Chemistry Teacher with Students in Class

The value of learning is understood worldwide.  In the Western Civilization, our emphasis has always come from the Greek understanding of learning.  That is, having knowledge for its own value.  Knowledge, facts and intellectual pursuit are paramount.  It does not matter whether the information can be actually used.

The Eastern world has only valued knowledge that can be used in our daily lives.  There is little value placed on learning without application to real life.  In one of the karate films, the young man spent weeks taking his coat off of a hook and putting it back on the hook.  He felt this was a total waste of time.  However, when his karate master approached him with a surprise attack, the young student found that he automatically knew how to defend himself because the coat-removal movements had become automatic to him.  This is knowledge that can be experienced.

TransformationIn teaching our members, we strive to impart knowledge that can be practiced in their daily life.  There are three levels of knowledge:

1.  Head knowledge

2.  Knowing that you cannot facilitate the knowledge learned.

3.  Facilitating the knowledge and putting it to practice in your life.

Especially within the disability community, we must teach realizing that our members need to be able to reach the third level of knowledge.  That is why, when teaching a Bible study class, I replay the same Bible lesson several times.

However, there must also be a practical application that is connected to the Bible passage studied.  Unless a practical way of implementing the Scriptures is emphasized, it will remain head knowledge.

In addition, if this knowledge reaches only the second level, it will add to the sense of failure that our members live with on a daily basis.  Rather than elevating them into a place of transformation, this knowledge may add another level of defeat in their lives.

Head knowledge has no value in any Christian life unless it reaches the third level of knowledge–the ability to facilitate that understanding into your life.  It is especially true with a person who is intellectually delayed.

The Word of God was never meant to give us the puffed up attitude that head knowledge germinates and propagates.  It is always meant to change our hearts and thereby, change our way of living.

LutherMartin Luther has been quoted (or probably misquoted) as saying, “I’ve read the Bible once.  I don’t need to read it again.”  The life of Luther disavows this ascertion because it was his study of the scriptures that led him to faith in Christ.  His last note scribbled on a scrap of paper while he lay on his death bed was an exhortation to study the Bible with a humble heart.

As a young woman, I was a bit preplexed when I learned that Christian seminaries teach theology–not the Scriptures.  Theology, as I’m sure you know, is the study of God rather than the study of the Word of God.  While the Bible is the basis for all theology, our seminaries teach and examine the thoughts and beliefs of theologians regarding what the Bible teaches about God.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen this study of theology in our seminaries as a good thing, rather than a negative.  While I do not believe that the study of the Scriptures should ever be replaced with the thoughts and ideas of men, we learn from and gather knowledge from women and men who know God and have searched the depths of His love and grace.

This year, I’ve simply read and reread the New Testament for the past six months.  When I received an iPad as a ministry tool, I found it a valuable tool for studying the scriptures, as well.  Then I discovered the value of the audio Bible.  I read along with the audio and gleaned a great deal more than I have gathered from all the years of reading it to myself.  Preparing for bed, I would listen to the Bible.  I’d read my normal four chapters before I went to sleep and then I would listen to the Bible as I went to sleep.

I found amazing nuggets that I’d missed previously.  I’ve always desired to have a deep understanding of the Book of Romans.  I listened and relistened to Romans.  I read and reread Paul’s epistle.  I found that repetition brought great meaning to me.  I felt the sting of his rebuke and the comforting joy of knowing that my redemption was fully and completely bought by the blood of Jesus.  I entered a new time of rest and joy as I rehearsed Paul’s writings from Romans 8.

Again and again, I would stop the audio to reread a part that seemed new and fresh.  Perhaps it is the working though grief that has drawn me into the New Testament in this way.  I must say that I’ve felt more of the Lord’s grace and mercy during the past 18 months, than I’ve felt sorrow or remorse.

My mother used to say, “Repetition bring out thought.”  I’ve seen that my repeated reading of God’s Word has brought out a thoughfulness that I’ve not experienced in all my years of studying the Scriptures.

I’ve also wondered how much value the mentally challenged community would received by a daily rehearsal of the scriptures.  I understand that the Bible is not a “magic book” but we are promised that the truths contained in the Bible are valuable and able to transform our minds and hearts.  What do you think?  Do you believe that there is value in having our member hear the Scriptures read to them as they follow along?

Often, those of us who minister to people who are intellectually disabled romanticize our population.  It is the most wonderful group of people with which I’ve worked.  However, like the rest of the population, there can be glaring bumps, blemishes and distractions.

While her mother remained as part of  her life, Windy was raised by a doting father.  His greatest compliment to her was “good enough for a girl.”  When she turned 21, she was placed in a group home about a 100 miles from her father.  Extremely withdrawn because of her inability to speak clearly, Windy was basically nonverbal.  After several years, the family learned that she was being sexually molested on the back row of the church by a “normal” man who was her own age.  This abuse has marred her personality and outlook in a multitude of ways.

Merrianne’s mother has spent much of Merrianne’s life in jail.  Merrianne has seen and heard things that I cannot even imagine.  Her perspective on life is much different from many of our Special Gathering members who were raised in stable households.  When I first met her, I was put off by her brash manners.  Yet, as I’ve gotten to know Merrianne, I have known very few people who have a heart for God like Merrianne.  She wants to grow in the Lord and every painful inch is time of celebration for her.

Yesterday, as we sat in a Bible study, I saw another inch achieved.  The teacher was speaking to another member.  “You have lived on your own for years; and you don’t like people interfering in your life.  Christians seem bossy and meddling to you.”  Merrianne leaned her chin against her fists that were resting on the table and whispered, “That’s me.”  Later, as we drove home, she commented on the class and indicated that she needed to be studying the Bible more.

In reality, these are not isolated cases within the disability community.  Again and again, as we learn about the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, we find that their lives have been filled with abuse and insecurity.  But they survive and most of them thrive when they continue to live in an environment of love and acceptance that a Church family provides.

How different are Windy and Merrianne from me?  I must admit, there is more than a few IQ point; but they are people with real needs and real desires.  They are men and women who respond to the Gospel with joyful acceptance and expectation.  Perhaps Windy and Merrianne are more like you and me than we assume.  Because like every other peson who have ever lived,  they deserve to hear the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice and the joy provided by a loving Savior who died that they might have life.

I spent the past few days in South Carolina with The Special Gathering program director.  During that time, I shadowed her during the week, observing the activities of that Special Gathering.  On Thursday afternoon, we went to a weekly Bible study.  This study is mainly attended by the Walterboro SpG leadership team.

I was impressed by several things.  First, each person is responsible to get to the study.  There were 13 people attending.  Five of their regular attendees were not present because their staff had planned a shopping trip to a larger, neighboring city.  Transportation is always an issue for people who are mentally challenged.  Perhaps, part of the success in their attendance is because they live in a small town.  However, when week-after-week the leadership team comes, it is an impressive achievement.

Second, the members of the class lead a lot of the discussing.  Their input was valuable and valued.  This was important and proved that these men and women were growing in the Lord.

Third, there was eager participation.  Each person gave valuable input but their enthusiasm was impressive.

Fourth, the class lasted for an hour and the members were attentive and responsive all during that time.  Almost everyone will tell you that a class that lasts this long is not wise within our community.  However, even after the class was dismissed, the members did not want to leave.  They continued to linger for another half hour.

While the circumstances of my program is different, I’m taking a new look at some of my tactics after spending time with the members of this program.

Have you ever visited another special needs program?  What were some of the things that impressed you?  What were the things you learned?

Three weeks ago, I planned my lesson for this last Sunday.  I wanted to have our members make get-well cards for two people who are in the hospital.

I was a bit leery because the Bible study teachers at Special Gathering are possessive of the time spent with their class members.  They don’t like to share.  This, of course, is a good thing.  However, I try to not interfere with this half-hour when they are teaching the Word to their students.

It seemed like a good idea three weeks ahead of time, but as the Sunday approached, I became more and more apprehensive.  In my mind, I settled on a plan to let the teachers take the members of their classes into their respective rooms and have them do the cards as class units.

When I arrived at First United Methodist Church of Melbourne, which graciously hosts our Sunday morning chapel services, the campus supertindent met me at the door.  In a bit a frenzy, he reported,  “Your Special Gathering Bible classrooms are completely filled with things that will be sold next Saturday at the rummage sale.  I don’t know what you are going to do for classrooms.”

I smiled, clutching my get-well cards to my heart.  “That’s great.  It seems God had other plans for today.”

It isn’t often that the Lord clearly breaks into our lives, helping us to understand that He walks before us and directs our lives.  However, when a coincidence is too supernatural to be ignored, even the greatest skeptic must agree that the Lord does indeed help, direct and guide our lives.

I can hardly imagine how difficult this concept must be for our members who are mentally challenged and may even wrestle with other disabilities.  On the other hand, they seem to grasp these difficult principles with the gusto of an anxious toddler.  Perhaps, they are more blessed than we can ever imagine.

This is a long entry but I think you will enjoy it when you are preparing your sermons.

Repost: 20 Scripture Twisting Techniques Up front I will acknowledge that this is a copy and past article I grabbed from the Fightingforthefaith.com website. Fighting for the FAith/Pirate Christian Radio is a podcast that takes the time to compare what people are saying in the name of God to the word of God. Its an excellent podcast, though I suggest that you come at with some pretty thick skin because it tends to be pretty forthright and unapologetic in its pursuit of proclaiming Bibli … Read More

via Youthguyerik's Blog

Of course, there are many differences between men and women but one of the biggest differences is the attitude toward tools.  Men love tool and love inventing tools.  There is a tool for every job a man has to do.  Did you know there is a special wrench used exclusively for adjusting spark plugs?  Another one for adjusting the carburetor on your car?  There is even a widget that is only needed to replace the screens of your house.

Women on the other hand love to work with whatever is available.  Give a woman a metal nail file, a butcher knife and a pair of scissors; and she will attempt to conquer the world. 

At times those of us in specialized ministries are told how special we are because we do what we do.  Usually, we smile and thank the person.  However, we know that this is actually not the truth.  At The Special Gathering, we work with people who are mentally challenged.  Our members are more like other adults than they are different.  Even though we do have different tools in our tool box from those used in the normal congregational setting. 

First, we must insure that our members are safe.  I jokingly say, “I’m the only pastor in South Brevard or Indian River County who carries rubber gloves in my suit pockets.”  But rubber gloves are merely the beginning.  We must check our members when they arrive and when they leave.  We must insure that they are safe about each half hour by doing a visual check on many of our members.   

Second, we need some training in how to teach.  Our members learn on a third to fourth grade level but socially they are kind of stuck in junior high.  Nevertheless, they have all the concerns and worries of any other adult.  Combining those skills while understanding that our members must be treated with the dignity of any other adult, does take some fine tuning of your teaching skill set. 

Third, we have transporatation issues.  Today, I’m minus a van to pick up my members because the church that lends us their vans needs to use it.  I have to rearrange my transportation schedule.  Our members don’t drive.  If we don’t pick them up, they probably won’t get there, no matter how much they want to attend.  We have learned, that if we pick people up, the attendance rate is 80 to 90 percent.  If we depend on others, that is, support staff to provide the transportation, their attendance drops to 30 to 40 percent.  And the longer support staff is used, the greater the decrease in attendance.

Of course, there are other issues that face us.  On the other hand, there are some pretty important things that we don’t face.  Our members are extremely grateful for anything we do for them.  We often say that we are the only pastors in town who are loved by all of our members.  Part of our tool box doesn’t have to be a way to pacify our parishioners.

If you look at statistics, our congregations, are fairly large.  But no matter how successful we become, we don’t have to be concerned about anyone else wanting to take our jobs.  In the years, I held positions in the local church, there was always someone aspiring to take my position or wanting to tell me how to do the job I was doing.  At Special Gathering, we have no sandpaper attachment needed to smooth over the feelings of people who want to take our positions.

Also, our members are pretty stable emotionally.  There are some members who have a dual-diagnosis but they are definitely in the minority.  When I first ventured in to this ministry, I was warned by my pastor to beware of this population because they are draining.  Then I explained that I would be working with people who are mentally challenged and that they are surprisingly emotionally stable. “Oh,” he said with a grin.  “Then you’ll be working with people who are less draining than I do.”

Yep, those of us who are on staff and volunteer at Special Gathering believe that we have the best positions in the Church.  We are working with people who are grateful, helpful and pretty stable.  Weighing the pros and cons, I’ll keep my tool chest. 

What are some of the things you do with your members that are different from what you would be doing in a different congregation?