Mark Arnold shares how churches can turn things around and become a haven to those with additional needs
I love to hear stories, don’t you? And when the stories inspire us to bring about positive change then they are even better, we can place ourselves in the story and how it all turns out, I think that’s why Jesus used stories all the time to inspire and teach people.
In my role working with people wanting to create accessibility, inclusion, and belonging for children and young people with additional needs, I hear lots of great stories; stories that show me that something is shifting ‘out there’, that more and more churches are willing to do all that they can to make sure no child or young person is left out or excluded.
A few years ago I visited a church in St. Albans to help them think about how to include two children with additional needs that they were journeying with. A couple of years later I bumped into one of their team at another event and she reminded me about those two children, but also shared how the training and strategies that had emerged from that visit had helped them to grow this work so that now 22 children and young people with additional needs, and their families, are included and belong. You can watch more of their story here.
Another church youth leader was chatting with me just a few days ago at an Urban Saints Spree festival event; she reminded me that I had been to her church to train their team too, and that they had put into practice the things they had learned so that their additional needs ministry is now a central and important part of what they do, making inclusion the reality for all children and young people.
At the same Spree event, I saw a leader taking a few photos of the additional needs sensory safe space that I was providing for children and young people with a variety of additional needs who needed a calm, quiet space at times during the weekend. The leader said that she was really inspired by this idea and wanted to try and replicate something similar back in her Group.
There are many more stories like this that I could share of churches that have recognised how important it is to create accessibility, inclusion and belonging for the one-in-five children and young people in the UK who have additional needs of some kind. What about your church, does your children’s and youth work include children and young people with additional needs? Could this be your story too?
We provide many ways to support you to make a difference and bring about change, from consultancy visits to meet your group, see it in action, and recommend ideas, to training either in-building or online, as well as resources that you can access to help you put things in place to include everyone.
Why not start your churches story in this area today by visiting urbansaints.org/additionalneeds to see some of what we offer. Or if you want to get a feel for some of the training we provide, you could join one of our online ‘open’ scheduled courses here.
Stories are great aren’t they? And the best stories are the ones we can picture ourselves in. I would love to help you with your churches additional needs story, so do please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can create that happy ending for everyone together.