Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#encouragement’

People, Puppets and Praise – Day 3

Today I am going to let the photos show you what a fun day we had.  In the morning we had a group from Kendal join us.  They brought a drum and a guitar and lots of enthusiasm too. We continued to learn about Elisha and Naaman, through drama and had a great telling of the ten lepers story from Janet (who is a person who tells stories really well!)

In the afternoon I ran the puppet workshop and around 36 people turned up! We learned some basic principles of puppetry such as keeping your puppet looking at it’s audience, how to do different movements and emotions.  Then we put on some praise songs and put it all into practice.  I’m going to let the photos tell the story…Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (11)

The two types of puppet we used.

‘Talking Puppets’ and ‘Dancing Puppets’ Me and Karen the signer.

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Two girls holding puppets.

Sio and Frazz my two assistants and our performance to the group.

Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (82)

The guests having a go.

The guests having a go.

Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (23)

More guests having a go with the puppets

More guests having a go

Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (98)

All the room was full of people using puppets

What a great workshop we had. Everyone engrossed in activity.

Hope you enjoyed our pictures.

I’d love to recommend a couple of websites / resources for learning how to use puppets. This book by Amy Robinson with accompanying DVD is brilliant to teach anyone about puppeteering and One Way UK do courses and sell puppets (although puppets can be bought anywhere of course.)

Recommended book by Amy Robinson

Recommended book by Amy Robinson


Consider the history of people with learning disabilities in discipling them


Did you watch “Call the Midwife” over the Christmas break?  For those of you who didn’t, it’s a drama set in the 1950s and 60s about midwives in the East End of London.  This Christmas episode focussed on a group of unmarried mothers in a mother and baby ‘home’.  It was a bit (well, a lot) sanitised in the programme but reminded me of the way unmarried and pregnant girls used to be treated.  Their babies were often taken from them (whether they wanted it or not) and we can only imagine the effect on a whole hidden layer of our society – the mothers and the children, still alive and whose lives were forever changed by the decisions that were made.

My own grandmother was an unmarried mother in the 1930s. She had a terrible time as the family outcast, but the kindness of her sister and later reconciliation with her parents enabled her to bring up my dad as a single mum.  No wonder she was always such a fiercely determined woman!  Yes, things changed in society in the 1960s and 1970s but there are centuries of ill treatment and children being abandoned to overcome.  History is full of the illegitimate children of kings, but so many ordinary people must have been in the same situation, outcasts from the start.

The same attitudes went for those who were born with disabilities.  So many were outcasts and later in history shut away in large institutions. Some families bravely kept them at home, but education and employment were hardly options for these children.  Education and inclusion for people with learning disabilities, is a rather new concept.  In history we read about the ‘village idiot’ and the Victorian ‘asylums’, of homeless and neglected people with little opportunity in life but to rely on the charity of others.  Life expectancy was low for many people with learning and other disabilities.

Are you glad that you live in these times.  We have an imperfect but much improved education system.  It is enshrined in law that a broad and balanced education is a right for all.  We have social and national health services and community living.  There are some opportunities for employment.   Oh yes…there is far to go and much to complain about…but what if we start from a place of gratitude.  What we do have is a blessing and we can build upon the work of others and make it better in the future.


In our churches, communities and towns are people with disabilities in their 40s, 50s, 60s and older who were born and raised when times were very different. In our group we have at least one person who grew up in a large institution… a large ‘metal’ hospital.  (As it was known). Now living in the community and well integrated into ordinary life, it is easy to forget how this early experience might have shaped his life.  Do we take the time to ask sensitively about the early lives of the people with learning and other disabilities in our churches?  it is easy to assume that they had schooling and support when they were younger…and maybe they did…but asking them about it might reveal some very interesting insights into the way they have been treated and brought up.  And be careful…we need to be very sensitive to safeguarding and respecting privacy.  Did you know that if an adult with disabilities reveals abuse or accusation to you, then it is their right to report it OR NOT?  This is the difference between adults and children, even if they are vulnerable.  I can cover this issue in another post if people are interested.

If we are to minister to the whole person and disciple them, then we do need to be aware of where they have come from.  I know from my own experience how Jesus ministers to the deepest and most vulnerable parts and heals what has hurt me or made me think wrongly.   People who have learning disabilities and maybe don’t have the words to say or work out what they need healing for, may be able to tell you about their childhood or early experiences.  A parent or carer may know some things that can help.  Then we must pray.  Only Jesus can tell us where to be sensitive and where to challenge.  Only Jesus knows each of us and all we have been through.  He knows what has shaped us for good or ill, and can heal….oh…he can heal…and make us whole in spirit.   It is how we are disciple and how we grow.  Praise God that none of us are different or excluded from this.

A Living Hope – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has great mercy, and because of his mercy he gave us a new life. This new life brings us a living hope through Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death. Now we wait to receive the blessings God has for his children. These blessings are kept for you in heaven. They cannot be ruined or be destroyed or lose their beauty.

God’s power protects you through your faith, and it keeps you safe until your salvation comes. That salvation is ready to be given to you at the end of time. I know the thought of that is exciting, even if you must suffer through different kinds of troubles for a short time now. These troubles test your faith and prove that it is pure. And such faith is worth more than gold. Gold can be proved to be pure by fire, but gold will ruin. When your faith is proven to be pure, the result will be praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes.

You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You can’t see him now, but you believe in him. You are filled with a wonderful and heavenly joy that cannot be explained. Your faith has a goal, and you are reaching that goal—your salvation.

It’s Christmas!

Donkey’s, sheep, kings, innkeepers, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, angels, robots, dinosaurs and aliens…


Yes, it’s the Nativity season, and in my primary teaching years it was the most stressful yet exciting and yes, shedding-a-tear-time in the whole year.  We generally kept to the Nativity theme, although some links were quite tenuous! My favourite one was done completely in rhyme, the whole way through.  I managed to get about 5 consecutive years out of that one…but then someone brought in ‘The Grumpy Innkeeper’ and we had to go with that…but still…

Do you remember the Nativities you were involved with as a child?  I have vivid memories of going to school in my pyjamas when I was 7 years old…and the song…”Girls and boys, leave your toys, make no noise, kneel at His crib and worship Him…” I can still remember most of the words!

My worst experience was at Sunday School. There was a lack of boys in the group and they needed a Joseph…I can’t tell you the embarrassment of being a 12 year old girl being forced to be Joseph in the Nativity…the only saving feature is that they made me wear a beard – and so at least I wasn’t that recognisable.  My brother took the mickey out of me for ages after that!


Finally, in my last year at primary school I got to be Mary, with lines to learn and everything.  My best friend was angel Gabriel, but we kept being late for before-school rehearsals and were threatened with the sack!  We weren’t sacked in the end, phew! My mum remembers this performance with pride, but only because I carried on courageously as the scenery collapsed around me…and stood my ground as I refused to hold Joseph’s hand as we walked around the school hall on our way to Bethlehem!

We all remember the Nativity and children everywhere are going through the same story these next few weeks. for many of them it will be the only time they hear anything about God’s Son Jesus and let us pray that seeds will be sown as they wonder who this baby was and what relevance he has to their lives.

Churches too are gearing up for the celebration….and we too, at the Good News Group are getting ready to share our version of the wonderful story this Wednesday.  Please pray for us.  It is our main outreach of the year and we encourage all our members to invite their friends, housemates, families and carers to come and share in our joyful celebration.  All our members are involved and doing something, reading, praying, acting, puppeteering and the tableau that we will create as we go along will not leave a dry eye in the church!

Here’s a photo or two of our service last year, and if you are local – come and join us 5.45pm start, Leyland St Andrew’s church!

Actors and Readers

Actors and Readers

Singing and Signing "Come and join the celebration".

Singing and Signing “Come and join the celebration”.

What one member thinks of the Good News Group!


 My name is Liz and I have attended the Good News Group for nearly 3 years now after hearing about it in December 2011. I became a Christian when I was a tiny baby, my mum and dad wanted me to be christened as I was very poorly and they wanted me in the protection of Gods love.  All my family have always attended church and are devout Christians. For as long as I can remember I have joined them when they go to church and its a way of of life now for me, a life I love and cherish.    

I enjoy going to Good News Group. I like the art sessions before we say grace and eat. I especially enjoy the service in the chapel, where we sing songs and say prayers.  Also, we have a puppet show reenacting stories from the Bible which gives us a fun and visual way of learning about our Lord.  I always like to get involved in the dramas that we do.  While I have attended Good news group I have learned about the stories of Jesus in more depth. I enjoy all the stories about Jesus but the Easter story I find fascinating. The stories are always relevant in all aspects of our day to day lives, teaching us to always follow in the ways of the Lord with his wisdom.

I always get a chance to do readings at services and I’m included in the jobs rota, this includes the sound desk, saying grace and many more tasks.   We join together in the summer holidays for BBQ’s and play fun game example, welly throwing.   I’m given the choice to go on courses, days out and tea parties. My favorite is the Christmas period were we have a carol service and Christmas parties with games and prizes.

  I will look forward to many more happy times with all my new friends at Good news group and I’d recommend this group to anyone who wants to celebrate knowing  Jesus.

Liz very kindly wrote this for us. She also attends a local Torch Trust Group.  Liz is wheelchair user and visually impaired, with a faith and knowledge of the Bible that contributes greatly to our meetings.  She willingly serves and shares her gifts, prays with her heart and is such a blessing for us all.


Just do something…

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Hello Faithful blog readers and new-to-this-blog visitors.

I have been thinking about who you might be, apart from comments, me reading your blogs or if I know you on another media there are very few clues as to who you are.

All I hope is that the insights, thoughts and advice I can share will help someone somewhere feel more confident and able to reach out to people with learning disabilities in their life and church.

Have you ever taken time out of your busy life just to reflect, pray and contemplate with God?  Was it last week, or last year, or even years ago?  There is great value in doing this but then there is the hurdle of actually doing it – organising work, family, life – to make a bit of space for you…and then we feel guilty.

But we mustn’t feel guilty…

This week I have made some space to reflect, seek God and to chat to people I trust about trying new things, dealing with hurdles and what seem to be huge mountains in the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in our churches.  I am fortunate to have two very supportive leaders at church who both are very encouraging, willing and wise in working towards a more inclusive church.  Both realise that we have a long way to go and both realise how far we have come.

The conclusion I have drawn from their wisdom is that we must not give into fear.  When we don’t know what to do, fear can imprison us and we end up doing nothing. Therefore as one of them so wisely put it ‘what ever we do will be something this time next year we weren’t doing already.’


So my plea and encouragement to you is to just do something…anything…that makes a small faltering step forward. And here are just a few suggestions…

  • Say hello, introduce yourself and ask their name to someone who has learning disabilities in your church, supermarket, street, any place.  Adult or child. Then pray for them.
  • Offer to do something practical at a group for people with learning disabilities – make the tea, clean up, put the tables out…anything really that helps and gives you chance to acclimatise to being around people with learning disabilities. you can then watch how others speak and interact with them and learn from their example.
  • Meet with parents of a child with additional needs for a tea and cake session.  Just listen and maybe ask them what THEY would like you to know and how could you pray for them. Then keep in touch and do what you promised – pray!
  • Ask God to take away your fear and bring opportunities to try out the new courage he gives you…
  • If you are a church or Sunday School leader use more visual images, slow down, break things into chunks and use objects that stimulate the senses.  You’d be surprised at how many more people would engage with your talks – not just PLD!
  • Think of where you’d like to be, what you’d like to be able to see in your church or group to make it inclusive. See it as a step on a tall staircase and then step onto the first step no-matter how far away the goal seems to be.


  • Don’t think you are alone. We Are the Body of Christ and we were meant to work together. Network via social media, blogs and other people in your church, diocese, look at inclusive church websites and email them for a chat…I would support, help and encourage any of you and I know many others would too – just look at some of the people and organisations I have linked up with below.

Finally – who are you?  What are you doing reading this blog?  What are your simple ideas that would help others JUST DO SOMETHING?

My networks:  – you can apply to join this group – so many great people to connect and share with.  – a charity our Good News Group is supported by.  – lots of good resources and is developing regional networks. – just full of care! – Kay’s blog which is very informative.   and their blog (do sign up for by email – daily encouragement!)!blogger-feed/cund  An American Special Needs Ministry that is amazing.  – just look at what they do!





Christmas Outreach

Singing and Signing "Come and join the celebration".

  Singing and Signing “Come and join the celebration”.

Actors and Readers

  Actors and Readers

The Wise Men visit the stable.

The Wise Men visit the stable.

As promised here are some pictures of our Christmas Carol Service. All our members took part and really enjoyed themselves.  Even those who didn’t want to come out to the front still dressed up or put tinsel in their hair!

The purpose of this service is for us to encourage our friends and families to join us in learning the message of Christmas – that Christ was there in the beginning and came into our world so that he could die, rise to life and open up the way for us to be friends with God once again.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and everyone who came along and supported us. The church felt quite full and so many of you even joined in with the signing of our carols.  You all did great.  We are hoping we may get a couple of new members which would be so wonderful.

Now just the Christmas party to go this Wednesday…apparently I have to take a photo of me as a baby and someone is making rather a lot of pass the parcels…going to be fun!

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas all of you.  If you are sad or happy, lonely or overwhelmed by family, full of joy or struggling…take a little time to remember our Saviour who has come for us all and know that he loves you very, very much x

When we want to run away. (God and Elijah.)


Run away or stay and fight?

Elijah’s story is an exciting one. He stands up to the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who kill all of God’s prophets except him because he has run away in fear after declaring God’s judgement that a drought is coming. He is brought food in the desert by ravens, runs away again to a far away town, a widow feeds him and her jar of grain never runs out, then God brings the woman’s son back from the dead. In the nail-biting climax, Elijah goes back to King Ahab and challenges all the false god Baal’s prophet’s to a duel of fire…and the one true God of Elijah wins, hands down. Finally proving that Baal can’t do anything, the Israelites turn back to their God and it rains again.

We are always pleasantly encouraged by how our Good News Group of adults with learning disabilities love to listen to and join in the stories from the old testament. They seem to grasp the drama and the tension, learning the ‘Goodies’ and the ‘Baddies’ names and cheering when God steps in, intervenes and saves his people. We have explored some interesting, flawed and surprisingly ‘normal’ characters and I think we have learned a lot through their flaws and how God used them anyway. We are learning that God can use us, that we are not useless or broken even if society looks down on us and doesn’t realise what we are capable of. We are learning that we have Jesus as our saviour and to follow him means that God WILL use us. We are part of the body of the church that belongs to Jesus Christ and no disability excludes anyone from that.

Elijah’s story has spoken to me about what we do in the most difficult situations in our lives. I have had times when the situation has been so hard and threatening that all I have wanted to do was escape. Each day I have prayed for God to give me the ability to persevere and stick it out for my own spiritual growth and maturity. I have prayed for those who hurt me and for blessings upon those who present themselves as my enemy. I’m sure as Christians we all have been in similar situations. Jesus warned us that in this life we will have trouble. But he came to carry our burdens and rescue us for eternity.

But do you know what? I am a coward. In threatening situations all I want to do is get out. Looking back, I used to feel great shame and disappointment that I had given into fear and run away. But whilst studying Elijah I had a change of mind. See how God was with him when he ran away from Ahab and Jezebel. God didn’t reprimand him and send him right back in there to face the enemy. No, he tended to him, gave him a safe place to rest and renew his strength by the brook. He took care of Elijah’s basic needs by sending the ravens with food each day. When the brook dried up, he sent him to another place of safety and provision. It wasn’t until Elijah was fully restored, built up by the experiences of God’s power and miracles, that he sent him back to do the job of standing up to his enemies.

Elijah Prophets of Baal FINAL

Take heart, if you are in a place where you are struggling and want to escape. Do ask God to strengthen you each day and he will Often that will be good and get you through. But sometimes it seems that running away, leaving, failing even…is all we have left to do. Know that God, through the saving grace of his son Jesus, is able to restore us and lift us up. I have heard of marriages, families, drug addicts and lives restored by an awesome, amazing, faithful and kind Lord God of all creation. And once restored, we can fight the battles in HIS strength – and see HIS power just like Elijah did.

Amen to that!


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