The focus in our October issue of First Focus was our Special Needs Ministry. This Ministry seeks to help families with special needs children – and adults – to have a place to learn about Jesus, hear the Bible, make things and find fellowship. Hear the words from families who have been a part of this ministry…
Families with a Special Needs member obviously face numerous challenges. One challenge that is a little surprising is finding a place of worship. Some families are told that there isn’t a place
for them at their church. Sometimes when mainstreamed, their Special Needs child simply isn’t promoted. Families facing such challenges look first to their Christian friends where they expect
support, acceptance and a loving environment only to often learn the heart-breaking news that they and their child are not welcome.
After going through such experiences, families are so grateful when they find a church thatwelcomes them and their Special Needs member.
When I moved to Arlington in 1994 from Dallas where we had an excellent Special Needs program in our church, I asked a pastor friend if he knew anything about churches in Arlington.
He replied “Oh, yes – you have to go to Charles Wade’s church!”
Not long after we arrived in Arlington I received a phone call from Dr. Wade. He was very welcoming and gave me lots of information about FBCA. When I asked if they had a program
for Special Needs Children he enthusiastically said ‘yes’ and told me about Tom Hanes who lead the program. Tom was a former chairman of the deacons. Also, his wife, Kay, taught Special
Education in the Arlington Independent School District.
We soon became active in FBCA and were delighted in the Special Needs program led by Tom and included several outstanding and dedicated teachers.
After 25 years we still enjoy and are grateful for the Special Needs Program at FBCA. Joyce Duty, Linda Davis and LaFaun Guillory do a great job with all our students.
It is our prayer that we can reach out to other families with Special Needs, especially young couples, and provide a loving church home to them.
Our theme in Special Needs has been Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:40: “Even as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.”
We can go to church! That’s the answer to the question, “How has the Special Needs Ministry at First Baptist, Arlington affected our family?” Simply put, if it was not for the Special Needs Ministry, we might still be searching for a church that meets our needs.
When our special needs daughter was an infant and very young toddler, going to church was not a problem. However, as she grew older, the church we attended at the time, like most other churches, just didn’t have a place for her. As a result, over time, we just stopped going. Several years later we heard about the special needs program at FBCA. We prayed for the Lord’s guidance. We visited the class. We liked it. A short time later, we joined the church. We are thrilled to have a church home and our daughter loves going to her class.
For those who may not even be aware that the class exists, this ministry is an incredible resource and tremendous blessing and opportunity for parents of special needs children and adults. The goal of the program is not simply to provide a babysitting service during Bible study and the worship service. Those who are in the class are constantly engaged and kept on task. Each Sunday morning, as in all the other Bible study classes throughout our church, spiritual formation is emphasized as the teachers present a lesson, provide music, and offer activities relevant to the lessons.
As parents, we are so grateful for the teachers. They are wonderful volunteers who are committed to providing a meaningful experience for those in the class. Clearly, they consider this class a ministry and are dedicated to its success.
As parents, we are also grateful for a church which understands the importance of a Special Needs Ministry. It is such a pleasure to be able to share with friends, family members, and other parents with children of special needs that our church’s philosophy of “Blessing the Generations” includes children and adults of all ages, including those with special needs.
So, an enormous thank you to the volunteers who give their time and talents to those who sometimes struggle to keep up with day-to-day life. And, another enormous thank you to a church which values the participation of special needs individuals who are often overlooked and not included.
If you don’t know anything about the special needs class, you should stop by one Sunday and visit with the teachers and members of this great class. You will always be made to feel welcome. In fact, volunteers are always appreciated.
Glenn and Janet Bowling
If you are interested in volunteering in the Special Needs Ministry, have a friend who could be a part or want more information, contact Curt Grice.