Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#adultswithlearningdisabilties’

Reflections 2015 and Resolutions 2016

Our Welcome Booklet

Our Welcome Booklet

“But the true idea [of Genesis 1:26,28] is that you’re to invest your abilities to create value on the earth, to plant and to build and write and organise and heal and invent ways that bless people and cause God’s kingdom on earth to flourish.”   UCB Word for Today 28.12.15

“I remain confident of this, I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart, and wait for the LORD.”      Psalm 27:13-14

Reflections 2015

  1. It’s only when you stop and look back that you realise another year has gone by and wonder did you make it count? I could list all the time I’ve wasted, all the things I wished I’d done but didn’t and all the times and chances I missed to do something less selfish.  I’ve been spending time in the Psalms this year and all my faults, worries, regrets and concerns are there… and that is so comforting.  The best thing about the Psalms is that each one can be summed up as this…  “Life is often really rubbish; But GOD IS GOOD.”
  2. The Good News Group has continued to be a great joy in my life, but this year we have had some difficult times and challenges.  Towards the end of the year we seemed to be struggling and as leaders, we felt under attack.  We did, what we always know we need to do and that was to come back to prayer.  We realised that in our haste to get everything set up each week, our prayer time had been pushed aside and some weeks didn’t even happen.  So, with repentance we got back to praying and also hosted a whole church prayer meeting in the week of prayer. Things have been getting better since… we shouldn’t be surprised at that!
  3. Two of our GNG members went to be with the Lord this year and we do miss them.  It is so different when you know someone responded to the gospel and knew Jesus as their saviour. Praise God that these two men did.
  4. We’ve had three meetings of the disability network (now called Lancashire Roofbreakers) and we are very grateful for the network and support from Tim Wood at Through the Roof.  It is wonderful to see people from different churches coming together to see how we can promote and support more inclusion of people with disabilities.  One church has now started a children’s ministry which is very inclusive of children with additional needs and another has a regular autism friendly children’s event.  I am sure there is a lot more to come from within this group.  God willing.
  5. I had a BRILLIANT time as part of the Keswick Convention Team with Prospects in the summer.
  6. Over the past 6 years I have been collating the teaching materials we have written for adults with learning disabilities, on different books of the Bible. I am beginning to explore how we can share these with others and sent them out to a couple of people we might be able to partner with to make them available more widely.  We are blessed with a great Bible teaching church and have some new team members willing to write a session each term.

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Resolutions 2016 (Our prayer list!)

  1. To pray more…learning the lesson from this year, we cannot exist without making the Lord the focus of all we do.  He wants us to go forward in his will and bless us, so we cannot afford to lose our way by doing anything without God. We have loved teaching our members to pray at the Good News Group and we can make sure that we include them in praying for the things we teach, the relationships we have with each other and for those who are struggling.
  2. To make disciples… to help those who have been coming to GNG for a long time to grow in their faith and to make new disciples from the many people with learning disabilities and their carers whom we have not yet reached.  This is going to challenge us to get out and reach out to new people in our community.  The challenges include time to do so (many of our team work) and to pray for opportunities.  I think God wants to open doors for us and we want to be able to take those opportunities.
  3. To make our teaching materials available to others.  I’m in discussion about this, as I said, but whether it is put in printed form or online will be a decision to make.  I’m leaning towards an online version that people can subscribe to – what would you prefer? Would you use Bible study materials for adults with learning disabilities?
  4. To do all we can to reach out to other churches and support them in including children and adults with additional needs. Personally this will mean praying about how I can use my own experience to support churches, but also by putting on some courses such as Makaton training from Prospects, some courses from Through the Roof and the All Inclusive training from Urban Saints.  This will take some organising and marketing, so prayers for this will be appreciated.  I have an idea about putting on a conference later in 2016 or even the year after.  I’ve no idea how to do that, but if it is God’s will, I’m sure he can make it happen.

There, I am stopping before I get carried away.   If you could remember us in your prayers, that would be wonderful, and if you are involved in ministry with people with additional needs, tell us your prayer needs below and we will pray for you.  Our Good News Group love to pray and we will make a symbol for your prayers and add them to our sessions.

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3 Ways to Disciple Adults with Learning Disabilities

  1. Reach
  2. Grow
  3. Send

This is the ministry statement of our church, you can see more about it here. It seems simple…and maybe we do make it more complicated than it needs to be.  This year we are seriously praying about and exploring how we disciple our adults with learning disabilities.

Reaching

We don’t run our Good News Group through the school holidays, except for a BBQ that we are having on Wednesday. People miss it, but it also gives us as leaders, time to reflect and seek God for his plans for the coming year. When we took on the role of leaders (unexpectedly!) Bob, Gill and I agreed that we could not do it without a sense of God’s vision for the ministry.  The first indication from God was to “reach out”.  At the time we were concerned,  each of us had commitments and other ministries that gave us very little time or opportunity to get out and about into our community, but we prayed… Thy Will be Done.

Growing

What we have seen is God building a ministry that is reaching out in ways we could not imagine in those early days.  This blog and my website – www.reachoutasc.com with resources that people can use is part of that, along with the Disability Network we have helped set up.  It seems like God’s intention has been for us to reach out to other churches and support them in their inclusive ministries…and there is more of that to come.

This summer God has been leading us to pray more and more about growing disciples.  We have high expectations of God’s Word in our Bible teaching, we share and teach the Gospel and spend much of our time helping our members understand God’s Word.  It is a joy to see how how members are growing in their knowledge and response to the Bible.

We already spend a good portion of our time sitting with our members individually and in small groups to talk with them about putting God’s word into practice in their lives.  We have prayed with them and taught them how to pray.  We listen to their problems and issues and help them apply God’s word to those.  We encourage those that are able, to read the Bible for themselves (the Prospects booklets have been helpful for this, especially as they also come in a CD version for those who can’t read – see below) So far, this has been our experience of growing disciples.

But a new hunger is welling up inside us to explore making disciples in a much deeper way.  I am currently chatting to our vicar about discipleship, and looking at how we can adapt and apply the principles and practices to our group.  We would like to start with some small group or 1:1 Bible study where the participants have more opportunity to contribute and do some self study.  The challenge is finding material that is either adaptable or has already been written with adults with learning disabilities in mind.  We have done some in the past, using a variety of resources.  One of these is the Easy English version of the Bible Click here to go to it, which is accessible online.  It has been really useful to us in preparing our weekly teaching sessions but most of our group do not have access to the internet and so it isn’t very accessible to them!  I’m quite excited about Biblical’s plant produce an accessible Bible, in partnership with Torch Trust, Prospects and Urban Saints and will be writing a blog post for them soon. You can see an article about it here…

Sending

This should be a natural extension of our discipling.  If we are growing strong, confident believers, then they should be able to go out and talk to others about Jesus, whether that is within the other church ministries, such as the children work, to the other residents and carers who share their homes, or actually getting involved in missions further afield.  This is something that will be wonderful to explore.  We have begun but there may be much more we can explore as we reach out, grow disciples and see where the Lord takes these wonderful people we have the privilege to be joined in faith with.  We don’t want to see their disability as a barrier or a limitation, but as a gift and opportunity to reach others for Jesus.

What are your experiences of growing and discipling children and adults with learning disabilities, or with autism?

Would I do it again? – Day 5 

I’m home now…shattered and in a reflective mood.  I really did enjoy the week, but after encountering God each day in a deeper way, I know he has plans for me that may or may not include me coming to Keswick with Prospects again next year.  For the record, Lord, I really WOULD like to!  I’m going to discuss what I learned and what I think the place of a separate stream like this has in Christian conferences, but first, let me tell you about the last day…

  
The last teaching session and celebration brought tears of joy – a wonderful way to finish the week… And tears of sadness – sad to leave such a special team and the new friends I made. 

We were joined by my group from Leyland (the Good News Group) and they had a great time with us. We needed to pray for the elastic walls again, but just managed to fit everyone in.  The highlight of the morning was singing and praising with our instruments, puppets and flags to “10,000 Reasons” … you know the one, “Bless the Lord, O My soul, O my soul, worship his holy name, Sing like never before, O my soul, and worship his holy name.”  I felt like the room was full of angels praising along with us.  It was amazing praising!    

Then it was off to Fitz Park to have a picnic together. 

   

Is the Keswick Convention Accessible to All? 

Starting with the website I can find out that there are large print or Braille copies of the songs and that all the speakers and song words are projected onto very large screens around the main tent.  It was also clear about access and disabled parking and the presence of BSL interpreters in the main meetings. All venues offered a hearing loop system.  However, there didn’t seem to be a Braille or large print version of the programme but it was accessible on the website. The Prospects provision had its own page, under the title “special celebrations”  https://www.keswickministries.org/convention/special-celebrations  – what do you think? Is that a good description? I do think people would have a good chance of finding out that Prospects were there with a whole page to promote it, and it was in the literature booklets as well.  One niggle, after changing our workshop day because Keswick changed our night on the main stage, the workshop was advertised incorrectly on the website. And our seminar wasn’t well advertised. I’ve already had a message to say that someone wanted to come but they didn’t know it was on. 

  I do think that generally Keswick Convention has a good attitude to including people with disabilities and inviting Prospects onto the main stage every year is a sign of real respect for what Prospects does. So many of the families said they could not attend without Prospects being there.  When I came home I had a lovely email from a friend saying how Prospects providing services at Spring Harvest had meant that her whole family could attend that too.  It seems such a small part to play but something that makes a huge difference to so many. 

However, I came away from the meetings with a lot to read! Fine for me but overwhelming for those who can’t read, including some of our team members. 

What these sessions at major Christian festivals does more than anything, is give adults with learning disabilities the opportunity to access good Bible teaching, grow in their faith and be encouraged by others who have the same kinds of challenges they have.  And in our team, the chance to share their gifts and to serve others with a team who see them as ‘able’ to.   The reason I work with adults with additional needs in my church is that there is often a focus on children with additional needs, which is great, but these children usually grow up and are usually adults for far longer than they were children.  There is much work to do in both these areas across our churches, but I am so glad that Prospects, a small charity, is doing this work. I hope and pray that Keswick Convention will continue to support their involvement, learn from them, and that other conferences and festivals will invite them to contribute too.  

They just might need a few more leaders if that happens! 

Finally, I have to say how much I loved being able to use Molly to recap what we had learned each day. I hope she’ll be invited back next year too…

  
 
 

 

 

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