Young people enjoying the sensory space at Spree Central

Help us continue to include all children and young people

3rd Oct 2022

‘On the tenth day of the first month the people went up out of the Jordan River. They camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho.’ Joshua 4:19

Joshua 4:19 (New International Readers Version, as used in the Accessible Edition, a project we are collaborating in with Biblica)

Your support is helping us to continue to include children and young people with additional needs on Urban Saints summer Camps and in weekly Groups!

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Summer Camps and Spree

Thanks to your ongoing support, this summer I was privileged to be able to serve at two very different Spree weekends; the camping festival style of Spree South-West with its funfair, and the outward bounds adventure style of Spree Central held at Rock UK’s Frontier Centre. Both included a diverse range of young people, some with additional needs, all on a unique journey with God.

Providing a sensory safe space at Spree gave all of the young people a chance to enjoy the weekend at their own pace, with the opportunity to take time out to be in a quieter, more relaxed sensory space.

We offered a place to just ‘chill’, a blackout den for anyone wanting to shut everything out for a bit, relaxing sensory experiences including bubbles, buckets of water beads and gunge to put their hands in, as well as colouring and painting. Ear defenders were available for anyone struggling with loud noise, and fidget toys were provided to help young people to regulate their sensory overload. We had some graphic Bibles to explore, gentle music playing, and natural lighting.

Supported by volunteers who gave some of their time at Spree to help serve the young people in the sensory safe space, we were also able to chat with Group Leaders about how to make what they do in their own settings more accessible, inclusive, and a place where everyone belongs.

“This space made it possible for my son to enjoy Spree… and would be essential if he were to go again. It also meant that my husband and I could take the rest of the youth group. Thank you.” - Spree Central Group Leader

Your support also made it possible for me to be able to provide specific additional needs training to Camps Leaders, such as the team at Studland Venture who had several autistic children coming to Camp. This training enabled them to support the children much better, as well as reassuring families that their children would be well cared for, valued, and included while on Camp.

See later how you can continue to help us to support and enable Camps Leaders to include and understand children and young people with additional needs.


New training programmes

Earlier this year I updated you on the work we were commencing to build two new training programmes to add to our ‘All Inclusive?’ range of additional needs training courses.

Your support then has equipped us to bring these plans to fruition now, as the first of these new training courses ‘How to Include Autistic Children and Young People in Church’ was launched in June and has proved to be very popular indeed!

“Thank you so much for the training yesterday, despite having a lot of experience as a teacher and a parent and godparent to several children with additional needs, I always find your training helpful.” - Participant on the first ‘How to Include Autistic Children and Young People in Church’ training session.

The Grove Book that this training course includes has already become an essential guide for any children’s or youth worker who supports autistic children and young people in their setting. Approximately 1,200 copies have already been used by churches and Groups across the country.

We’re currently completing the second new training course, based around the ‘Invited to Belong’ resource, which we will be launching at this year’s ‘National Youth Ministry Weekend’ (NYMW).

The ‘Invited to Belong’ resource is making a big difference already, and the new training course will help it to be used by even more children’s and youth workers.

We’ll bring them inspiring stories of inclusion done well, immerse them in the encounters that Jesus had with people with additional needs, help them to identify barriers to belonging in their own context, and equip them with the skills and knowledge to break these barriers down.

We’ll work with them to craft what their own vision for belonging will say and inspire them to reach out to children and young people with additional needs to invite them all to belong.

“I just wanted to let you know how useful we’re finding the ‘Invited to Belong’ resource. We used some of it at our youth group team meeting this week, along with some of our young leaders, and it produced some really helpful conversation. We’ve come up with a good list of ways we can make our group better and more inclusive! We will continue to use it at future meetings. The individual fact sheets are a great source of information. Thanks for all the resources you put together. They are really invaluable.” - Youth Leader, Thrive, Leeds

See later how you can continue to help us to resource and equip children’s and youth workers who are reaching out with the Gospel to children and young people with additional needs.


Other highlights of 2022 so far

This year looks as though it’s going to be the busiest year that we’ve ever had in equipping and supporting children’s and youth workers, church leaders, parents and carers, and lots of other people who are passionate about working with children and young people with additional needs.


Training and conferences

Thanks to your support, by the end of 2022 we will have delivered over 70 online and in-building training and conference events, reaching and supporting around 2,000 participants to make a real difference for the children and young people they journey with.

“We had a brilliant evening last night with Mark Arnold of Urban Saints. Mark really knows his stuff and the material is superb! I cannot recommend Mark enough…” St. Matthew’s Fulham


Writing and recording

In 2022 so far over 60,000 people have visited ‘The Additional Needs Blogfather’ website and viewed the blogs there over 75,000 times!

“Thank you for your inspiring words. Each one of us is made in God’s image no matter how that looks.” Review from a blog reader.

We’ve also had opportunities to write articles and resources, and record podcasts and videos, for a wide range of publications and ministries over the year in the UK, Europe, and North America.

“An inspiring and informative conversation about how to create accessible and welcoming environments for young people with disabilities.” - ‘Limitless’ leadership podcast, Elim churches.


Support communities

Membership of the ‘Additional Needs Alliance’ online learning and support community has increased by another 200 members in 2022 so far to almost 3,000 children’s and youth workers, parents, church leaders and more, each one being inspired, supported and equipped by the content there. We have nearly 80 churches now in our Accessible Churches map and directory, helping families to find a supportive church near them.

‘The Dads’ Fire Circle’ continues to help and support Dads of children with additional needs, with a website, a monthly live gathering, and a Facebook group for Dads to connect with other Dads and talk about things; helping them to cope better and stay involved in supporting their children.


Plans for the rest of 2022 and how you can help

As we give thanks for all of the ways that you’ve enabled us to bring change in 2022 so far for children and young people with additional needs, we continue to push on into the last few months of the year with plans to continue to equip Urban Saints Groups, Camps and connected churches as they reach out to children and young people with additional needs in their own communities. Here are just some of these plans, we would love you to be involved in them:


Camps and Sprees

Equipping and supporting all Camps and Spree’s to plan to include all children and young people with additional needs in 2023. With your help we want to offer places for every child and young person, by making sure that Camps and Spree teams are trained to support them, as well as providing every Spree with a staffed sensory safe space.


Groups and Churches

With your support we want to ensure that all Urban Saints Groups, as well as many church-linked groups, have access to additional needs training for their Leaders, giving them the skills, understanding and resources to enable them to include every child and young person.


Reaching marginalised families

We know, as Members of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, that families with children with additional needs have disproportionately struggled over the past couple of years. Many are still struggling, feel marginalised, and don’t know where to turn for support; their stories are harrowing. With your encouragement we want to equip churches with the tools to reach out to families near them, offering practical and pastoral help, and the love and hope of the Gospel.


Please continue to support this vital work

We can only do this much-needed work, making a real and vital difference for children and young people with additional needs, and their families, with your help and I am deeply grateful to everyone who faithfully journeys with us in the Additional Needs Ministry. With your continued support we will be able to meet our immediate project and ministry costs for the end of the year by raising the £10,000 we need as a response to this autumn appeal to continue this vital work.

Will you partner with us once again to help us reach our autumn appeal target and play your part in continuing to change the reality for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities?

We hope that with your help the verse that I shared at the beginning will be true for all children and young people next year:

‘‘On the tenth day of the first month the people went up out of the Jordan River. They camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho." - Joshua 4:19

Please help us ensure that every Camp is better equipped to include everyone who comes on Camps next year, and that every Group is a place where children and young people with additional needs can belong.

Thank you so much for your continued encouragement and support, it is greatly appreciated and is making a big, big difference! We couldn’t do all this without you!

Mark Arnold - Additional Needs Ministry Director, Urban Saints

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Find out more about the different elements of our Additional Needs Ministry and the work Mark Arnold does to support and champion children and young people with Additional Needs:

Additional Needs