I see glimpses of the Kingdom of God all the time in Mosaic Kids, but my favorite moments are seeing our friends with special needs fully engaged, known, seen, and loved throughout the ministry.
We are passionate about serving every child who walks through Mosaic’s doors. Our hopes are to meet the needs of kids—not regardless of their story, but with their story in mind.
Whether they have medical challenges, learning differences, are newly adopted, or are navigating the instability of foster care; we want all kids to know that they are seen, known, and belong in God’s family and are created to impact the world for his Kingdom. This deep-felt desire within our church has led to the creation of a special needs ministry called Sidekicks for any of our kids that need a little extra assistance to be successful in a classroom environment.
side·kick | \ ˈsīd-ˌkik \ noun 1. a close friend. 2. an ally or partner
As humans, often when we face a challenge, we just need a little extra guidance—someone who gets us. During a Sunday morning, our Sidekick volunteers spend intentional one-on-one time with their kids: investing in them, getting to know their likes and dislikes, becoming familiar with their learning preferences, and sharing God’s story with them.
Our Kids ministry gathering spaces, classrooms, and curriculum are already built with accessibility in mind. For example, the stage and video hostings are at a lower volume. There are no flashing lights. And the curriculum activities are mobility-sensitive and often have sensory-satisfying elements built into them. As an inclusion-first ministry, our goal is to make every effort to help our kids experience success in the gathering space and classroom setting alongside their peers. We believe that incorporating all of our kids together in the classroom echoes His vision for a diverse, unified church community.
For kids who have greater difficulty in a classroom environment, though, we have a sensory Sidekick Room where they can have space to walk, run, and use our larger sensory tools like swings, compression blankets, and trampolines. While they do these activities, a volunteer works with them one-on-one through a simple curriculum of Bible verse memory puzzles, musical worship, and a Bible story video recorded each week by the familiar faces of our Mosaic Kids volunteers.
Every kid is different! Some stay for the worship and Bible story elements of the larger kid spaces and then move to the Sidekick Room for “small group time.” And some kids are engaged in class the entire time where we always have headphones, a favorite blanket, or a certain “fidget” ready for on-the-spot sensory aid.
Parenting is a journey full of both beautiful and brutal moments. Just as our kids need to experience being seen, so do we often as parents and caretakers. We want to come alongside our families with special needs and let them know that they are not on their journey alone.
Our Mosaic Kids team has been on a long road of learning, pursuing training in childhood development and trauma-informed care related to spiritual formation and well-being. In that pursuit, they have gathered all kinds of resources for parents and caretakers. They also have lots of experience with kids and families from unique backgrounds. A great resource in itself is simply to talk with them—they’d love to listen.
This is a free, family-respite program founded by Nathaniel’s Hope that we host. At Buddy Break, kids with special needs (and their siblings) can make new friends while their parents/caretakers get a break from their ongoing responsibilities for two hours on a Saturday morning twice a month. Kids are teamed up for the day with a Buddy, alongside whom they play games and enjoy crafts, activities, therapy dogs, and other memorable moments. View the Mosaic Calendar to sign up for future Buddy Breaks.
Our Mosaic Adoption and Foster Care team would love to get to know you and coordinate a Care Community to support your family. Care communities are small groups of 5 – 10 friends who become co-sojourners on your safe, foster, and/or adoption journey by offering practical day-to-day support through things like bringing meals or groceries, helping you clean the house, watching your kids to give you a break, being available for late-night phone calls, and more.
Trust and expectations are so important in relationships. That’s ultimately what we hope to see cultivated between every child and their Sidekick—an authentic, enduring friendship. We’ve learned that when our kids with special needs know what and who they can count on when entering Mosaic Kids, possibilities for fun, community, and spiritual growth flourish. This is why we try to pair each child with the same Sidekicks, who will help co-pilot their experience at Mosaic Kids every week with consistency.
Our volunteers all enter the program with varying experience levels. Some come with lots of professional or personal experience, and some simply come with hands, feet, and a heart for serving. All are capable of being excellent Sidekicks! They begin their training by shadowing one of our more experienced volunteers and then, based on their prior experience level, are paired with a child that matches their strengths. (One of our Mosaic Kids staff members remain present to cheer them on and fill in any gaps.) Over time, as a volunteer becomes increasingly more comfortable, they may be paired with more high-needs children. Our experience has been that God always provides the precise person needed in that season. He’s pretty great like that.
If you’re interested in becoming a Sidekick, fill out the application to join the Mosaic Kids Team.
In 2018 we entered a new chapter at Mosaic with the Every Moment initiative. A key part of this next step in our story includes a buildout of our Winter Garden campus, utilizing the building’s unused expansion space in a plan we affectionately call Phase Two.
We are very excited about the addition of an indoor playground area (see concept art below) as space for our kiddos with special needs to have a safe area to run around and burn off excess energy with large motor activities! Also, additional classroom space and bathrooms will help keep our classrooms and small groups small and transition times calm, which is a huge factor in creating sensory-friendly environments.
Playing is like a language for children. In that sense, playgrounds create space for kids to speak with every bit of who they are and Mosaic Kids can be a safe space for that to happen.