Last week I wrote a post called When One Student Shows to talk about the issue of when only a single student shows up and how to handle it. Let’s look at the opposite problem today.

You have just finished your running around to buy all the food and supplies you needed for tonights big event. You ran through your check-list and have the exact amount of stuff you need to make it all work. You put it all down, organized it then the students start showing up. Quickly you realize all the students your students who are suppose to show are there, but you have another 5 to 10 students (change the values for your church size).

Oh what a problem to have, we always would love to see more numbers but when this moment happens its an uh-oh kind of moment. How are you going to deal with it?

So you have too many students show up and you are suddenly confronted with their eager faces; or their my mom made me come faces. You have to snap into action to make things happen.

A few steps I think are very important to take are:

Be Welcoming
Its not the students fault you aren’t prepared, and they matter just as much as the kids who RSVP’d to the event. If you can take the student do your best to make them feel welcome and bring them into the event.

Have a chain of command
I believe that if you have the volunteers it is important to have roles defined. Make sure you have a person you can rely on to run and grab more supplies or free up a seat in a car to be able to drive (if possible)

Be ready to say no
If for some reason you can’t accept the student for that event, you just have to be able to say no. Stick to deadlines for RSVP’ing if it is a major event that requires pre booking or lots of transportation. But don’t leave it there, be ready to be able to answer that student or parent why they cannot attend

Plan ahead
In my ministry there have been times when too many students have shown up and I get frustrated. I think to myself why can’t they just RSVP?, but I knew there was a good chance extra students might have come. So I have had to think hard about certain events. Well extra people might attend this one, so I make sure each vehicle going has an extra seat so we can fill those up if need be.

Maybe this isn’t an issue for your ministry, for others this can be a huge issue because of budget, number of volunteers or venue space. But one thing we can all learn from too many students is how we deal with people. Could this even be too many ministry volunteers? (In my dreams).

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

Over the past two years, I’ve had the honor of working with parents and practitioners who minister to children and adults with disabilities.  Time and time again, main themes emerge as potential roadblocks to working with those who require something a little different than your average presentation of the faith. Three themes follow, along with some wisdom I’ve gained along the way

Creating a Welcoming Environment
One common roadblock is a congregation or a class that doesn’t fully welcome an individual with special needs. Sadly, individuals or families may sometimes be turned away from attending services or classes or receiving sacraments. Here are a few tips that might help change minds and hearts so all of God’s children are welcomed in community:

  • Invite experts in the field of disability to speak to your audience about the importance of welcoming those with special needs. Invite speakers to emphasize that an individual with special needs does indeed have a spiritual life and should be invited to participate.
  • Help others use “people first” language in which words place the person before the disability, such as she has autism versus she is autistic. A simple Internet search can provide many positive examples.
  • Adapt spaces and seating arrangements so everyone can feel included.
  • Provide adaptive faith-related materials, such as The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit or The Adaptive Reconciliation Kit by Loyola Press.

Teaching to Strengths
Teaching individuals with disabilities requires us to look at each person uniquely, to identify his or her strengths, and to differentiate our approach. Try these ideas to help teach to a person’s strengths:

  • Talk with family members. Find out what works and what doesn’t in school and social settings. What motivates this person? What calms him or her? What causes anxiety or discomfort? What assistive materials might help this person?
  • Watch for feedback, facial, physical, or verbal. Being a careful observer can help you assess a person’s level of comfort or understanding.
  • Modify and adapt your approach. For example, if a person has a physical disability, consider presenting ideas visually or verbally. If a person has difficulty maintaining attention, make the learning hands-on and active.

Recognizing Signs of a Disability
Take some time to learn about the disabilities of those you serve. Pay attention to characteristics that might be misinterpreted as irreverence or inappropriate behavior. Chances are, these behaviors are signs of a disability. These characteristics are often signs of a disability that should be received with tolerance and compassion:

  • involuntary movements such as tics, tremors, or vocalizations
  • lack of eye contact
  • inability to give a verbal response or a confusion in providing a gestural response (such as shaking head no when the individual means yes)
  • difficulty swallowing
  • holding ears, pacing, or other gesture that signals sensory issues

So let’s remove the roadblocks and work together to help those with special needs experience the richness of a relationship with Jesus and with those who share their faith. We all have different abilities. We are all needed. We are all valued.

Joellyn Cicciarelli is a national workshop presenter and the director of curricula development at Loyola Press, who oversaw and helped develop the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit and the Adaptive Reconciliation Kit.