Friday Night Breakouts

Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship - Barbara Newman & Tory White || Looking for new ways to introduce someone to Jesus who may not prefer methods involving only spoken words? Are you wanting ideas for building life-long habits of worship and prayer? Come to this very practical session you can implement in the home or at church. ministry focused

Special Needs Ministry -- You Can Do It! - Stephen "Doc" Hunsley || Has God called you to start a Special Needs Ministry at your church, but you don't know where to begin? Whether you are a small church or a large one, this workshop will answer the questions of how, what, and why. Learn different classroom environments; types of behaviors; engaging and partnering with church staff and community organizations; and helping your church become an inclusive place for those with special needs. After this workshop you will realize that YOU can do special needs ministry at your church! ministry focused

Emotional and Spiritual Support for Hurting Families - Barb Dittrich || Do you have a family who has just received a new diagnosis or who is in a crisis situation with a loved one who has a disability? Learn the 10 most common spiritual questions for families at these times, how to address them, and how to offer practical encouragement. Strategies for ongoing support and growth will also be detailed. ministry focused

The Keys to Living Well In Spite of a Mental Health Challenge - Brad Hoefs || In this breakout session, Pastor Brad will explore various key elements in mental health recovery that are universally helpful to people living well in spite of their mental illness and/or challenges. family focused


Friday Night Quick Takes

The Values that Shape Our Movement - Dr. Steve Grcevich|| How can ministry organizations, churches and individuals with a personal call to disability ministry most responsibly steward their gifts, talents and resources to maximize their impact for God's Kingdom? The president and founder of Key Ministry identifies three guiding principles associated with the rapid growth of the disability ministry movement and reflected in the design of this conference for leaders to apply in the day-to-day operation of their ministries.

Click here for the slides and video of Dr. Grcevich's presentation.

How Disability Ministry Can Impact a City - Marie Kuck || So much focus is put on what we do inside the four walls of the church. But what could it look like if we took our passion and did what Jesus told us to do? GO!...into the world and share His radical love. Marie will share ways that Nathaniel’s Hope has attempted to think outside the box and has been able to impact thousands in the the Central Florida community and beyond.  This Quick Take will be sure to make you smile.

Click here for the video of Marie's presentation.

Diversity, Disability and the Future of Christianity - Lamar Hardwick || The presence of diversity and inclusion carries with it a deeply spiritual dynamic that generally cannot be experienced without it. Perhaps this is why American Christianity is attempting to be much more intentional about becoming diverse. The future of the American church requires a more robust understanding of the spiritual and theological implications of disability being included in the pursuit of diversity. This session will provide three spiritual and practical strategies for the local church to develop a more diverse and more disabled church in an effort to reflect the nature and beauty of God's kingdom. ministry focused

Click here for the video of Lamar's presentation.

Getting Started: What You Need to Know About Envisioning a Special Needs Ministry - Jillian Palmiotto || Practical steps of how to create a vision plan for the various cultures of churches and provide a plan to putting together a well thought out proposal that includes topics on: creating special environments, budgets, volunteers, and communicating with parents. ministry focused

Click here for the video of Jillian's presentation.

Every Church Can Be Incarnational - Keith Dow || When we hear "Incarnation," we may think of theological catch-phrases, Christmas, or the Apostle John. In this session, though, we take the principle of Christ's Incarnation to the day-to-day practices of ministry. How might we vulnerably embody what we believe in the lives of people of various abilities? What does it look like to get in touch with our experiences of grief and limitation as well as the joy and celebration of sharing life together? By opening ourselves to our own embodied experience, we are better able to journey with those who experience life differently. Join Keith Dow, a Canadian pastor with a large Christian organization serving people with developmental disabilities, to explore how the Incarnation transforms our practices of church care. ministry focused

Click here for the slides and video of Keith's presentation.

How Well Can You Take a Hit? - Tiffany Crow || "He hit me, he HIT me!"  Did it hurt? No. All I knew was that he hit me and that was a line he should not cross. My journey starts as a first grade teacher walking a student to the principal's office in a frenzy. Some 15 years later, that same teacher has been transformed.  God set me on a path that transformed, not only my career, but my heart. I now ask people that I work with, "How well can you take a hit?" As a Behavior Analyst consulting in local school districts and a part-time Special Needs Coordinator at Brazos Pointe Fellowship, I would like to share my journey of embracing problem behavior. When families are welcomed and loved because of problem behavior, such as physical aggression, instead of being ostracized and excluded, lives can be changed. ministry focused

Click here for the video of Tiffany's presentation.


Saturday Session One Breakouts

What Am I Supposed to Do With This Kid? Understanding How Trauma Impacts Development and How You Can Help or Hurt the Healing - Dr. Sherri McClurg || Whether at home, Sunday School School, or elsewhere, as families respond to God's call to care for the orphan we are seeing more vulnerable children up close and personal. It doesn't take long to realize that early childhood trauma has taken a toll on the child and traditional forms of parenting don't have the same effect. Come learn how early childhood trauma impacts development, and strategies for helping grow and nurture a child who comes from a place of hurt, mistrust, and loss. This is a great workshop for parents, foster parents, teachers, and anyone working with kids from trauma. family focused

Parenting Special Siblings - Lisa Jamieson || Be encouraged and inspired as we open a dialogue about the challenges, disappointments, advantages and opportunities of raising siblings in a family affected by disability. Lisa Jamieson, author of Finding Glory in the Thorns and founder of the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection, will share candid perspectives about raising three children including one who has Angelman Syndrome (complex health issues and severe developmental disabilities). Topics will include sibling conflict, balancing attention, grief processing, dealing with social stigmas and misunderstanding, family vacations and managing stress. Participants will leave refreshed with basic principles and numerous practical ideas about how to enjoy more victories and deeper graces despite the reality of weaknesses in every family. family focused

They Do Remember: Impact of Early Medical Trauma - Jolene Philo || This workshop provides basic information about trauma and PTSD in children. The first half of the session defines trauma and PTSD, debunks popular myths about the condition, and explains causes of trauma and PTSD risk factors. The second half of the workshop describes symptoms of PTSD and reviews effective methods of treatment. It also explores measures designed to prevent childhood trauma from becoming PTSD and provides a resource list. Parents are encouraged to participate in the question and answer period at the end. family focused

What a Caregiver Really Needs - Barb Dittrich || According to Joni & Friends Christian Institute on Disability, an excess of 80% of those with disabilities are unchurched. The spiritual health of the family begins with parents. This workshop will detail simple ways that churches can become more inclusive by beginning to serve the needs of parent caregivers. Participants will be empowered with do's, don'ts, and practical tools to apply immediately in their church homes. ministry focused

Training Volunteers to Include Children and Students with Special Needs - Stephen "Doc" Hunsley || This workshop is geared towards any volunteer who might work with an individual with special needs from birth through adulthood in a ministry setting. You will learn general considerations for individuals with special needs that will allow you to be successful in working with them. We will also give you a tool box filled with crisis prevention techniques and walk you through several real life scenarios to help you feel confident and prepared to handle any situation that may arise in a special needs setting. You can easily take this back home and train your volunteers as well. ministry focused

What Can You Do to Promote Mental Health Ministry in Your Church - Catherine Boyle || In this session, attenders will come away with a template to help start a mental health ministry. The presentation includes: how to identify mental health champions in your faith family, recommended first steps to launch your ministry, important community contacts for your church and ideas for graciously handling resistance to mental health ministry.


Helping Your Child or Teen with Mental Health Issues to Grow Spiritually - Dr. Steve Grcevich || One in five kids in the U.S. meet criteria for at least one mental health disorder. Common attributes associated with ADHD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders and post-traumatic stress often present subtle, but very real barriers to church participation and spiritual maturity. In this session, we’ll help pastors, ministry leaders and parents recognize the ways in which common mental health conditions may interfere with spiritual growth and identify strategies for helping kids impacted by mental illness to become the adults God created them to be. ministry focused and family focused

Click here for the slides that accompanied Dr. Grcevich's presentation.

Straight Talk on Coping with Special Needs Parenting Stress - Jolene Philo || Research shows that the stress level of parents raising kids with autism is close to that of combat veterans, This workshop briefly explores both why raising kids with special needs is stressful and why parents seldom acknowledge their daily, ongoing stress. The majority of the workshop will summarize practical strategies parents can implement to cope with and reduce stress, discuss when to seek professional help, and review therapy options proven to effectively minimize stress. family focused

Outreach Strategies in Special Needs Ministry - Beth Golik || Is your church looking for ideas to engage families with special needs in your community? This workshop will equip you with ten event suggestions and provide you with implementation strategies with a focus on partnering with community organizations. You'll be encouraged and prepared to take the next step when you get back to your church.  ministry focused

Every Church Can Do Something About Problem Behavior - Tiffany Crow || You are only scratching the surface of special needs ministry if you limit your outreach to those that are well behaved.  It is the families experiencing problem behavior that are a true spiritual, emotional, and physical battlefield.  This is your opportunity to show them Jesus! Participants will gain:
-A knowledge of how the environment shapes behavior (Participants will be able to objectively observe problem behavior.)
-A knowledge of how to change the environmental event to change unwanted behavior (Participants will be able to determine tangible steps to change behavior.)
-Steps to manage small yet persistent problem behavior (i.e. interrupting, off topic or inappropriate comments, leaving assigned area, touching others.)
-Steps to manage significant problem behavior (i.e. physical aggression, running out of the building/designated areas, yelling, cursing, self- injurious behavior.)
-Steps to find and keep the right volunteers (It's all about the personality not the experience.) ministry focused

Inclusion in Christian Schools: The Why and the How - Barbara Newman || Discover 10 key tools and principles in equipping Christian Schools to welcome each child. Learn what multiple Christian Schools in places all over the US have discovered: The JOY of being one body together in Christ! ministry focused

Disability Ministry: Beyond Children's Ministry - Ryan Wolfe || What can ministry look like for teens, young adults, and adults? ministry focused

Saturday Session Two Breakouts


Redefine Special - Melanie Gomez || What if your “bundle of joy” is wrapped in a diagnosis that seems anything but joyful? Melanie Gomez has been there herself, and offers a way to find peace, hope and yes, even joy, within the storm. This workshop will cover five of the most common emotional challenges faced by parents of children affected by disability, and address each with a specific biblical response to replace fear with courage, disappointment with contentment, anxiety with peace, hopelessness with hope, and sorrow with joy. Be prepared to redefine the word special. family focused

Is That True? Five Common Beliefs that Make Hard Times Harder - Jonathan McGuire & Sarah McGuire || In the Christian community there are often things we hear or say to each other in an effort to encourage, that sound good and we accept as Biblical fact but in fact make life's challenges more difficult.  In this workshop, we will look at five common sayings, comparing them against scripture, and look at the impact they have on the parents of children impacted by disability. Through this workshop, church leaders will be better equipped to come alongside parents who are struggling and parents will find comfort in realizing their faith is not weak during these challenges. ministry focused and family focused

Diversity, Disability and the Future of American Christianity - Lamar Hardwick || The presence of diversity and inclusion carries with it a deeply spiritual dynamic that generally cannot be experienced without it. Perhaps this is why American Christianity is attempting to be much more intentional about becoming diverse. The future of the American church requires a more robust understanding of the spiritual and theological implications of disability being included in the pursuit of diversity. This session will provide three spiritual and practical strategies for the local church to develop a more diverse and more disabled church in an effort to reflect the nature and beauty of God's kingdom. ministry focused

Click here for the slides that accompanied Lamar's presentation

How to Be a Special Needs Advocate in Children's and Youth Ministries - Sarah Broady || Our children should all have a place at church. In order to accomplish this, we must both prepare our children for sunday school or youth group, as well as preparing church leaders for our children. For parents of children with special needs who want their child to be able to attend church classes and activities, our advocacy as parents continues from the realm of school to the realm of church. From dealing with difficult church leaders to talking about the blessing of church leaders who "get it" and include our children to the fullest extent, we will talk through different strategies parents can take to address a variety of problems or potential issues with their church leaders. Parents will leave encouraged and equipped with ideas to take home with them in order to enable their children to be included in their church ministries. family focused

Starting a Special-Needs Ministry - Jillian Palmiotto || Jillian will cover the steps of how to create a vision plan for the various cultures of churches and provide a plan to putting together a well-thought out proposal that includes: creating special environments, budgets, volunteers, communicating with parents, etc. ministry focused

A Flexible Model for Inclusive Special Needs Ministry - Jason and Sara Hague || In this session, Pastors Jason and Sara Hague will demonstrate how their church developed an adaptable children’s ministry, flexible enough to meet the numerous and changing needs of the special needs families in their congregation. What began as a Sunday morning sensory room for their severely affected son with autism has expanded into a ministry that allows many children with special needs to be included in typical Kids' church classrooms and the worship service, to become teachers' assistants, and even to learn job skills in special internships. They will also discuss strategies for convincing pastors how important and doable this type of ministry is, and for mobilizing churchgoers to the cause. ministry focused

Saturday Session Three Breakouts


What Families Need from the Churches They Attend - Sandra Peoples || When Sandra's son was diagnosed with autism in 2010, their church in Pennsylvania started a special-needs ministry that reached many families and was featured in articles by Baptist Press and Christianity Today. But when their family moved to Texas, they realized how many churches still weren't able or willing to welcome their family. In her quick take, Sandra will share what they looked for each time they visited a new church. Her simple answer may surprise you. 

Click here for the video of Sandra's presentation.

Puzzle Piece Living - Barbara Newman || Learn from a biblical vision for individuals and communities and discover the very practical ways this perspective impacts our conversations, parenting tools, and congregational life. ministry focused

Click here for the video of Barb's presentation.

Dads Panel - moderated by Brian Dahlen || Featuring John Felageller, Jonathan McGuire, and Jason Hague, these dads of kids with disabilities will talk about the blessings and challenges they face and encourage other dads. Viewers (live and online) will have a chance to ask questions the panel will address! family focused

Click here for the video of the Dads panel.

The Depressed Special Needs Dad: How to Support and Understand Him - Jason Hague || When his son was diagnosed with severe autism, Jason Hague became the stereotypical depressed dad: distant, powerless, and sad. Why is this picture so common? Why do special needs fathers crash so hard? And what can the church do to help restore them to a place of confidence and hope-filled vitality? In this session, Jason will pose some answers to these questions as he tells his own story of authenticity, fellowship, hope and healing. ministry focused and family focused

Click here for the video of Jason's presentation.

Five Minute Vacations for the Exhausted, Wrung-Out, Frazzled Parent - Jonathan McGuire || Being the parent of a child with disabilities or special needs can be an all-consuming, 24-7, no breaks kind of responsibility. But, if we never take a break we will break - physically, emotionally, even spiritually. We need to step away and refresh so we can continue to care for our precious child(ren), but how do we do that when our child's needs are overwhelming. Through this workshop, even the most overwhelmed parent will be equipped with tools and ideas to refresh themselves, even if all they have are 5 minutes. family focused

Click here for the video of Jonathan's presentation.

Moms Panel - moderated by Sandra Peoples || Featuring Sarah Broady, Sarah McGuire, and Sara Hague, these moms will talk about topics specific to moms of kids with disabilities. Viewers (live and online) will have a chance to ask questions the panel will address! family focused

Click here for the video of the Moms panel. 

Indispensable! - Mona Fuerstenau || Grow your ministry to and for people with disabilities, into ministry alongside them and ultimately by them. Scripture support and ideas to challenge and elevate your ministry. ministry focused

Click here for the video of Mona's presentation.

The Princess Within - Lena Hartman || I teach our "Special Angels" class at our church. We just hosted a Princess Within Special Needs Noncompetitive Pageant, which had a huge impact on the approximately 150 people in attendance. It focused on inner beauty which everyone has. Each girl (about 22) received a crown and sash and was celebrated and escorted by a uniformed policeman or fireman. I talked about our inner beauty and what it is and how we all are princesses as we are a daughter of a great King.   We all have physical flaws of some sort, but our inner beauty is what matters and makes us most beautiful. ministry focused

Click here for the video of Lena's presentation.

Marriage Panel - moderated by Sandra Peoples || Jonathan and Sarah McGuire and Jason and Sara Hague will chat about topics related to marriage and raising kids with disabilities. Viewers (live and online) will have a chance to ask questions the panel will address! family focused

Click here for the video of the Marriage panel.

Living with Autism and Growing in Faith - Ron Sandison || Ron Sandison an author, motional speaker, and minister shares his amazing journey of autism and faith. He shares his personal challenges having autism and how God helped him overcome by learning social skills and handling sensory issues. Ron teaches families and church leadership ways to help individuals with autism and disabilities to grow spiritually. While writing his book A Parent's Guide to Autism Ron interviewed over forty young adults with autism and over forty professionals in the autism community and he share the wisdom he gained from these interviews. He also will teach practical methods for ministering to young adults with autism and building a fruitful autism ministry. family focused and ministry focused

Click here for the video of Ron's presentation.

Saturday Panels & Quick Takes