a : a conversation between two or more persons; also : a similar exchange between a person and something else (as a computer) b : an exchange of ideas and opinions <organized a series of dialogues on human rights> c : a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution <a constructive dialogue between loggers and environmentalists> (Via http://www.merriam-webster.com/)
My hubby and I used to joke about the Sunday DNR (aka Dump-N-Run) as we left our children with their respective Sunday School classes. Prying that child off your leg and leaving them with peers for additional spiritual formation is a huge blessing to parents of children with special needs. But the picture can get rather ugly at pick-up time. Children who have unique needs present quite the challenge to local churches. While a parent’s tendency might be to avoid dealing with issues in Sunday School because the battles during the week are so demanding, open dialogue with church staff is key.
Take for example little Marcus. His single mother heard that the local church was welcoming to families who had children with special needs. Her first visit to the church, she had set in her mind that this is a place where she can drop her kids, go to the church service, and forget about the demands of her children for at least an hour. The church, attempting to be welcoming accepted this child in a class, ill-prepared for his behaviors. Marcus could barely be contained in the classroom. He was totally disruptive. The staff was completely clueless as to what to do. And after the service, he had a complete meltdown, having to be carried out to the car by 2 church personnel as mom carried her toddler in the baby carrier and escorted Marcus’ younger sister by the hand. No one involved felt confident that this was a healthy situation.
The key to success in this situation? Dialogue. First, the staff sat down together to discuss what they saw as the difficulties with Marcus. As they chatted between themselves, they were able to come up with constructive ideas about what they might need to succeed in caring for this child. After that, they were able to request a certain level of information from the mother. They realized that they had committed a great oversight in not requiring that the mother complete the detailed “Special Needs Care Form” before they ever welcomed Marcus into class. Once they asked his mom to fill out the forms, they went through each detail, along with a copy of his latest IEP and proposed some things that might work to make Sunday School the best possible experience for Marcus, his family and his other classmates. Dietary accommodations were made. And as time passed, the staff was able to openly communicate with mom about new ideas for him. Mom was mutually respectful, always letting the church know when they might be missing church on a given weekend. What began as a challenging situation, became a terrific experience of inclusion for everyone involved, all because of good communication.*
Every week, churches across this great nation struggle with similar stories. Some are successful. Some are not. A willingness to learn from one another, adaptability, common courtesy, and open honesty are core components to success in any given inclusion program.
Because this is such a critical topic to building inclusion in every church, we are welcoming Jackie Mills-Fernald, Director of Access Ministry at McLean Bible Church to our Thursday, March 29th #SpnMin TweetChat, 8 PM, CST. Jackie writes a fabulous blog, with one recent post addressing this very topic of Parent/Church Staff Dialogue. Given her experience, Jackie is sure to have solid insights into approaching communication with parents and their church staff. We hope you will join us to explore this topic further!
If you have never participated in a TweetChat before, merely follow these instructions:
First, you must have an established Twitter account. If you don’t already have one, simply go to http://www.twitter.com and set a free account. When participating in the chat for the first time, click on the following link: http://tweetchat.com/room/spnmin.
You will be prompted through an easy three-step process.
When you click “Sign In”, you will then be asked to “Authorize an Application” through your Twitter account. To attend, you will have to click the blue “Authorize App” button.
Once you have done so, merely type in the name of the chat (hashtag) you wish to attend at the top of the page, and click go. For our chat, type in spnmin. Now you’re in the chat room! But you’re not finished yet.
To keep most current with the conversation, go to the upper left hand side of the screen and click on “Refresh Speed”. Slide the tab down to 5 seconds. This will keep you up-to-date with the scrolling conversation. Remember, just like on Twitter, you are limited to only so many spaces for your comments…in this case 132 characters. You don’t have to add the #spnmin hashtag after every post. TweetChat adds the hashtag automatically.
*The story of Marcus is a true one with names changed.