried to put out the fire, one child-sized bucketful at a time.

This is the kind of story Jesus used for teaching. It’s a parable.  The life-saving water is God.  The hose is our connection that comes through developing an intentional relationship with God. The fire is whatever crisis is waiting in the future.

Have you ever disconnected your hose? Left it in a tangled mess? I know I have at times. Life gets busy.  I mean to read scripture. I mean to schedule a prayer retreat. I mean to… well, a lot of things. Just like physical and emotional self-care from my earlier blogs, spiritual self-care takes intentional nurture.

Spiritual self-care is intentional focus of time and energy on your relationship with God. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and a leading expert on spiritual self-care, offers the following suggestions as ways you can enrich your spiritual life.

  • Internal Disciplines. These disciplines focus on your spiritual life through internal reflection.
    • Prayer
    • Meditation
    • Study of scripture
    • Journaling
    • Silence/listening
    • Fasting – not only from food, but from distractions such as television.
  • Outward Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out in personal actions and outward expressions.
    • Solitude – set aside time to be apart from others to focus on God
    • Simplicity – embrace a practice of “enough” and let go of wanting more
    • Submission – follow where God leads
  • Corporate Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out with others
    • Worship – regularly participate in worship, including the sacraments
    • Service – being God’s hands and feet in the world in help to others
    • Community – engage as part of a Christian community where you can share your talents with others, as well as be supported

There are many additional options.  Look at this list and think about what already works for you. Celebrate those! Well done! Look for what interests you as something you would like to do and make a plan to try it.  For me, silence is a great discipline.  My life used to be filled with noise. The TV always on, or the radio, some distraction constantly in the background. One year for Lent I gave up those distractions. I took a fast from noise and found the gift of silence.  I liked it so much that I didn’t turn on the radio in my car for a decade. When I decide to watch TV I need a quick lesson from my son or husband about how to use the remotes (why do we have to have so many and why do they need so many buttons?)

Solitude is also a great discipline for me. I’m an extravert. I love being around people, but at times I crave being alone.  Right now I have the house to myself for four days, a rare gift. I will be total hermit. Just me and the cat, writing away on my book and blogs, thinking of scripture and seeking connections that offer hope to parents. Even in my solitude I found space for another discipline, worship.  I joined Key Ministry Front Door Online worship.  I was blessed by the message and connection with others for an hour, but now I return to my gift of solitude and prayer for parents.

Where I work there is a serenity prayer garden.  It has five flowing fountains and a labyrinth gravel path that winds its way through an arbor of wisteria. I try to spend at least a few minutes there each day. On a glass water wall there is this hymn:

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear,  the Son of God discloses.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own;  and the joy we share as we tary there, none other has ever known.

My prayer for you is that you find what nurtures your spiritual garden and be filled with the peace of Christ. Amen.

“To The Garden Sign With Pot” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net