Setting Up a Group
Here are a few steps that may help....
1️⃣ 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 and find out about general disabled access in your building as you may have physically disabled children who need specialised facilities and access.
2️⃣ 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 any children with additional needs who may struggle in Sunday School. There could also be parents who are thinking they may need to consider special education for their children, and this could be a suitable group for getting a taster of what it might be like in a special school environment.
3️⃣ 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. I’ve always aimed for a 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.
4️⃣ 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.
When you know of children who would like to come to the group, I suggest meeting the parents individually. In the information on ‘running a session’ I mention an enrolment form. It’s a useful form to complete with them when discussing the needs of their children to make sure all aspects of care are covered.
5️⃣ 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. It doesn’t have to be every week. We started out offering Aslan 3 times a month and the 3-year plan reflects this, but we have dropped to twice a month, mainly because of the level of volunteer commitment required.
I plan rotas 3 times a year: September-December, January-April, May-July. I then email the information to the leaders and to the parents. I also let the church office know so that the room is booked out.
6️⃣ Communication leading up to sessions
I have found WhatsApp a useful tool for communication. I contact each parent individually a few days before we meet to find out if their child can come on the following Sunday and to find out if there have been any particular issues we should be aware of. I also have a group for the leaders so that I can let them know who is going to be attending and how I have arranged the 1:1 allocation.
7️⃣ Plan a session
With all these things in place you can now go to the Topics page and prepare your first session!
There is a lot to think about so please don’t hesitate to contact me via the ‘Hi’ button if you’d like some more help. I’m happy to answer queries via that link, or to set up a time for a phone call if you would prefer that.