Autism, Faith, and Religious Communities

Posted: April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m awestruck and humbled. A new vision has descended upon leaders of our congregation and it is on the way to bringing something incredibly powerful into being.

For months now, a passionate and exceptionally gifted task force of the congregation has been exploring the ways that Broadway Christian Church can offer a ground breaking adapted program of Christian Education and Worship to children with autism and developmental disabilities and their families. The need of these families for inclusion in communities of faith is huge, especially in a community such as Columbia, Missouri, that is a kind of Mecca of resources for these families. In the secular realm, the resources are significant, what with the Thompson Center and the University. But religious communities, by and large, have not reached out in similar or parallel ways. Well, we are now.

Last night at the regular meeting of our Board  the new All God’s Children program, with its proposal for a part-time coordinator position, was authorized. This does not mean that it is funded! That is yet to come.

There are many unknowns but we are preparing ourselves as much as is possible to launch the ministry this coming September. At a minimum there will be an adapted Christian education program that runs simultaneously with one of our worship services, affording parents the precious opportunity to worship – all the while knowing that their children are receiving not just baby sitting, but an adapted, comprehensive program of spiritual formation on their level.

And here is the mission statement of this new ministry. It is ambitious and I will say, unapologetically, that it is guided by the Spirit:

Mission Statement for All God’s Children

Because every person is created in God’s image, it is the mission of Broadway Christian Church to create and implement a ministry for and with children and their families that might not be able to otherwise participate in the ongoing spiritual life of the congregation.

Our mission is that all children and their families will have a place to:

Grow deeper in their knowledge of God;
Experience loving acceptance in the community of faith;
Become acquainted with larger Christian story through its many stories;
Share in the traditional faith practices that shape us;
Discover the unique gifts they have to offer to the religious community and world;
Find joy in the Christian life.

We plan to accomplish this mission by pursuing these objectives:

Assess the individual needs and abilities of each child regarding participation in the program;
Provide a learning environment for children scheduled at the same time as a worship service;
Schedule a teacher and teacher’s assistant for each group of no more than ten children;
Train and orient teachers to work with the  children they will teach;
Adapt the multi-modal  curriculum already in use;
Develop consistent instructional protocols and expectations;
Provide needed assists for children ready to transition to our regular Christian education program;
Include parents in the worship life of the congregation and participation in the program itself;
Prepare appropriate and safe learning space;
Form an All God’s Children Advisory Committee that relates to the director, church staff and leaders of the congregation;
Pursue the funding of a part-time director and program resources;
Communicate this ministry to the entire congregation and seek its ongoing support;
Publicize All God’s Children to the entire Columbia metro area.

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