With approximately 80 percent of people with specials needs and their families not feeling welcome in a church, The Vine Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho decided to take action and reach out to the community.
“It became apparent families with special needs were under served in our community,” explained Rev. Kevin Schultz, pastor at The Vine Church. “I thought to myself if that's a need in our community, why can't we be the church that serves that segment of the population and helps to meets that need?”
Pastor Schultz was interested in hosting a one-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The camp would serve as a way for the congregation to reach out to the community and consider possibly starting a Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) program.
Pastor Joel Gaertner, along with three Martin Lutheran College students, Emily Schmidt, Eliza Punzel and Kaitlyn Roux, successfully hosted the VBS camp at McIntire Family Park along with several volunteers from The Vine congregation.
“Not only did our VBS program serve as way to feature JCM as a resource for sharing God’s word with individuals with disabilities,” said Pastor Joel. “It also provided the volunteers and possible future JCM programs leaders from the congregation with the knowledge and experience to host a program.”
During the event, Pastor Joel and the students shared the Bible story of Jonah.
“Pastor Joel began the event by leading devotion. Next, we did an introduction activity led by Kaitlyn, I taught the lesson and Emily provided the music. We continued with a couple review activities including a game and a craft,” said Eliza.
Despite a low number of participants, everyone made the best of the situation.
“It may seem very disheartening but ended up to be a great blessing. We were able to teach one-on-one and the event had a more casual atmosphere. Pastors Kevin and Joel made connections with the family members” explained Kaitlyn. “I have found that no matter what the activity, meeting Christians from another area and learning about their ministry encourages both them and you.”
Looking forward to the future, Pastor Schultz and congregation members look to host another event for the special needs community and possibly begin a JCM program.
“Everything starts small and we knew this camp would too. We are still figuring out if this is something we can do in our community,” Pastor Schultz said.
The JCM team is available as a resource for new and existing programs. We offer volunteer workshops to provide opportunities to increase your knowledge about this outreach ministry, share your experiences and learn from others. Get involved! Find resources for your JCM program.