High Springs, Florida, United States...Libna Stevens/IAD
|image by Libna Stevens/IAD
|Barbara J. Newman from the Children's
Learning Center Network challenges children's ministries leaders to
connect with special needs families in their congregations. Newman spoke
on day two of Inter-America's Children's Ministries Leadership
The church needs to be more welcoming and caring for
children with special needs. This was the core message presented by
Barbara J. Newman, a church and school consultant from Children's
Learning Center Network and guest speaker during the second day of
Inter-America's Children's Ministries Leadership Convention, taking
place this week at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, Florida.
According to the latest figures, the number of children
with disabilities and special needs has increased in the United States.
Today, about one in every 88 children has a physical or mental
challenge, said Newman. In the 1980s, the ratio was one in every 10,000,
"You will have people in your community who have autism
or Asperger's Syndrome because ratios are also increasing all around the
world," Newman explained. "You must welcome and accommodate these
children with learning and intellectual challenges and their families in
There are families who most likely stay home on Saturday
mornings instead of bringing their children with special needs to a
church, explained Newman. "We must change that," she challenged.
Newman shared ideas on how to better connect with the
needs of each child with a disability as they come through church doors.
She pointed to resources available from a Christian perspective, the
need to appoint a special coordinator in each church and develop an
individualized plan for the entire church to understand and embrace
families with special needs children.
It's about seeking the opportunity of reaching those who need of Jesus.
"I believe the church loses when we don't embrace people with
disabilities," said Newman.
Lilly Elwin from the Bay Islands, Honduras, agreed that
the churches they oversee as children's ministries coordinators and
directors are missing that link to reaching families with special needs.
"I can think of at least three churches with children who
have mental disabilities," said Elwin, who lives on the island of
Roatan. Elwin oversees children's ministries in some 17 churches on the
three islands comprising the Bay Islands.
Elwin fears that there may be more families who don't
attend church because they have a child that may not be as well behaved
as members may be used to.
"We lack more education in understand and embracing these
families in our churches," explained Elwin as she and her fellow
children's ministries leaders echoed the sentiment. She is thankful for
the sessions offered by Newman and vows to create more awareness and
share the new knowledge with the dozens of leaders in her territory.
For resources on embracing families with special needs children, visit cm.interamerica.org
To view a photo gallery of the event, visit www.flickr.com/photos/interamerica
|image by Libna Stevens/IAD|