Manningham Uniting Church is preparing to launch a new ministry in the form of a Friendship Group for neurodiverse young people aged 12-16, called Catching Your Breath.
The phrase catch your breath commonly refers to the act of slowing down to enable you to breath normally after a period of intense physical exertion. Likewise, we live in a fast-paced world, bombarded by stimulation and mental challenges that can leave us emotionally breathless, especially for those who live with anxiety and other challenges. We all benefit from dedicated opportunities to mentally slow down, collect our thoughts, share our feelings and ideas, and refresh our capacity to cope with life’s difficulties – to catch our emotional breath. We do this best in the company of friends.
The aim of this ministry is to create a friendship group for neurodiverse teens that is uniquely designed to help participants make friends, explore questions about faith and life, and experience Christian fellowship in the process.
Exploring and reflecting on matters of individual faith and experience, including the insights offered by Christian tradition, is a principal component of the facilitated discussion component of the program. However, there is no presumption that participants must subscribe to this theology. The hope behind this program is that participants will achieve a meaningful understanding of God by experiencing genuine Christian friendship and values and sharing ideas. However, the program will also encourage participants to hangout, share a meal, engage in recreation, and enjoy the start of another weekend.
The term neurodiversity refers to individuals who experience neurobiological challenges, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette Syndrome, dyslexia, anxiety and much more. Neurotypical teens are also warmly welcome, but the group is designed for and held by the neurodiverse participants.
Catching Your Breath aims to demonstrate the unconditional love of God for all human beings and create a safe, social space that welcomes persons of all persuasions to come as they are, regardless of their sexual orientation, philosophy or faith/no-faith traditions. In this way, we hope to create opportunities for participants to connect and form caring supportive friendships, while also exploring the role of faith in everyday life.
Finally, we plan to encourage parent/carer participation by offering a concurrent, but separate hover zone where parents and carers can mingle and remain close in case their support is needed – the Café for example. In time, this may become an opportunity to offer support to these individuals as well.
At present, we hope to begin this ministry sometime in June/July during Friday evenings from 6:30 – 8pm, twice a month. Greg and Maria Rublee will serve as program facilitators and will be seeking to recruit and train several volunteers to be a friendly presence and help supervise activities. We will also be planning offer a light meal for the young people and volunteers. Any help with meal preparation would be most appreciated. We expect to cater for approximately 12-15 to start. All volunteers must complete or be current in Safe Church Training. We will also provide a two-hour training session to help you get acquainted with neurodiversity.
We are excited to take this step, as a church, toward supporting a substantial, under-served part of our community.