KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BNC) — This Fall, the Karns congregation will conduct a Special Needs Day Camp for children with special needs. The following is an interview with Kim Higginbotham, a member of the body at Karns and a Special Education teacher, who introduced this idea to the congregation.

How did you come up with the idea for such an event?

Having worked with special needs children and their families throughout the years, I noticed that a very small number attended any type of worship services.  Consequently, I did a little research and discovered that 80% of families who have a child with special needs are not attending church services at all.  Some of the reasons given included:

  • My child is not welcomed in any of the children’s activities.
  • When I took my child to Bible class, he was wheeled to the corner and sat there until I picked him up.
  • It’s not worth it.  My child cannot handle the sensory overload.
  • When my child is loud, people stare at us and shake their heads.
  • I asked the leadership if we could find someone to help my child during Bible class, but I was told that they were not responsible to find babysitters for me.

Upon learning these facts, I emailed a short questionnaire to congregations in Knoxville and surrounding communities.  The four questions asked were:

  1. How many children do you have with special needs in your congregation?
  2. What types of disabilities do they have (if you know)?
  3. Does your congregation provide any special services/programs for the child or their parents (example: special classes, seminars for the families, VBS, respite care, etc).
  4. Does your congregation have any sort of outreach for special needs children or their parents within the community?

From the responses received, I learned that none of us had any programs in place to help these families.  As the church, we should be looking for ways to minister to all people, so I thought we could surely find a way to make a place for these precious children.

What’s the significance of the name, “Forever His?”

I love the name, though it is really a more of a description. Special-needs kids are born sinless as we all are, but unlike the rest of us, they never let sin defile them. They live their lives in innocence, and come to the end of their lives just as pure and safe as babies.  They truly are forever His!

Are there any particular things that you hope to accomplish through this special camp?

We have three goals we wish to accomplish.

  1. We wish to minister to these special needs children with the love and kindness of Jesus. Children were a priority in Jesus’ ministry.
  2. We also wish to reach out to the parents and siblings of these children.  We want to let them know we acknowledge the special challenges they face and want to minister to them in the name of Jesus.
  3. We want these children to help us become more Christlike. We need them to be our teachers, and to help us learn such Christlike qualities such as compassion, perseverance, gratitude, patience, forgiveness and love.
Teacher Kim Higginbotham

Teacher Kim Higginbotham

What will this day consist of?

We are planning a “Fall Day Camp.”  The children will participate in songs, Bible story time, puppets, games, crafts, and outdoor activities.  Each child will have 1-2 volunteer “buddies” that will help them participate in all activities to the fullest.

What are some of the special challenges of conducting a day like this?

We really want this day to focus on children who cannot successfully attend a typical VBS program.  Special considerations must be made for each camper’s safety, medical needs, food sensitivities, bathroom/diapering needs, and mobility and sensory issues.  We want to be prepared for whatever need a child comes to us with.

Included in our camp staff will be a physician, several registered nurses, therapists, special education teachers along with a host of other volunteers.  A detailed registration form will have to be completed at least a couple of weeks in advance so that we can adequately prepare for each child.  We plan to limit the number in attendance for this first event to 15 children, so spots may fill quickly!

What are the date and time for this event?

We have scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.  Sign in time will begin at 9:30 a.m., and the day-camp activities will be from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Any final thoughts?

Just a reminder of what Jesus said,

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

For further information concerning this event, contact Kim Higginbotham by email.