8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.
9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9 (NLT)
My husband and I are parents of a young adult with special needs. I still remember the days of diagnoses, multiple therapies, and endless questions about the future. It was a difficult and very scary time. Now that he is an adult, we face new questions and uncertainties.
The adventure of having a child with special needs is challenging enough, without having to be concerned about being able to go to church. God’s church is a place for all. Every family should have an opportunity to experience the fellowship; everyone should have an opportunity to learn about God despite their challenges and special needs, and that’s why I think every church needs a Spiritual Resource Ministry.
While no ministry can meet every need, one thing is for sure, without the Spiritual Resource Ministry (SRM) in the Bay Area Christian Church, our son’s future would have been bleak, and his spiritual life uncertain.
The most life-changing experience we have had as a family is when we moved to San Francisco and became part of the Spiritual Resource Ministry Russ and Gail Ewell had started. SRM began in October of 1996 with the belief and conviction that families with children with special needs should not be isolated, and that their spiritual journey, though different, had to be chartered by groups of parents who did not want to be excluded from church.
According to the CDC,
“Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities.”
This group of children with developmental disabilities is present in schools, communities, and of course, our churches. The seemingly growing number of children diagnosed with special needs cannot be ignored or overlooked. What better place for them to feel a sense of belonging than in God’s church where we as Christians are taught to see the world differently? We are innovative, we are long-suffering, and we are creative. What better place can these families feel accepted and included, finding hope and faith? We are not limited by how the world sees special needs.
Over the last 20 years, SRM has grown and so have the children and families who are and have been a part of it. Many lives have been changed. Many children have grown up to become Christians. Families are no longer isolated.
So what is SRM exactly and why does every church need it? We’ve asked a few parents and leaders of the program to share their experiences with SRM and how it has changed their families.
1. A place for parents
As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him.
Psalm 103:13 (Message)
What is SRM?
SRM is the Spiritual Resource Ministry of the Bay Area Christian Church (BACC) which works in cooperation with our children’s ministry. Its main function is to reach out to the special needs community, offering parents and children the opportunity to attend church, which they may not have otherwise been able to do. It is an additional children’s ministry class with workers who have been trained to work with children with special needs. It has its own set of leaders and coordinators that are focused on this particular class. Also included in the class are neurotypically-developing buddies who themselves benefit from being in SRM.
“The Spiritual Resource Ministry became my avenue to finding my way to having a relationship with God. In my search for a daycare for my daughter, a couple introduced me to their church’s Sunday class for special needs kids. My daughter has autism and is not yet able to speak. Her first day at SRM was my first day to attend a Sunday service. SRM gave me the opportunity to listen to the lesson and as a result, I was able to study the Bible to become a Christian. It has helped me stay focused getting my needs met spiritually as the teachers care for my daughter’s special needs. It makes me feel confident knowing that the teachers that serve in the ministry are equipped with training and knowledge on how to handle her. My daughter has grown to be more engaged in social interactions and joyfully participates in activities provided by SRM. She comes home with artwork scriptures which we can apply on our journey together.”
– SRM Parent
“Because of SRM we are able to come to church. It is a relief to not have to worry about being interrupted during service, because your child is having a hard time due to behavioral issues. If it were not for this ministry many of us may not be able to come to church. We have been to other churches where we have spent every service in the nursery (even when she was older) because they had no place for our daughter. At SRM she has the opportunity to learn about God in an environment that is God centered, fosters strength, development, inclusion in a way that adapts to her unique learning style.”
– SRM Parent
2. A place for kids
13 Some people brought little children to Jesus to have him hold them. But the disciples told the people not to do that. 14 When Jesus saw this, he became irritated. He told them, “Don’t stop the children from coming to me. Children like these are part of God’s kingdom.
Mark 10:13-14 (GW)
What is the SRM class like?
The class is different from traditional children’s ministry classes. Each student has a teacher, so the teacher-student ratio is 1:1. There are also neurotypically developing buddies to provide a reverse mainstreaming experience. Both children benefit by being in the class. The class is also made of up stations that address the developmental needs of each child that may not be found in the traditional children’s ministry classes. There’s a video station, motor station, and game station. The lesson and craft are geared to the developmental differences that children may have. The idea is for the class to fit the students’ needs, and not the other way around. In this way, children are able to learn about God in ways that suit their learning style.
Who can attend SRM class?
Individuals who may need additional support outside of the children’s ministry classroom or who may require 1:1 attention can attend SRM classes.
What is the goal of SRM?
To use the time we have every Sunday to try and influence the kids as much as possible toward their relationship with God.
“When our son was 2 and in the typical class, we started to get called out of service all of the time. Then we got the autism diagnosis, and it was a heartbreaking time. It was such a relief to know that he had a one-on-one teacher, and a buddy. I was VERY grateful to his buddy, which was usually the same peer relationship for him. All of the research and love put into helping him and the others kids was truly amazing, especially since it was all run by volunteers. I will always be grateful to SRM!”
– SRM Parent
“Before our son went to BACC SRM, we never left him alone even for a minute. We were not sure how he would react if we left him even for an hour. But, after SRM our confidence improved. I was very glad to see that he got along with the amazing teachers/volunteers.
Our quality of life improved significantly because we took him to school, ST, ABA et cetera and left him in those classes. Every single teacher in SRM is very helpful and caring. Thank you once again.”
– SRM Parent
3. A place for volunteers
9 “My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel, The volunteers among the people; Bless the Lord!
Judges 5:9 (AMP)
2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.
1 Peter 5:2 (NLT)
Who can serve in SRM?
Anyone willing to be trained to work with children with special needs, or who already has training in any area of teaching, pediatrics, nursing, therapeutic services or special education. Volunteering in this capacity has been an incredible experience for so many of our teachers and buddies over the years.
“SRM changed our lives along with our daughter’s and impacted many of her friends and their families. We serve in it because we have seen these changes first hand and the lifelong relationships we have built in this ministry. God has allowed us to be a part of this generous ministry and so we also want to influence other families to be changed by it as well.”
-SRM Parent and Volunteer Coordinators
“Our SRM volunteer teacher changed our lives by her love and understanding. No one could ever know the amazing impact she had on us. Not only is our son a Christian, he just graduated from UC Berkeley a member of the California scholastic honors. Our teacher was not only involved in SRM, but also working a job, writing up lessons plans, and she is a doctor now! It’s amazing how one caring person can change a whole family!”
– SRM Parent
We are so proud of what started 20 years ago with just a few children. If you are interested in getting involved in our Spiritual Resource Ministry or in any of our E-Programs, attend a service near you or contact us for more information.