Thanks to Rachel Casper and her amazing team at Eden Prairie United Methodist Church, for letting me sit in on planning meetings for this Great Idea!
Rachel pulled together a team of retired and current Special Education teachers, parents of children with special needs, and others trained to work with young people on the autism spectrum to create this dynamic, needs-focused, community-wide Vacation Bible School.
The team began by discerning who their “audience” would be and determining their capacity to work with a diversity of needs among the broader community’s children. Examples from another area congregation offering a Special Needs Ministry helped narrow down what was possible, what was desirable, and what was needed most in their own Adaptive Vacation Bible School.
A key concern was learning from parents about the particular needs and abilities of the children who would participate. Their registration form was created to capture as much data in these areas as possible.
They also determined that visiting the space and knowing exactly what would and would not happen would be helpful for both parents and children. Rachel has been shepherding potential VBS participants through the building and answering parent questions prior to receiving any registrations.
Equipping leaders to be truly capable and comfortable with meeting the needs and supporting the abilities of the young people in their care means the team will attend a Safe Gatherings training – for adult and youth volunteers – to ensure the safety, well-being and joy of all participants.
The intent is to start small. Large numbers can overwhelm many people on the autism spectrum, so ensuring a smaller group is actually beneficial. After their pilot year, they will determine their capacity to grow in numbers, which will likely mean creating additional offerings to ensure a smaller group in each.
Find their marketing and registration form here. The Ministry Lab hopes to have a more complete work-up of the process and curriculum once the pilot year has been completed and appropriate adjustments and edits have been made – we’ll keep you posted!