Approach your church leaders
Talk to your Youth and Children’s team leaders and the Leadership Team at your church. It might be helpful to give them a link to this website so that they can find out a bit more about the resources you will have access to. Ask about available rooms. Find out about general disabled access in your building as you may have physically disabled children who need specialised facilities and access.
Who will attend?
Think about which children would benefit from this group. In a larger church you may only be able to include those at special schools. A smaller church could include borderline children – sometimes it takes a while for a referral to special education to materialise, so you may have children in mainstream education, but struggling!
Find some leaders!
It is essential that you have committed leaders. They don’t need to be professionals, but they do need to have a particular interest in special needs. We work on the ratio of 1:1 leaders to children. This is much higher than in a school setting, but this would be my recommendation as you are likely to have a variety of ages and needs.
We meet 3 times a month and not all the leaders can commit to that. The rota takes some working out, but I have found it helpful to have 3 teams made up of a mixture of those who can commit to 1, 2 or all 3 weeks of the month.
Meet the parents
Arrange a meeting for any parents who have children who would benefit from this group. Having gone through the previous steps you will be in a good position to be able to reassure parents that you have thought through a few logistics and that you are ready to offer this facility. In the information on ‘running a session’ I mention an enrolment form. It would be good to give this to parents at this stage so that you have a good idea of the needs of the children.
Dates in the diary
Once you know how many children you are catering for and which leaders are available, you can then decide how often to run the group. You may like to start with running a group once a month and then increase it gradually.
I plan rotas for the leaders 3 times a year: September-December, January-April, May-July. I then email the information to them and to the parents. I also let the church office know so that the room is booked out.
There is a lot to think about so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like some more help. I’m very happy to answer emails or to chat on the phone if you prefer. If so, send me a message with your phone number and an idea of the best time to call and I’ll get back to you.