A quick report on last weekend’s workshop by Sally Patton, author of Welcoming Children with Special Needs: A Guidebook for Faith Communities. The turnout was relatively small, but the dozen people who gathered last Saturday at First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis to hear Sally’s presentation were rewarded with a wealth of information on how to make our congregations more welcoming to everyone. If you haven’t read Sally’s book, do. And if you haven’t had a chance to attend one of her workshops, keep an eye out for one and try to attend–you won’t be sorry. I was especially impressed with Sally’s tips for making religious education less like school. Things like: mix age groups; provide more experiential activities; and engage children in storytelling instead of having them read out loud. I’m really, really in agreement with Sally’s number one point in this regard–quit using terms like “Sunday school” and “religious education.” Children and youth are in school five days a week, why the heck should coming to church be more of the same. I wrote a sermon based on the really awful promotion the UUA came out with in the ’90s that featured a girl with her arm around a little boy saying, “It’s like regular school—except nobody flunks.” If that’s all we have to offer children and youth for faith development, then we’re really letting everyone down, not just kids with special needs.
(By the way, I’ve got four extra copies of Sally’s book in the district office, and I’d be happy to send them off to congregations in Prairie Star, so if your PSD congregation didn’t have anyone at the workshop, and if you don’t have a copy of Welcoming Children with Special Needs in your Lifespan Faith Development library, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send a copy to the first four readers who respond.)