As I write this post, I am also beginning preparations for our first ever Valentine Party/Parents Night Out for our special needs friends in the church and in the community. I realized that I never followed up to let people know what an incredible day we had at our fall day camp! I could not have been any more thrilled at the results!
So what positive results did we have at our congregation and why do I want your congregation to have this experience too?
1) We provided a very special and accommodating experience for children who are typically left out of activities that typical children take for granted. We had a family who drove 3 hours from home and spent a night in a motel just so their child could be a part of our camp. Those of us with typically developing children take so much for granted. Camps, Vacation Bible School, holiday parties and Bible classes are just a few examples. Overwhelming gratitude was expressed to me and to our church family from parents who have been told repeatedly that they weren’t welcome. I saw comments on social media by parents who learned about our camp from other parents who had children in attendance expressing how unwelcoming their current religious group had been to their children and what a blessing the Karns congregation was to children with special needs.
2) We made contact with families who do not have a church home. Our day camp and upcoming Valentine party/parent night out are free of charge and welcoming to all in the community. In the months since camp, we have had one camper’s family who were already Christians and new to the area place membership with us. They learned that we would love and welcome their child with special needs through our efforts at day camp. There are other families with no connection to Christ who came away with very positive comments and impressions of the church family here. We not only showed love for their children, but it opened doors to build relationships and talk to them about Christ.
3) Perhaps the reason that might be least expected is how a program like this will change your members. Many Christians do not come in contact with children and parents who have special needs on a regular basis. They do not know the struggles of these families. They don’t get to experience and learn the lessons that the kids will teach them in joy, compassion and gratitude. As I’ve often said, these children are some of the greatest teachers that we can have in our lives showing us Christ-likeness.
We are now less than 6 weeks away from our Valentine party/Parent Night Out! I can’t wait to see those precious faces again. Seeing those little faces smiling at you and seeing the joy in the faces of your members who volunteer are the closest thing on this earth to seeing the face of Jesus!