Our ministry is called REACH (an acronym for Reach EAch CHild). Reach started from a little seed of an idea planted when a parent at a local special needs preschool told of the difficulty they were having finding a church home that would welcome their son who has autism. She asked if there might be a place for him at Cascade Covenant Church and if it would be OK to bring him. Wow…if there’s any place families should feel welcomed, accepted and loved, it’s our churches! It dawned on us that we’d been hindering this whole population of kids and Reach was born. Our theme verse is “Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them.”
Reach currently has three branches in operation: Sunday morning, a monthly respite program, and a prayer team. Our Sunday morning program offers a couple of options. For children who can function in the typical classroom but need a bit of assistance, we have buddies who attend class with their student. For those kids who find the regular class too much of a challenge, we have a self-contained special needs class which has two teachers—one of whom is a special education teacher in our school district. We currently have a class roster of 10 kids, with anywhere from 2 to 8 attending on any given Sunday. Ages range from 4 years to 3rd grade; our class is based on ability/need rather than age. We also have several kids in regular classes who have the option to come to this room if they’re having a difficult morning. We work closely with parents and our children’s ministry director to ensure each child is in the best environment for his/her need, enabling the richest, most positive experience possible.
We also offer Rest Stop, a monthly respite program. Rest Stop is open to any family with special needs in our area and provides an evening of free childcare at the church for those kids and their typical siblings. Kids have lots of activity options, including a large motor room, crafts, music, movie, nursery, several different play areas and allergy free snacks. We currently serve 40-45 kids with a typical waiting list of 15-20 for any given month. Ages currently range from infant to 13 or 14 years. It’s been an amazing experience to watch our volunteers, schools and general community embrace this program and we continually trust that God will supply volunteers needed to keep up with the demand!
The third branch is our Reach Prayer Team. Each Reach family at CCC has a person praying for them specifically as well as for our ministry in general. Our theme verse is “The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” and we’ve found this to be true time and time again. We tell this team that they’re the backbone and unsung heroes of this ministry; their prayers have been a cornerstone of the growth Reach had experienced.
Submitted by: Angela McCann, Cascade Covenant Church, North Bend, Washington