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BASS 2015 Cometh!

BASS 2015 Cometh!


Oh, the belly aching going over here… If you follow me on Facebook, you know last week was the Joni and Friends Global Access Conference.  Nearly 900 of the planet’s most passionate and experienced disabilities ministry advocates, representing 148 countries and 39 US states, all converged in S. California to teach, learn, mutually inspire and be inspired.

But I couldn’t go 🙁
Poor ole me spent the week stalking #globalaccess2015 on social media, savoring/anguishing over all the astonishing posts (this and this and this!) of beloved JAF friends.  Insane, Christian envy blended with sublime, irrational joy to form a sweet and sour emotional cocktail, which I sipped through a gnarled straw jammed in between my gnashing teeth.  

Only a little melodramatic and woebegone here.

But God had mercy on me.  Consolation came in the form of attending the West Coast

Christian Writer’s Conference over the weekend, where I was floored to be awarded the John Drury Scholarship for church leaders who write as an extension of their ministry.

2015 West Coast Christian Writers Award.

I do not even care about the extra N.  N as in NO WAY?!”


The prize includes a $1,000 scholarship to the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, a bucket list item this Special Needs mom couldn’t afford.  So thankful for the timely affirmation and encouragement, especially after such a brutal year

Today’s post highlights further consolation (especially if you gnashed your teeth because you couldn’t attend Global Access either.)  In less than two weeks on March 6-7, the 52nd annual BASS Conference 2015 begins!



BASS 2015 Special Needs Ministry Track

Founded in 1963, The BASS Church Workers Convention held in Castro Valley, CA is committed to educating, equipping and encouraging workers in Bay Area churches. At $49 per attendee, it’s practically a steal for practical training on a range of ministry subjects.

Every year, I look forward to learning and being equipped at the Special Needs Ministry track, coordinated by Debbie Lillo and the San Francisco Bay Area team of Joni and Friends.


This year’s workshops include: 


1. Autism and Your Church: Successful Sunday Mornings
– Kris Volkir

Autism Spectrum Disorders and their effects on families and the church are explained. Inclusion strategies and tools will be shared to help you have Successful Sunday mornings in worship and your Sunday School classroom.


2. A New Normal
– Julie Keith

Individuals and families affected by special needs to through a grieving process. Life has not turned out the way they had hoped and dreamed. Often, grief is not recognized or identified for the individual and or family to move forward. Come learn how to identify the various cycles of grief, learn strategies for walking an individual or family through the cycles to help them to discover a New Normal.


3. Practical Tools for an Irresistible Buddy Ministry
– Jan Joaquin

Children with special needs are often left out of the circle when it comes to learning about God’s Word. This workshop will answer many of your questions and give you practical tools for setting up a 1:1 Buddy Ministry that allows these students to be included with their peers. You will come away with the tools and encouragement to begin and grow your Special Needs Ministry that will benefit your families and volunteers.


4. Special Needs: Disability Ministry Leaders Panel
~ All speakers & local ministry leaders

Ministry Leaders representing a broad variety of disability ministry models will share their first-hand experiences, give tips, and answer your questions.


5. Ages and Stages of Special Needs Ministry
– Julie Keith

Children who have special needs grow up to be teens and adults who have special needs. As they grow the methods and ministries must grow too. In Ages and Stages we will identify major transitions, ways to minister in these transitions, critical issues to address and procedures to implement to continue to minister with individuals who have special needs and their families.


6. Bridging the Gap: Responding to Mental Illness Within the Church
– Marie Fang

Although mental illness is as prevalent in the church as anywhere else, it’s often not addressed in seminary and infrequently brought up in the context of church. Often when mental health issues arise for church leaders there may be shame, theological questions, and lack of education that leave leaders feeling ill-equipped to properly respond. This workshop intends to focus on addressing some of these common issues that may arise in the church surrounding the topic of mental illness through lecture and open discussion.


7. Welcoming with Compassion
– Debbie Lillo

In this workshop you will learn to sensitively welcome individuals with disabilities and their families. You are often the first face they will meet and your response may affect the likeliness that they stay. You will gain general disability awareness and gain specific skills to welcome them into the church.


8. Unlocking the Mystery: Keys to Addressing Challenging Behavior and Limited Verbal Skills
– Debbie Lillo

This workshop will consider causes for challenging behavior and will suggest best strategies for encouraging positive behavior. While our primary focus will be on supporting individuals on the autistic spectrum and other who have limited language skills, the strategies will be useful for working with all children and teens.


9. A Place for All in the Kingdom of God
– Julie Keith

Individuals with special needs and their families are often disconnected and isolated from their community. They need to know there is a place for them in the Kingdom of God. Come discover ways for your church to reach, teach, and minister to children, youth and adults with special needs and their families; learn how to be an extension of God’s grace in their world.


10. Special Needs Ministry: “It’s Only For Big Churches!” & Other Myths Dispelled
– Diane Dokko Kim

“We’re a small church. We don’t have Special Needs families. We don’t have the resources, budget, space or staffing. Let the big churches do it!” Dispel common myths and hesitations of launching a special needs ministry. Diane will share from her experiences at three different churches, to survey the unique assets and potential challenges of special needs ministry at various sizes and stages of development. If your church is praying about a new Special Needs ministry, seeking fresh ideas to support an existing one –or any stage in between– receive encouragement and practical ideas for right where you are.


11. Walking with the Siblings of Children with Special Needs
– Anna Penner

Churches are in a unique position to care for an overlooked group: the siblings of special needs children. Growing up with a special needs sibling is very different from only having typically developing siblings. These siblings are often encouraged or expected to help care for their disabled sibling or help their overwhelmed parents around the home more than their peers are. These children also grow up more quickly than their peers and often feel like they do not quite fit in. The church has a wonderful opportunity to recognize and build up their value as children of God and individuals apart from their disabled sibling. To give them the support and safety to question a loving God who handed them an unfair life. To come alongside and walk with them on a tough journey. This session will discuss some of the hurdles facing these siblings as well as practical ways church communities can walk with them in their faith and daily life.


12. Practical Tools for the Special Needs Sunday School Classroom
– Kathy Weltner

Children and adults with special needs often have difficulty learning in a traditional manner. This workshop will give you practical tools to help all students learn about Jesus and have the opportunity to come to know and love Him. You will learn how to use multi-sensory tools to engage all learners including those with mild to severe cognitive, communicative, physical and/or behavioral impairments. Topics will include: teaching using a multi-sensory approach that focuses on students’ strengths; actively and creatively engaging all learners in a lesson; useful items for a special needs classroom.


Workshop Speakers

This year’s keynote is Dr. Julie Keith, Special Needs Pastor at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena.  Her church, “PazNaz” is featured in the two-part episode of Joni and Friends, “Making Sense of Autism: Truth for the Church.”  STRONGLY recommended viewing!  It’s one of my top picks for vision casting (The WHY’s) and volunteer training (The HOW’s.)  Be sure to watch!

PazNaz ministers to and through ~100+ families affected by special needs.  They model in brilliant Technicolor what God can do when a church community embraces Special Needs as core to its mission.  I’m eager to learn from one of the country’s most experienced disability ministry leaders.

Six additional ministry leaders complete the presentation team.  I’ll be sharing their bios on Facebook in the coming week leading up to the conference:

    • Jan Joaquin, Church Relations Coordinator for Joni and Friends Central California.
    • Kris Volkir, Church Relations Coordinator for Joni and Friends in the East Bay.
    • Kathy Weltner, Bridges Special Needs Ministry Director at CrossPoint Community Church, Modesto.
    • Marie Fang, Psy.D in marginalized populations and individuals struggling with finding a sense of identity, severe mental illness, developmentally disabled children/adolescents, and Southeast Asian refugees.
    • Debbie Lillo, Church Relations Manager at Joni and Friends Bay Area. Bridge Builders ministry lead at Saratoga Federated Church.
    • Diane Dokko Kim, yours truly 🙂


BASS 2014 Special Needs Ministry Presenters

BASS 2014 Presenters


Special Needs Ministry: Does Church Size Matter? 

I’m looking forward to presenting, Special Needs Ministry: “It’s Only For Big Churches!” & Other Myths Dispelled. Many churches erroneously assume Special Needs Ministry is best suited for large churches only. As one who has sat on both sides –as a SN parent/beneficiary and SN ministry leader– at different churches of various sizes and cultures, it’s simply not true and I’m eager to dispel that notion.

Small, large, new, old –and every church in between– each have unique assets and challenges that God can use to bless families.  Just as each person with special needs has a unique makeup and needs, so does each family, and so does each church.  That’s why different sizes and “flavors” of Special Needs Ministries are needed.  One size –or church– does not fit all. Every ministry presents unique offerings, just like every person does. The only universal?  Size doesn’t matter, only the size of HEART.

With 1.5 million families in the San Francisco Bay Area affected by Special Needs, we are a well-documented “hot spot” for disabilities like autism and ADD/ADHD. Encountering differently-abled people in our schools, churches and community is a mathematical certainty.  How shall our churches engage… or not?  Who else but isolated and marginalized Special Needs families needs to hear that their children are wonderfully and fearfully made?  It’s imperative for all churches to be prepared to receive these families.


So register now!

Register at the BASS website.  Individual registration $49. Group (church) rates begin at $99 for 2+ attendees.

If you know anyone interested in receiving invaluable How To’s of Special Needs Ministry training, don’t miss out on this once-a-year opportunity. Inspire and equip your ministry teams, volunteers and leadership.  Be ready for that inevitable moment you’ll say, “So, there’s this kid…”

What’s been your experience as a Special Needs Family and/or ministry leader?  How have you been better (or worse) served at a church because of its size?  Do you have a preference?  Or perhaps your experience has been one of struggle, to be received at all.  I’d love to know your story.



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