Archive for category Mentoring

Investing In the Up-And-Coming


Encourage young men to use good judgment.  Always set an example by doing good things. When you teach, be an example of moral purity and dignity. ~ Titus 2:6-7, NOG

I was talking with a colleague today, telling her that I publish these leadership posts every Tuesday and Thursday.  I explained that this is, in part, a means of investing in the next generation of leaders.  To grow those up-and-coming in the area of serving the special needs community, we who are leaders now need to be deliberate.  This means we need to be intentional in screening volunteers, watching for those who show good potential, investing time in them, and allowing them access to work alongside us.  Verbalizing our mindset as we make decisions or direct ministry vision will help emerging leaders to develop those thinking skills for themselves.

What are you doing to pour into those who are up-and-coming?  If you are not making this a part of your weekly or monthly schedule, make some time for it now, lest the work God has you doing stops when you do.

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Mentor Toolchest Additions: Prayer Journals


~ By Amy Dunaway ~

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30

Those of us who are raising children with special needs know many places that those who are raising typically developing children cannot know.  We have many more worries and concerns for our children.  We spend an enormous amount of time in physician’s offices, deal with multiple health crises, interact with insurance companies, see that our children receive therapies they need, deal with challenging behaviors, IEPs…

The list goes on and on.

Friends and acquaintances often wonder how we do it all.  I know you know the downward glance and the lateral shaking of heads – and sometimes wonder the same thing.

How do we do it?

We do – we do it as best we can at any given moment.

Not one of us is Super Mom. You might be wearing your Super Mom mask and cape but I know your heart.  I understand your struggles.  I wear the mask and cape too.

We wring our hands in worry.

We tend to ruminate about our present circumstances and about future unknowns.

We often have trouble sleeping.

We may suffer bouts of depression.

We often stumble, fall and weep in our weakness.

But you won’t see it.  It usually happens when no one is watching.

In our struggles, we often forget that we are not alone.  We forget to consult the One who walks with us every moment of every day.

In our weary, overwhelmed state, we cannot see, hear or feel our Lord’s presence.

We are blind to the One who longs to offer us comfort in the midst of our suffering and the chaos that swirls around us.

Rest assured, He waits for you.  He longs to carry your burden.

In love, He wants you to give it all to Him.

People often wonder just how to accomplish such a task.   I admit I found it a daunting task too.  But I have a tool that I use which has really helped me to see that it is possible.

Mine is a small spiral notebook which goes everywhere with me.  You won’t know it is special.  You won’t know it carries much of my heart unless I divulge its secret.

I call this little notebook my prayer journal.  The contents are what I have given over to God.  It is a tangible reminder that I am never alone.   It is immediately available just like our Lord is and it waits to hear my heart just like He does.

It is a tool that I can refer back to and see just how God is working in my life, the lives of my husband and children and in the lives of those I pray for every day.

I also find it helps me seek better ways to glorify Him along the journey.  It makes me thoughtful about my words and actions for in the end, I must be held accountable.

In my prayer journal, I record the ways in which my children with and without special needs minister to others, make a difference in this world and glorify God in the process.

It holds my failings too.  It is my safe place to pour out my mistakes, my grievances, and my pain.

The beauty of this prayer journaling is that as I write I know He hears and I can then let go.

My burden is lightened, if not lifted, and I am free to take on whatever comes my way.

I started quite simply with three columns in my journal –  a simple plan for a simple girl.  The first column was a date for the initial petition, the second for the petition and the third for thanksgivings.  As I really began to see the works of God in my life it grew.  My prayer life began to expand along with a deepening awareness of the Lord’s presence in my daily walk.

My prayer journal started out as a tool and has become a gift.  What started out as a way to a more focused prayer life has become the way to give the Lord my burdens and my sins.  It has become a place where I know profound gratitude for all I am blessed with and by in relationship with Him.

A little nondescript notebook transformed to a place where I know the love and mercy that springs from an ever-growing intimacy with Christ.  This anxious mother and wife transformed into one who trusts the Lord in all things, has confidence in His plan and knows the peace which passes all understanding.

I walk in amazing grace – to God be the glory.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Phil 4:6-7

Amy Dunaway

Amy Dunaway is a pastor’s wife and veteran homeschooling mom. Her oldest child was born with complex congenital heart disease and her youngest has Down syndrome.  She blogs at “On a Joyful Journey”.

Don’t forget to vote for SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES in the Readers Choice Awards. You can vote every day until the contest ends March 19th. 

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A New Year’s Parent Mentor Program Update

Mentor Flyer

As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:3, NLT~

After a year of diligent work by a committee of parents, a psychotherapist, a nationally published author and leaders, our organization SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES had the great privilege of seeing a dream come to fruition in Fall of 2012.  Our Parent Mentor Program began with 3 diligent, committed parents training to become solid mentors to other parents.

Here is how this training has proceeded:  Over an approximate 12 week period 2 books have been read, one specifically on Christian mentoring and one on the basics of special need parenting.  Brief informational videos have been viewed, and brief white papers all related to Christian mentoring and/or special needs have been surveyed.   Each week, this team of trainees have grown together meeting on a Google + “hang-out” (video chat) where we went through chapter questions and discussed the materials.  Personal experiences have been richly shared.  And new ideas have been gleaned.  As these mentor trainees have growth together, prayer for each other and laughter together has been a natural outpouring.

We are thrilled that this first class will be graduated from the training on January 21st  and released to meet with their mentorees for a minimum commitment of 6 months.  In fact, God has already divinely appointed one of our mentors a mentoree already!  The exciting part is that these mentors have a menu of options they can choose from to guide their time with their mentorees.  And God’s word is at the core of that menu.  We are thrilled at the notion of witnessing the growth in these parents which is so central to our mission as a ministry.

With our first class graduating on January 21st, we are currently recruiting our next class of mentor trainees.  We would like to have materials in those trainees’ hands the week of January 20th so we can have our first “hang-out” together the week of January 27th.  If parents would like to have a front row seat to watch God recycling everything they have been through for the good of others and to the glory of the Almighty, this is a one-of-a-kind program that they will want to participate in.  Those interested in serving as mentors should contact at their earliest possible convenience as there is a bit of work to do before being accepted as a trainee.

Mentoree Flyer

Those who would like to have a mentor are also welcome to contact us.  This is a truly unique opportunity to connect with another parent, excellent resources, ongoing support and a hope that lasts an eternity.  What parent wouldn’t love that?

Regardless of your thought on becoming a mentor or mentoree, please join us in celebrating all that God is doing through the faithful work, loving deeds and enduring hope of those already involved.  It is amazing to see His transformative compassion for parents of children living with special needs!

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The Pinterest Toolchest

I was avoiding it like the plague.  I needed another social media venue like a needed a hole in the head.  I already had difficulty keeping up with some of the lesser known social media sites we had connected to.  But this was like a virus that wouldn’t go away and demanded attention.  Pinterest.

More commonly known as a social network beloved by those who enjoy cooking, crafting and decorating, Pinterest can be and is a helpful ministry tool.  Allow me to explain some reasons why:

  • Harkening back to our original venture into social media, when people can’t come to us, we come to them.  Pinterest is another way that allows that connection.  If you are not using this venue, you are missing a segment of the population that does not ever use Facebook or Twitter.  They may be your average housewife or handy husband that only uses this location to capture great ideas.  This presents an opportunity for you to get information in front of them that they would not otherwise see.
  • Unlike Facebook or Twitter whose articles are here today and gone tomorrow, Pinterest’s “pin boards” allow for good ideas to be collected in one area.  Let me use our Pinterest collection as an example.  We have one pin board where we have all of our web venues (website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs) posted.  We have another where any good book we find worthy of a read is located.  All of our excellent ideas for our mentors in the new Mentor Program are corralled on one board.  Conferences across the nation that pertain to disability ministry are parked in another spot.  Leadership insights can be found on yet another, and so on.  The beauty is that these pin boards can be referred back to time and again, so good ideas, articles and tips are not lost in the paperwork or internet nightmare for panicked seeking at a future date.  If I have a volunteer or leader who does not use Pinterest and I want to share an important article, at least I can go back to that board to quickly locate it and forward the article to them.
  • Collaboration is made extremely easy by this social tool.  With the ability to allow multiple people to save things to a pin board, a variety of ideas come together easily and are archived for teamwork.  For example, I have been allowed to pin on a board for Children’s & Youth Ministry, a secular board of just Special Needs Blogs, and another where “Special Needs Parents Talk About Raising Kids.”  I cannot overstate what an ability that gives us to expand our ministry borders, both with our colleagues and with those who haven’t fully incorporated inclusion into their ministry.

These are only a few of the reasons you may want to explore this tool chest.  The incredibly cool part of using this aid is that most articles or your toolbar on your web browser have a simple prompt to pin the item to Pinterest, so it is no more work to maintain than a simple click of your mouse.  In the short time we have been using Pinterest, it has been an efficient, effective way to share ideas between both colleagues, leaders in training, and those we serve.  Think about about adding it to your ministry toolchest today!

To further explore the SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES Pinterest page, click here!

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Why I’m Passionate About the Parent Mentor Model

So speak encouraging words to one another.  Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.  I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11, MSG

Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity.  If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn. ~ Hebrews 3:13, GW

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17, NIV

In 2002, when the excitement of Rick Warren’s THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE first came on the scene, I can remember a fellow Christian servant saying dismissively, “There’s nothing new in there.  It did nothing for me.”  I, on the other hand, felt quite the opposite.  The book may have revealed what was under our noses the whole time, but it did it in a fresh and energizing way.  I would credit much of my early education in ministry to that book, which I was privileged to study with an intimate group of girlfriends.

I often tell people that THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE gave me the profound gift of removing the regret for who I am.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel ashamed that I am talkative and gregarious.  I realized there was no disgrace in wearing my feelings on my sleeve nor in being unable to handle my life’s troubles on my own.  Rick Warren peeled back what God really had to say about those things.  The voices of my past were shown to be voices of ignorance and heavy-handed misjudgment.

Those who have read this book (and I recommend everyone do so) know that in it, Warren details five core purposes for human life that he has gleaned from Scripture.  These five include being planned for God’s pleasure (worship), being formed for God’s family (fellowship), being created to become like Christ (discipleship), being shaped to serve God (ministry), and being made for a mission(evangelism).  In my estimation, the parent of a child with special needs has the amazing opportunity to fulfill all five of these purposes in one place when they are engaging in the model of mentoring.

In his book, Warren makes the excellent case that worship is far more than warming a pew on Sunday or merely lifting our hands to inspiring music.  He maintains that any time we are doing what God made us to do, it is pleasing to Him.  Those things can and are our spiritual act of worship.  (See Romans 12:1)  When parents are accomplishing what God has assigned for them to do, doing it with joy and humility, guiding others along the way, this is worship.  “Doing life together,” an apt description of mentoring, is truly God-honoring.

We also live out our purpose with gusto when we refuse to buy into the societal lie that we are to “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps.”  The realization that God never made us to walk through life’s struggles alone should be tremendously comforting to all of us.  The ability to identify with another person who has similar circumstances is a a great gift in mentoring.  I like to joke with people, “We are limping to the finish line together, arm in arm.”  That can be a good visual image during the times when we feel like it’s us against the world.

No person grows in a vacuum either.  Mentoring gives us unique opportunities to become more like Christ.  Our character is shaped by one another.  We learn from each other.  And in fact, Christ himself used mentoring to shape the lives of those twelve spiritually clumsy, short-sighted men for three years.  If the Maker of the Universe found this model to be effective, it certainly should be for the rest of us.

Mentoring also transforms parents who are discouraged or humiliated because they cannot give back.  I see this all too often in my work.  Couples who are raised to be hard workers, giving individuals and generous in charity find themselves crushed and belittled by constantly being on the receiving end.  Giving back or service is just a natural outpouring of gratitude.  When a parent of a child with special needs mentors another on the same journey, they are in their “sweet spot” of service.  It is an act of giving for which God has uniquely fashioned them.

Finally, we are all called to share the Good News of what God has done and is doing in our lives.  This doesn’t mean we necessarily need to travel across the world or even across the country to do so.  Being a mentor to another parent who may be weary, downtrodden or hopeless is an exciting chance for a special need parent to share the reason for their peace.  When people see that we have joy, contentment and hope in the midst of difficult circumstances, they naturally want to know how we got there and how they can get there too.  As one of my colleagues notes, this is “low hanging fruit” for evangelization.

What a tremendous gift to come to the realization that my life, along with all its challenging circumstances, has immense purpose!  I want to share that gift with every parent of a child with special needs that I can.  I am passionate about showing these dear people that there is incredible richness and joy for us and our children, even though we appear to have lost life’s lottery.  Our griefs are really gifts in disguise.  We just need someone to walk along side us to help our eyes unwrap them.

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And HERE It Is!

 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV

Those of you who have been faithful followers of this blog and our ministry know that for the past year, we have had an excellent committee of dedicated individuals building a curriculum to train mentors of parents with children who have special needs.  I am so proud to have this team dedicated to excellence and detail in providing a helpful tool for parents.  The Mentor Program is born of a deep commitment to help parents to go from a place of tragedy to triumph, from a point where special needs make life feel like a burden to a point where challenges are transformed into a blessing.  Our desire is to equip every parent of a child with special needs to be a full ambassador of Christ.  However, as any parent in that position will tell you, that can be much easier said than done.  So using the 1 Corinthians 11:1 model, we seek to equip parents with the tools necessary to give another individual or individuals a hand up.

Today, we open the program by inviting possible new mentors to apply.  No more than 2 dozen will be accepted for this first wave of trainees.  The training period will be approximately 3 months long, so mentors will be ready to begin with their new mentorees in January.  What a great way to start 2013!

We hope you are as excited about the roll-out of this new program as we are!  There is a tremendous sense here that God is up to something really big for this long-beleaguered population of parents.  We hope you share the news with others, and welcome the opportunity if you would like to be part of a blog tour on this tremendous new tool.  Meanwhile, the following flyer gives you a general overview of what is involved.

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Is Assimilating Parents of Children with Special Needs The Best Option?

Inclusion is the optimal model of the day.  Integrating children with special needs into regular classrooms both at school and at church promotes the thought that barriers should be broken down and all are worthy of being welcomed in.  We attempt to minimize differences and build a comfort level with typical kids so that there is less fear of those with disabilities.  The only time children with special needs are extracted from such classrooms or separated is when there is a need for a sensory break, dangerous behaviors or the like.  This is a noble pursuit.

Meanwhile, parents are factored in as part of the team, with attempts from staff to get everyone on the same page.  Tools like IEPs are used in the schools, and adaptations are made at church.  Parents are supported by the help offered to their children and by modifications offered by staff.  They are then released to go about their own lives as adults.

Within the church context, this means that once their children are “plugged in”, parents are free to join regular worship services and small groups.  While so many of these parents crave the idea of just feeling “normal”, they also express to me that they struggle with fitting in with the collective whole.  They don’t always feel comfortable or accepted in “typical” parent peer groups.  Yet, they don’t want to feel ostracized either.

This is the distinct niche where SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES has found its calling.  Too often we find parents who find themselves frustrated by typical small groups.  When others are discussing their vacation plans or their kids college experiences, these parents feel heartbroken and unintentionally marginalized.  SNAPPIN’ has identified that there is a unique combination of challenges for these parents that are not currently being met by the wider church.  This combination includes, but is not limited to:

  • Unpredictable schedules due to varying medical and psychological needs.
  • Financial struggles due to increased medical costs.
  • The inability to get out on dates because of child care challenges.
  • The inability to get away on vacations due to a wide variety of issues including financial cost, upset to the child’s routine, and medical limitations that impede travel.
  • Marriages under a higher level of strain due to the child’s well-being requiring more family attention.
  • Angst over equity between siblings who do not have special needs and the child who does.
  • High levels of exhaustion due to the added demands of parenting a child with special needs.
  • Deep fears about the daily life and future life of their child with a disability.
  • Extended family difficulties and friendship difficulties as these couples struggle to be accepted rather than judged.
  • Ongoing battles with schools, medical personnel and insurance companies who are not adequately meeting the needs of the child with a diagnosis.
  • A higher level of stress overall due to the myriad issues of a family member with a disability.
  • Wrestling with appropriate ways to impart the Gospel message to their children who are living with a special need.
  • Spiritual struggles with trying to make sense of their child’s difficulties.  (See our Series “10 Questions Every Mentor of a Special Needs Parent Should Be Prepared to Face”)

I pray that you can see that there is an exceptional cluster of components that are in desperate need of being addressed with this particular group of parents.  A garden variety Bible study on marriage or parenting or finances may only provide a band-aid for a gaping wound.  These individuals need more than just our best Italian pasta dish delivered to their door!  They are struggling with some of the deepest spiritual questions known to humanity as well as some of the the most prolonged trials anyone can face.

When you marinate on these facts, the need becomes clearly apparent.  But add to that the surprising statistics.  Up to 80% of the disabled and their families are unchurched.** The number of families affected by some form of disability is 1 in 5.*  And as many as 49% of mothers of children with autism face anxiety and depression.*  Additionally, an estimated 29% of the population spends 20 hours per week or more in a care-giving role.*  These numbers, even if only half-true, would be enough to cry out for our attention within the church!

For our organization, this is our mandate and mission.  However, this does not exempt other areas of special needs ministry from offering some sort of response.  Whether your ministry has the desire to refer parents to a non-profit like ours, have our team train your church in this unique area or you already have plans to practice a comprehensive approach within your existing structure, this piece of the mission field must not be ignored or assimilated without careful, deliberate, prayerful consideration.

How do YOU plan to respond to these facts today?

**From Joni & Friends Christian Institute on Disability
*From Jackie Mills-Fernald‘s presentation “Supporting the Special Family”, April 22, 2012.  

 Recommended Resource:  SPECIAL FAMILIES …A Casserole’s Not Enough by Jackie Mills-Fernald & Jim Pierson

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