Mercy Hill Kids Conference 2018 - Special Needs Buddy

Serving at MH as a Special Needs Buddy

When asked to write a blog about special needs, my thoughts of excitement were soon replaced with various questions. “Is my son considered special needs to others?” “What if the special needs my son deals with are not ‘special’ enough for others to understand?” These various questions left me convinced that this is a topic worthy of discussion and that this is an opportunity we need to seize.

Both education and encouragement are important. We need to educate so that the church and, in particular, MH Kids volunteers are more aware of special needs and better equipped to minister to special needs children. We also need to encourage families with special needs children as oftentimes it is easy to feel isolated and alone.

Why should you come to Kids Conference?

You will have the opportunity to hear about a new ministry emphasis: ministering to special needs children and their families. Every special needs child reflects the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; Ps. 139). We have the unique opportunity and privilege to minister to these children and their families. If you are thinking, “No way! I could never do that,” we are hoping to show you that—with God’s help and with the help of others—you can! We hope this conference equips, inspires, and stretches you out of your comfort zone.

Why am I passionate about this ministry?

My heart has always been burdened for those that society often looks down upon and says, “You have nothing to offer.” Every child is special, but a special needs child is uniquely gifted and uniquely special. At times, my own personal journey with parenting a special needs child has been hard, it has been lonely, and it has been filled with many tears. At the same time, it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Although society often looks down upon them, caring for a special needs child is significant kingdom work.

Physical disabilities are easily recognizable, but there are a host of other ‘special needs’ that are not as easily recognizable.  Whether it is learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, behavior disorders, or ADHD (to name just a few), it is my goal that every child who is part of MH Kids with special needs is ministered to effectively. If a child needs extra attention to get through the Kids Time, then our goal is to pair them with a buddy to best minister to them. It brings me great joy to see these children connect with another person, to see their face light up because someone “got them,” or to see a smile of relief from parents knowing that they can have a respite and worship without stress about what’s going on with their child.

Special needs children are like a beautiful picture puzzle (think of one of those 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles) from the Lord. Sometimes you need to be willing to move the pieces around, to keep trying and trying, and eventually, the right piece will fall into place. When the pieces fall into place, whether it is a smile, or they say a portion of the memory verse using pictures, or they participate in worship a little longer because their buddy told them what to expect, THAT fuels my passion for these kids!

Why did I want to be a Team Lead?

I desire to serve as a Team Lead of Special Needs to be an encourager and a supporter. For buddies, I hope to offer support, prayer, encouragement, and resources. For parents of special needs children, I hope to foster encouragement, prayer, support, and connection. By being able to pray for parents, by knowing what appointments they have coming up, by helping them not feel isolated and alone as they advocate for their child, I hope to remind parents that the effort they extend and the tears they shed matter. I hope to point them to the beauty amidst the brokenness.

Why should you sign up as a buddy?

We all need help in life, and some days are harder than others, and we need more help. This is no different with special needs children. Some days are harder than others and require extra help. These children and families will often become fatigued and weary if they do not have help. These kids need a lot of hand-holding during church to help them grasp how awesome God is!  You might be thinking that this sounds really uncomfortable, and it probably will feel uncomfortable some days. And that is okay. I used to be really nervous going in public with my son for fear of an uncomfortable situation. I never knew which stimuli would set him off and how he would react and then how others would react towards him and towards us. I don’t fear the “uncomfortable/awkward” situations anymore as I look at it as a way of learning something new about my child. As a buddy of a special needs child, you will constantly have encouragement and support. If we don’t know how to handle something, we will pull heads together and do our best to figure it out.

I can’t wait to see you at Kids Conference on Saturday, March 24! Click here to register!

-Holly Cooke (Kids Team Lead of Special Needs)