When you’re serving as a Switch Support leader, it can be very easy to fall into a slightly skewed way of thinking. It happens to everyone from time to time, and we should be on guard against it.
The incorrect train of thought goes a little something like this: I’m here to make sure my student is okay and that they have their needs met. That’s it.
What is incorrect about that way of thinking? This:
- The student you serve has needs and you’ll help meet them. That’s awesome! But, that’s not it. You should also be looking for ways your student can use their gifts to build up the Body of Christ—including their peers and you!
A friend of mine recently shared a little story of how her way of thinking changed regarding a younger child she was supporting at church. It starts with Ephesians 2:10, the verse of Scripture that explains how we are God’s masterpieces. That we were created to do the good work He planned for us. No asterisks. No exceptions. All of us were created to do good work God has planned for us. Here’s what she wrote [names removed for privacy]:
Years ago, when I first felt God prompting me to be a LifeKids Buddy, I was paired up with a sweet older boy. He was nonverbal, in a wheelchair, and liked to be on the move. I was so nervous, but his mom reassured me we would be fine. We settled into a routine of visiting the auditorium while the worship team was practicing. He loved the music. We would sit for as long as he would let us in his peer age’s classroom for the story and then we would walk around the halls—me singing off tune and reciting verses to him. I remember a couple months in, telling his mom I didn’t think I was doing enough. I didn’t know what he was thinking. He seemed happy, but I felt I should be doing more to teach him about Jesus. She smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t worry at all about him spiritually. I’m very confident that the Holy Spirit is communicating to him in ways I won’t even understand until heaven. God has him.”
“But,” she continued, “have you thought of ways that [my son] could serve? God has a calling on his life to reach others—just like you and me. Why don’t you pray about it?”
I was confused by her statement, pondered it all week, and hadn’t really come to any conclusions by the next week. But as we strolled off towards worship practice, I stopped to pray with him and asked Jesus to show us who we were supposed to serve that day.
As we walked into the auditorium, the worship pastor yelled out, “Oh, good! There you are! We were wondering! Having [this little guy] in here helps us not just practice but remember why we’re worshiping and Who we’re worshiping. Glad you’re here.”
As we went to class for the story, we sat next to a little girl who was crying. As I went to comfort her, [my little guy] handed her one of his sensory toys he always carried around. To this day, I don’t actually know if he handed or dropped it, but it was just what she needed as she gave him a big smile.
And as we walked around the halls, we ran into a teenage boy who was clearly not happy to be in church. He sat outside the service and did not make eye contact with anyone as he sulked. I said hi and as he briefly looked up, I could tell he was caught off guard. As we continued to make the rounds, he started looking for us and asking questions. I watched as a moody, sulky teenager became engaged and conversational. By the end, he got up and walked around with us.
[This boy] was not just someone for me to be a buddy to. He is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand. I just got to push his wheelchair and watch as God used [him] to love and reach other people for Him.
First, isn’t my friend awesome! She represents support goals for sure! Second, how often do you begin your evening with prayer, asking God how He wants your student to use their gifts?
Do you know what your student’s gifts are? Ask God for help to recognize them! A gift of a truly loving smile, a truly honest sentiment, a high five when you need it most, gifts of godly insights and intuition, and so many more. Check out this article for more ideas on some of the gifts God may have placed in the student you’re serving.
How can you help your student use their gifts at Switch? You’re supporting their ability to attend, so that’s the most important first step! Here are some more ideas.
- Help them join in during small group discussions. Just being a part of the group opens them up to being able to show empathy and support when another student voices a problem they’re dealing with. It also opens them up to being able to better pray for the needs of their peers throughout the week.
- Help them find a task they can complete. Does your church need help with setting up? Cleaning up? Maybe handing out materials for a special element of the evening? If the student you’re supporting has a gift for focusing on details or a gift of serving, you could ask if your campus could use their help with any supporting details at Switch from time to time.
- Help your student to mingle. Is your student able to tolerate any of the more open and social elements of the evening? Help them to mingle! I remember a teen who had Down Syndrome at my church years ago. She had a knack for finding someone who looked sad or quiet and giving them a smile! She gave the best hugs and encouraging words ever. Do what you can to support your student so they can use the discernment God may give them to interact with their peers in the way God is asking them to.
- Pray. Start with prayer just like my friend did. Not sure what to pray? Try this: God, how can [my student] serve You and others? Help us to be open to whatever You want to accomplish tonight.