Starting a ministry to mentally challenged persons

Have you thought about this?  What does my staff need to know in order to run a safe program?  What information do we need to harvest from our members to be able to access emergency information?

There are two schools regarding this issue.  First, if you don’t have any information, you may not be liable.  There is a club that runs in the middle of our state.  These are good folks wanting to do good things for the mentally challenged community.  They don’t have any information about the people they bring together for entertainment.

Second, gather as much information as you believe owill be enable you to run a safe program.  At Special Gathering, we worked with many nurses and social workers (support coordinators) to be able to determine what we needed.  These are the things we were told by many professionals that would be needed.

  1. Name of the members
  2. Address, City, State and Zip code
  3. e-mail address of closest relative or staff
  4. main phone number
  5. Date of birth
  6. Name of closest relative
  7. Address, city, state and zip of closest relative
  8. Home, work, cell and any other phone number
  9. Persons to notify in case of emergency (other than closest relative)
  10. Home, work, cell and other phone numbers of emergency person
  11. Name, phone number of support coordinator
  12. Information regarding the person competency status.  (This is a confusing area.  The best question to ask is:  Have you been adjudicated incompetent by a court of  law?
  13. Name and phone numbe rof guardian
  14. List of chronic medical conditions.  Also, a list of procedures necessary if the condition worsens while at Special Gatheirng
  15. Does the person have seizures
  16. List all allergies
  17. List all medications.

Additionally, because of HIPPA Law, we ask that a Consent to Release Confidential Information form be filled out.  This form includes:

  1. Individual’s name
  2. Date of Birth

Statement to support coordinator:  I do hereby authorize the Agency for Person with Disabilities or its representatives to release the information check below from my records, or those of my child, or the individual for whom I am legal guardian.

In the form have these items pre-checked:

For Healthy and Safety

  1. Medications
  2. Allergies
  3. Emergency contacts
  4. Seizure activity
  5. Emergency contact information
  6. Notification of adjudication of incompetency
  7. Notification of change of Support Coordinator (or social worker).

For Pastoral Care

  1. Notification of Hospitalization
  2. Notification of Death in the family
  3. Notification of other sadness

Include name and address of ministry staff who will be responsible for recording this information.  Signatures should include:

  1. Signature of individual
  2. Signature of parent/guardian
  3. Signature of witness (if signed iwth a mark)

The third form is a Support Coordinator Release letter  It should look like this:

Dear (The name of the person’s support coordinator should be put on a line and will need to be  explained on the form)

I am a member of The Special Gathering.  I would like The Special Gathering to be kept up to date with any health concerns that may be needed in an emergency, such as midicine I take and allergies I have.

I would also like The Special Gatheirng to be notified in case I need pastoral care.  If I am sich or hospitalized, if there is a death of a joved one or of other sadness.

The Special Gathering worked with two support coordinators in desinging this release form, but if you have one you would rather use, please bring it to me to sign.

I would also request that you reissue this release form every year at my support form.


________________                                  _________________________________

Member signature                                        Parent of guardian sign

Date                                                                     Date

The fourth form is a simple statement signed by the member what states that they do not want to give any information to Special Gathering.

Except for a member’s salvation, there are few things that are more important than the safety of our members.  As our executive director, Richard Stimson said, “We cannot survive a breach of confidence within the community.”  God blesses those who are wise enough to prepare for the harsh weather

We can succeed if we obey God

Luke 5:9

Central Theme:  Obedience is the key to success with Jesus.

Introduction–Show a simple paper clip.  This was made by an inventor who was struggling with the big problems of his business.  But one day, sitting at his desk he found a piece of straight wire and he started to bend it.  Then he realized that it could be used to help papers stay together when he bent it in a certain way.  It was strong and it would work.  This inventor learned that sometimes it is the little things that make you very successful.  Have a member read Luke 5:9.

I.     Jesus got into a boat that was anchored on the shore.  Then told the boat owner–who was Simon and became Jesus’ disciple–to go into the deep part of the lake and fish (Luke 5:1-11).

A. Peter, James and John had worked all night and caught no fish but they obeyed.

B. They caught many fish.

C. Jesus told them that from that time, they would still be fishermen but they would catch men–not fish.  They would be fishers of men.

II.     Obedience must be in the little things.

A. As a child, the questions was “What if the communists came and took over our church. Would you deny Jesus?”

B. As an adult, I found that it was the little things that made me stumble.  It wasn’t the big things like denying Jesus when times were tough.

III.     All of the law of God can be wrapped up in 10 simple sentences–the 10 commandments.

1.  I wanted to do big things for the Lord but God required me to live a simple life.

2.  I was sure that my life would Count for God.

A.      It does but only when I obey in the simple things.

B.           Don’t cause confusion at work.

C.           Do the best you can in all your work.

D.      Be kind and considerate of other people.

Conclusion     Obedience gives us success with God.

Honor Your Mother

Ruth 4

Central Theme:  We must love and respect our mothers.

Introduction–I could not imagine how much my mother loved me until I had a child–my son.  I could not imagine how a mother could love two or three children until I had our son and daughter.  I could not imagine how a mother would be willing to sacrifice until I had all three children. Have a member read from  Ruth 4

I.     Tell the story of Ruth, Boaz and King David.

A. Ruth was David‘s grandmother.

B. She was a woman who trusted God in what she did.

II.     The Bible says that mothers will be made holy by having and raising children.

A. Your mother loves you like no other person on earth.

1.  She was willing to give her life to give you birth.

B. God gives mothers a special place in the scriptures.

III.     Mothers are special To God.

1.  We are to treat our mothers with great respect and love.

Conclusions:  God commanded that we love our parents.  Logic tells us that is a good idea.

God Gives Us Gifts

Romans 12:6-8

Central Theme:  God gives us good gifts. 

Introduction–We all know about the three persons of God. There is the Father–who gives to everyone.  There is Jesus who died for the church.  The Holy Spirit was given to help Christians. 

       I.     Have a member Read Romans 12:6.

              A. People who study the Bible don‘t always agree about the Gifts God gives us.

              1. There are gifts given by the Spirit to enable Christians to grow and they are talked about in I Corinthians 12

              2.  There are gifts given by Jesus–which help the church to grow and they are given in Ephephians 4

              3.  There are gifts given by God the Father and they are given to every person–like the sunshine and rain—presented in Romans 12:6.

           II.     The overall purpose of all the gifts is so that people will come to love and worship God.

              A. Everyone person born is given a gift from God–at least one.

              1.  Most of us do not recognize that we have gifts and we don‘t try to develop our gifts.

              2.  Each of us will be happier if we know Jesus and learn what our gifts are.

              B. Being disabled does not mean that you don’t have gifts–sometimes it means that your gifts are amplified because those gifts are all that people see.

     III.     The disciples were successful in their walk with the Lord because they worked with their gifts.

              A. Paul was an organizer and person who could write out doctrine for the church.

              B. Peter was a prophet who could preach until the heavens opened and blessed the people.

              C. John was a servant/helper who was able to get things done for everyone else.

Conclusion–We need to use our gifts for Jesus.

Drawn and thin, the teenage hospital patient sat for hours in the waiting room communicating with his friends through the Internet.  They sent messages and talked.  He laughed and typed.  Looking at pictures sent to him, he would respond and receive even more messages.  He was using a social media that I’d not seen before called My Space.  This was perhaps 10 years ago and my mother was in the hospital.   As I observed the young man and his Internet activities, I realized that I was watching the beginnings of a new world.  It was my first introduction to the importance that the Internet played in the lives of people under 30 years old. 

Later, several teens came to visit at our home.  Sure, they filled their hours with computer games but they, also, played “shopping games” using online stores.  Filling their carts at various items, they did “virtual” shopping without actually purchasing anything.  In fact, these young men and women spent no time in front of the TV but gathered around the computer entertaining themselves for hours.

When I began to blog, I had only one true goal, I wanted ministry to person’s with developmental disabilities to have a presence on the Internet.  I had seen that people under 30 use this resource for every imaginable activity.  They play, shop, pretend, work and communicate on the Internet.

Three years later, after a good deal of resistance, I opened a FaceBook page.  Then a Twitter account (@lindaghoward).  My son wanted me to be able to SKYPE.  He set up that account for me.  I have a LinkedIn account.  I text message my grandchildren, rather than email or make a phone call because that is how they want to hear from me. 

While this constant learning process is probably good for my brain, I was thrilled that my blog can now automatically forward to my FaceBook page and my Twitter account.  There is a limit to the time I want to invest inside this “brave new world.”

Eventually, the question must become, how much is enough?  Juggling the Internet options available can become a full-time occupation.  Those brave young men and women who seem to coast effortlessly from one Internet function to another are a marvel; but I’ve seen that even they aren’t able to keep all the ball in the air at the same time.

I’m reminded of Solomon who wrote that there is no end to the number of books that can be written.  In like manner, there is no end to the number of ways you can use the Internet in your ministry.  However, Solomon concluded that we are to beware because much study wearies the mind and body. 

What are the Internet programs  that you find essential to conducting your ministry?  What are some of the things you would like to access but you don’t have time to do?

One day while training a new Special Gathering staff member, I asked him if he would clean up a mess left by our members in one of the Bible study classroomes.  He told me, “I don’t clean up messes like this.  I’ve paid my dues.  I did that in my other job.  I don’t have to clean up other people’s garbage now.”  That was the wrong answer.  Obviously, he didn’t last long in Special Gathering.  One of the hallmarks of a special needs ministry is that you always “get to clean up the messes.”

It is true that at camp, the camp directors have found that it is not a good stewardship of our time to be tied up for an hour or two in “mess fixing” the nasty bathroom accidents.   That is because during those times, other circumstances come into play; and that is when real emergencies seem to happen.  We’ve found that many times emergencies can be averted by a simple word from a director.  Therefore, we have tried to find people who feel it is a privilege to do this type of work.  (Yes, Martha, there are other people out there like you.)

In special needs ministry, I believe it isn’t the task that is important.  It is the attitude that dictates godliness.  Actually, in all ministry, that is true.  When our attitude becomes one of  true servanthood rather than haughty eliteness, God will bless us and it becomes a joy to be the servant of others.

About fifteen years ago, a widow wanted a quality group home to be built in our county for her son.  For years, her son had been associated with Special Gathering (SpG).  She desired that once built, SpG would oversee the supervision and run the home.

During a SpG board of director’s meeting, there was a heated discussion when the proposal was presented.  One board member adamantly opposed this arrangement.  She argued that group homes require authority, control and oversight on a daily basis.  She believed that our healing mission of evangelism and discipleship would be compromised.  The prophet Isaiah speaking for the Lord agreed with her.  His approach had been “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.”

her logic prevailed, even though the other board members resisted her for a time.  One at a time, each person saw the wisdom of her line of reasoning.  It was finally voted that SpG would not own or operate group homes.

The Lord has made our mission clear.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community whose purpose is evangelism and discipleship.  Many things come under this broad heading, but the daily operation of group homes is not one of them.

Staff members of SpG do believe that under most circumstances group homes are a better alternative for mentally challenged people than living alone in their own apartments.  Our concern is not a preference of housing arrangements; but it is a concern over the  level of supervision that is provided in most states for people living in their own apartments.  However, this the personal opinion of our staff members, not the policy of our SpG, Inc. board of directors.

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