Kansas congregation provides personal attention to special needs kids
by Myra Holmes
Including children with special needs is what Jesus would want us to do, says Jenny Wall, director of children’s ministry at First MB Church, Wichita, Kan. “In fact, God is the one who knit these children together,” says Wall, “and while we don’t understand why he allowed their challenges, we know that he does not make mistakes.”
Wall, who began serving in children’s ministry two years ago, became alert to children with special needs when two children in the congregation were diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. So First MB developed “Circle of Friends,” a program with four components: a buddy system, curriculum activities, positive behavioral support and the Friendship Class.
Circle of Friends currently targets children birth through sixth grade, although Wall expects the program to expand as children grow older. Visits with parents help workers understand the needs of the children. Then, a volunteer is trained to be a “buddy” to the child in their age-appropriate Sunday school classroom. If a child can’t fit into the classroom with their buddy, the volunteer works with them one-on-one in a Friendship Class.
Wall says that knowing each child’s specific needs has reduced negative behaviors. And the children connect with both adults and other children in positive ways. “We have seen growth in each child we have worked with,” Wall says. “We still have good and not-so-good days, but the good far outweigh the bad. This has been encouraging to the parents and a joy to those who work with the children.”