In 2013 Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, Georgia) created a staff position to oversee special needs inclusion for all of its family ministry environments. Jillian Palmiotto, a former special education teacher and longtime children’s ministry volunteer, became the church’s first Family Ministry Special Needs Ministry Coordinator. A couple of weeks ago the newly named “Unlimited” Special Needs Ministry opened a sensory room. The room serves as a wonderful alternative environment for students who can benefit from the space during any part of their church experience. I was thrilled to be part of the room’s inaugural Sunday and loved meeting the students, families and volunteers involved in the ministry. The staff at Mount Paran did a great job designing the new room and extra kudos goes to Jillian’s husband, who created the brilliant sensory wall.
I met Jillian after she had been on the job only a couple of weeks at Mount Paran. She mentioned a timeline she had just drafted, outlining goals for the ministry’s first year. Jillian is a girl after my own heart! Of course I begged her to share the planning document here. Like many of you, Jillian is navigating new territory, figuring out her own job responsibilities on a daily basis. Now, inching toward the end of one year on the job, Jillian points out that many goals from the original outline (shown below) have changed or moved into the ministry’s second year. As many of you already know, flexibility is arguably the most important attribute of a special needs ministry leader.