Advocacy Leaders Create Solutions and Special Needs Ministries
Impactful leaders provide training, resources and environments that include those with special needs.
With a degree in Christian education, Naomi Mitchum set out to do something important with her life. She says, “The trip has been fun and the future continues to be exciting.” She worked as director of Christian education in Kansas then director of youth work at Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Oklahoma. Adds Naomi, “Along the way I wrote teacher enrichment materials and curriculum for the United Methodist Church, and served as inaugural chair of the Texas Conference Committee on Disability Concerns of the United Methodist Church. I like starting new things --from a youth choir or conference committee to the Circle of Friends student program at Chapelwood UMC in Houston.” Having recently retired as the volunteer director of the special needs ministry, she directed her passion for writing by recently founding Ramps’nthings Press, a not for profit DBA publisher doing books and materials on disability.
“I’ve enjoyed debuting the curriculum I’ve authored within Chapelwood’s ministry with persons with special needs,” shares Naomi. She even has a book about a youngster with vision challenges, which people of all ages can relate to. Her passion for helping churches become accessible led her to start naomimitchum.com where churches can learn how to prioritize and solve their accessibility issues. She has also written UMC disability website in the field of emergency preparedness.
Notes Naomi, “When I asked the Texas Conference to form a Committee on Disability Concerns (required by the Discipline), I suddenly found myself in charge so I recruited a team of specialists who tackled conference disability problems, developed disability awareness and developed at-your-door-workshops that took team specialists to local churches. This came in handy when one church wanted to become accessible in the face of historical designation, another needed architectural help, and another needed guidance on a program of sign language.”
Although mainstream publishers issued many of her books, in 2010, Naomi formed Rampsn’things Press, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to publishing relevant materials for persons with disabilities and those who teach them, play with them or just enjoy their company. The Press recently published her book for Sunday school teachers on how to teach an inclusive classroom.
She authored Every Child Can Bloom in the Inclusive Classroom as a guidebook with practical information about how to create a church and classroom for all children including those with disabilities. It is an easy-to-use book with reproducible pages and teaching practices Naomi has used for the past 15 years. “It is important for churches to be accessible to all,” she adds, “and to create comfort zones for people of all ages – with or without disabilities.”
Disabilities Ministry in the Community
St. James UMC in Beaumont is also a leader in this important arena. Reverend Dr. Janice Gilbert shares that St. James is partnering with Disability Ministries of Grace to encourage, educate, strengthen, and provide training and resources to individuals living with disabilities in the community surrounding the church. “We started the Ascensions to Visions of Hope Support Group in an effort to help individuals with disabilities come together in a faith-based peer support setting,” notes Rev. Gilbert. “Sharing experiences helps participants gain encouragement through the Word of God to help cope with faith and disability in an atmosphere of encouragement for persons with disabilities and their loved ones.” Support Group Sessions are held at St. James UMC every 1st and 3rd Thursday evening of the month from 5:30 - 6:45 p.m. The partnership and the congregation is meeting this challenge by reaching out to persons with disabilities from the community. This support group offers opportunities to praise and worship, listen to dynamic and well-regarded guest speakers, to share personal testimonies, enjoy entertainment, and an extended opportunity to experience the power of prayer.
To access resources for special needs ministries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.