The Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints took a big step forward earlier this year, as Mark Arnold took a step of faith out of his previous Chief Operating Officer role to work full-time as Additional Needs Ministry Director, taking forward this ministry that has been building, by God’s grace, over the last few years. Here’s just a few highlights from the things that Mark has been up to during the year:
This training helps children’s and youth workers, church leaders, parents, practitioners, everyone who is engaged with children/young people with additional needs, to include, create belonging for, and disciple every child.
By the end of the year, we will have inspired, equipped and resourced over 1,500 people at 42 training events or conferences across all four nations of the UK (against a target of 40 events). We already have a further 20 training and conference event bookings for 2018 and expect next year that we will reach up to 2,000 people at 50 events overall.
People taking part in the training love it and find it really helpful as they aim to reach and support children and young people with additional needs or disabilities:
"I was blown away with the relaxed, warm, friendly yet professional approach and delivery of the session with the minimum of fuss – it was wonderful. It had the right balance of listening and practical work and the resources were very well laid out and will be a “go-to” resource when we have questions. I feel really supported now in this area, and know that I can approach you and the Urban Saints team for further information and advice as we look to improve our practice with children and young people with additional needs. Thank you for working with us and being so understanding and patient – I wish you all the best as you continue to deliver this vital training in a full-time capacity.”
(Aylesbury ‘All Inclusive?’ event – April 2017)
“Thank you so much once again for Monday night! It was a truly wonderful evening and I've had such great feedback from the team already! They thought you were brilliant at delivering informative and super helpful training in a fun, interesting and very listenable way! It's such a fantastic training resource that every church should hear and I'm so grateful that you have been able to do that for us! Keep up the amazing work Mark!”
(Plymouth ‘All Inclusive?’ event - October 2017)
We’ve been busy online too, with three Facebook Live sessions reaching almost 5,000 people in 2017 so far:
These online training sessions have not only proved to be popular, but have led to further video based training sessions, including for our friends at the Church of Scotland, who asked us to produce a video to support the ‘Learn’ resource book that we are contributing towards: see here.
Another connected service from the Additional Needs Ministry team is ‘All Inclusive:2U’, providing an exciting opportunity to have a one-off consultancy visit from a member of our team to your church.
In May 2017, Claire Dexter from our team visited Bethany Community Church in Harpenden:
“I just wanted to express our heartfelt thanks for the wonderful provision of your service. Our meeting with Claire Dexter proved to be incredibly helpful. Both myself and the leader of our children's work arrived at the meeting feeling out of our depth, weary and concerned about some of the needs a few of our children were presenting. We left our time with Claire feeling envisioned, encouraged, equipped and determined. She was practical and supportive in her approach and her broad depth of knowledge and experience provided us with huge insight into how we could adopt new approaches in the way we worked. Once again thank you for doing what you do and for your service to the body of Christ.”
The Accessible Edition NIrV New Testament was launched in the UK in May. We partnered in this project with Biblica, Torch Trust, and Livability to develop a Bible that is accessible to readers with Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, partial sight loss, and other additional needs. It has proved to be a huge success and thought is now turning to the Old Testament!
The Additional Needs Alliance, of which, through Mark, Urban Saints is a Co-Founder, has grown significantly during 2017, with nearly 500 new Members being added. This alliance includes children’s and youth workers, parents, disability organisations, anyone who is passionate about inclusion for all children and young people with additional needs or disabilities.
Members: 1,330 (End 2016: 856)
Growth: +474 YTD
Mark’s blog, The Additional Needs Blogfather
The blog, theadditionalneedsblogfather.wordpress.com, was a double finalist in the Premier Digital Awards 2017, walking away with the Runner Up award in the ‘Most Inspiring Leadership Blog’ category. As of the end of November, the blog has reached over 5,000 people this year, with over 7,000 views. Mark has now been asked to write a regular additional needs column for Premier Youth & Children’s Work magazine.
Writing has been a big new development for the Additional Needs Ministry in 2017, with a range of articles, blogs and publications, including for DAD.info, the UK's largest digital parenting club for fathers supporting over 1M dads. We are now talking about some video content. In addition to writing, there has been a range of video and radio interviews and resources broadcast during 2017; a selection of these and further articles etc. are available at urbansaints.org/articles-interviews-broadcasts
We supported a number of organisations and denominations at conferences throughout the year, including the ‘3Generate’ annual Methodists Youth Assembly in Southport (www.methodist.org.uk/mission/3generate) representing Urban Saints, overseeing site-wide additional needs support, and helping lead the ‘Still Space’ zone. The weekend brought great connections with the youth streams of the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. We’ve also been involved in the AoG iKids Conference, New Wine Conference, the Life Changes Conference in Belfast, Movement Day and many more.
Networking has been an important part of the Additional Needs Ministry work in 2017, with some great connections across the UK Christian community through denominations, organisations, Bible colleges and key individuals. In addition, great progress has been made in engaging with other children’s and youth organisations including Scouts, Girls Brigade, and even the Cadet Corps. Some training was delivered for a national gathering of Army Cadet Corps Chaplains during the year, who had this to say about it afterwards:
“Many thanks for coming to speak to us at Amport House on Tuesday. The quality of your material was excellent and your engaging style and personality prompted some good and thoughtful discussion. The feedback has been very positive and we all left with not only a better grasp of the challenges, but also some good practical advice and tips. I have spoken with my Commander at HQ… so we may be drawing on your services again. Many thanks once again and every blessing for you and your ministry.”
We even stocked our own Urban Saints range of additional needs merchandise in 2017, including the Accessible Edition Bibles mentioned earlier as well as ‘Fidget Cubes’ which sold really well, and with each one contributing £1 to the Additional Needs Ministry pot, a good fundraising project!
If you would like to know more about any aspect of Urban Saints Additional Needs Ministry work, or would like to book a training event for your church or group, please contact Mark via any of the options below:
30th November 2017