INCLUSION MINISTRIES -- A SACRED CALLING
But Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not,
to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Children with special needs hold a special place in our hearts. They must be protected and cherished, encouraged and included. Yet having them in a church community presents challenges. The Metropolis of Chicago, with the blessing and support of His Eminence Metopolitan Iakovos, of Blessed Memory, and under the leadership of Presvytera Toni Mihalopoulos, developed “Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me,” a ministry of programs for children with special needs and their families. The powerpoint presentation below outlines all of the elements of the Metropolis of Chicago program, including:
- Fall Day Camp
- Special Olympics
- Project Inclusion
- Lenten Retreat
- Inclusion Liturgies
We present it, along with sample resources, as a model for chapters and parishes to follow in designing their own programs.
Pres. Toni emphasizes that in addition to teaching the children proper behavior, it is important to conduct workshops for the parish leadership. These workshops teach Parish Council members, Sunday School teachers, GOYA and young adult advisors, Philoptochos members and church Greeters to be welcoming, supportive and inclusive and to model that behavior throughout the community. An entirely new vocabulary must be learned in order to be sensitive to the feelings of the children and families.
Learning to accept people who are different from ourselves can be frightening and difficult. Nevertheless, just as Philoptochos members learned over the past term to hold out a welcoming hand to homeless people at our soup runs, we must learn to welcome special members of our community who might at times disrupt our services, but who are surely especially blessed by God.
Sample Story Boards teach children proper behavior in church and at special services.Using the following examples as a guide, you can design your own story boards to teach appropriate behavior in every situation.