Edited to add: We matched our grant!!! Our sensory room is covered thanks to your willingness to partner with us. I cannot thank you all enough, I am humbled, amazed, and incredibly thankful!

This is a personal post, from me, asking for your help. Humbling. But, there is a little church that is passionate to reach out to families impacted by disability and we need you to partner with us.

Background

Our church has always had a heart for people with disabilities. Several years ago, the church began a Sunday School service designed specifically for adults with intellectual disabilities. The little group grew, and soon Sunshine Church was thriving! I’m not sure what happened, but eventually Sunshine Church was not able to go on. However, several of those adults continued to attend church.

When they asked us to come take this little church, one of the first things we heard was that there was a significant percentage of the members having disabilities, and therefore, the pastor needed to be comfortable around disability. Yes, they asked my husband (and our family) to come here for a reason.

A funny story

The first time we visited the church, our family walked through the doors and was greeted by six of its members. All of them had a disability! Two of our girls have disabilities too. I looked at my husband and said, “We could not have planned this!”

What happens when the senior pastor has two children with special needs?

So we took the church. A small struggling church, but a church with big hearts for people impacted by disability.

And, you know what happens when the senior pastor has two children with special needs? Other special needs families come! Because if they have had a bad experience at church, they know this is not the place where their kid will be “too loud.” This is not the place where we will say, “Don’t bring your child back.” And certainly not the place where they’ll hear, “Your child’s disability is a result of your sin,” or, “If you had faith your child would be healed!”

Our problem

We are a small church. (If you are a number person, when I say small, I mean that if every member came on a  Sunday, we would have about 60 people, but most Sundays we average about 40). And the majority (about 75%) has a connection to disability. Either as a parent, a spouse, a caretaker, or a person with a disability.

When it comes to Children’s Ministry, we don’t have a consistent Children’s Church time, because we don’t have the numbers (for adults) to make it work every Sunday. We have 16 kids, and half of them have special needs! So it takes at least two adults and a helper on our Children’s Church days. And believe me, we all pitch in!

On the Sundays we don’t have Children’s Church, we try to keep the kids coloring in the back of the sanctuary (we have tables set up for coloring and quiet crafts), or some of us sit out in the foyer, talking, connecting, and listening to the sermon through the speakers in the foyer. We have even walked around the parking lot, pushing kids in wheelchairs.

And you know, there is something beautiful about being with someone that gets it, and being with someone that sits with you in the foyer rather than sitting alone. Someone that walks around the parking lot with a child that gets easily stimulated. We might not have the perfect special needs ministry, but we are in this together, and we are creating a family!

Yes, sometimes church means sitting on the church foyer with a friend, and talking about life, about the hard things, about the fears, about the joys, the celebrations, and praying together.

A solution

A couple of months ago, several of us, special needs moms, were talking about what we needed to do at church to help our kids.

“You know what would be really nice” Staci said, “If we had a sensory room.”

“That would be so nice for my son!” Angie said.

“That would be so good for Nichole.” I said, “Because she does have sensory processing disorder.”

“So does my daughter.” Staci said.

“Oh my kids definitely have sensory issues!” Jessica said.

“So does one of mine, and we are adopting two, so they will definitely have sensory issues.” Said Colleen.

“I have a swing I can donate.” Said Staci.

“I have some therapy balls we don’t sue anymore.” I said.

And we kept going. Throwing ideas, dreaming of what we could do, and what rooms we could use.

“Our kids needs this.” I said.

“And as we invite people to come, we need to have rooms that are a safe place for their kids. We need to be ready.” Staci said.

And friends, churches are sensory overload! For kids with sensory issues, church is challenging! So we want to do something about it!

Rockford First

So my husband and I took a trip to a church in Illinois that has an incredible special needs ministry. We took the tour, asked questions, and learned all about their special needs ministry. Their rooms are…amazing! I was sitting on a swing, with calming lights, and suddenly I was emotional, we could have something like this for our church.

Our plan

Here is the thing. Setting up sensory rooms is expensive! Each room at Rockford first is absolutely stunning, but there is no way that we can afford a sound panel for $3,500.

However, we did learn a lot about what are real needs vs what would be wants.

We are taking two of our rooms and turning them into sensory rooms! One will be a big play sensory room (it will have a ball pit, a swing, a crash pad, a rocker board, a trampoline, and some fun wall mount activities. The other room will be the quiet play, with dim lights, comfy chairs, lots of textures and room to roll around, a swing in there too, and mirrors. We also need weighted blankets, and noise cancelling headphones! And you know what, some of our adults with disabilities will be using some of these items too!

We are also being smart with our purchases. We are making many items, or purchasing them second hand. We are also looking at the kids we currently have, their needs, and asking, “What would be most helpful for…”

We need to raise $5,000 and here is where we need you to partner with us!

And, here is something really exciting! A God thing, what tells us that God is in this and God is good! Upon sharing this on Facebook, we had someone step up and agree to match $2,500!!! We have until June 19 to match it!

I created a GoFund Me campaign, and we already have $1,050, just a little bit more to go!

I asked my friends form church to share with you what a sensory room would mean to them:

“It would mean that not only does my church family love and accept kiddos with disabilities, but that they want to help them be successful. Keeping my girl’s sensory system regulated can be tricky and requires tons of forethought whenever we go out. This will make going to church so much easier for my girl and for myself. Church will be more like an extension of our home.” Staci C.

And this is from a friend, who has now an adult daughter with disabilities, what a sensory room would have done for her daughter:

“My daughter would have benefited from having a room to calm when over-stimulated. Or at other times needed a place to ” run” or ” fight out ” her frustrations. A ball pit to throw balls around, something weighted to carry and transfer frustrations,  to doing something productive.” Robin

So friends, we need your help!

Will you consider helping us? Stop by our GoFund Me campaign by CLICKING HERE.

And thank you for partnering with us!

(Would you considering sharing too?)

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