Suggested Reading

Grace Without Margins by Deana Boggess

A Journey Through Special Needs, Civil Rights, and above all, Grace
Exceptional Teaching by Jim Pierson
A Comprehensive Guide for Including Students with Disabilities
The Inclusive (Early Childhood) Classroom by Patti Gould and Joyce Sullivan
Easy Ways to Adapt Learning Centers
Teaching Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Charissa Willis
Holding on to Hope by Nancy Guthrie
A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God
You Will Dream New Dreams by Stanley D. Klein, Ph.D. and Kim Schieve
Inspiring Personal Stories By Parents of Children with Disabilities
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes
Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty
“How Difficult Can This Be?”  DVD
The F.A.T. City Workshop
Presented by Richard D. Lavoie
“It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend”  DVD
Helping the Learning Disabled Child Find Social Success
Presented By Richard Lavoie

Grace Without Margins Discussion Questions
By Deana Boggess


One of my favorite verses in the Bible is,

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18 (NIV)

I love that God continually gives me vision.  It would be incredibly challenging to me if I were to ever find myself without one.  I feel fully alive when I can see God’s vision before me.  It helps me get up in the morning and feel wonderfully exhausted when I go to bed at night.  Has God given you a vision for your life?  Have you looked for it?
These are only two of the questions I have for the Introduction to my book, Grace Without Margins.  Below are more questions to think about and discuss with a friend or partner in ministry.
• Have you ever listened to the I Have A Dream speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?  What statement did Dr. King make that stood out to you the most?
• What legacy has been handed down to you?
• What are the hopes you have for your children?
• How have your children challenged you to grow?
• Who have been your “spotters” in your journey?
• Where has Jesus taken you that made you hold His hand tightly?

Chapter One:  Setting the Stage

The stage is set by the experiences of our past.  Our perspectives and opinions are shaped by
them.  This week share with a friend or ministry worker about your upbringing and the
experiences that had an impact on your future.
• Have you ever felt like a minority?  Describe the experience.
• Has racial inequality been a struggle in your lifetime?
• Who was the rock in your family while you were growing up?
• What did your mom and dad’s life show you?
• Describe the types of people that frequented your home as you were growing up.  Who frequents your home now?
• Do you count the cost of doing what is right?  Explain.
• Talk about a time when you had to trust God.

Chapter Two:  The Calling

I have been reading an interesting book, the speed of dark by Elizabeth Moon.  It is written from the perspective of a young man affected by autism.  I am trying to become like him as I read it…thinking like he thinks…feeling what he feels.  He definitely seems to be in the margins of society.
In chapter two of, Grace Without Margins, I talk about those marginalized by society. has one of the harshest definitions of “margin.” It is “a limit in condition, capacity, etc., beyond or below which something ceases to exist, be desirable, or be possible.”  When you think of that definition in terms of people, that is really concerning.
When I think of the marginalized, I think of people that are not in the spotlight, they are overlooked, they are left out and not valued as much as those in the mainstream of society.  Here are some questions to think about and discuss:
• What does it mean for a group of people to be marginalized?
• Have you ever been in the margins?  How did you feel?
• Do you feel God is calling you to serve a specific group of people? How are they in the margins?
Chapter Three:  Strength In Weakness

In Ephesians 3:20 it says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
• Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you felt too “weak” to do something but because of God, you were strong?
• Describe an experience when God did more than you could ask or imagine.
• How did it impact your faith?
• How did it change your ministry?
• What weakness do you have that it would “blow you away” if God used it to accomplish His plan?
• Describe a challenge you have had that blessed you.

Chapter Four:  Setting the Paradigm

Well, here come some tough questions as we take inventory and evaluate the margins that our churches may be characterized by.

• Has your church every turned away a child or a family because it was too hard to serve them?  Was there a valid reason?  How could the situation have been handled differently?
• Do you agree or disagree that the church is called to serve whomever walks through its doors?  Give specific reasons for your answers.
• Would you consider throwing a banquet for the people outside your church doors?  What would it look like?
• Do you believe that everyone is created in the image of God?  What type of person changes that belief?  Why?
These are tough questions, but they are important to answer.  I encourage you to not be afraid of the questions, rather be open to the possibilities.

Chapter Five:  The Call of the Church

In chapter five of Grace Without Margins, I talk about the call of the church.  Below are some discussion questions:
• How have you been received by the church?
• What do you think Christ expected his church to be? Take some time to search Scripture and learn about Christ’s perspective on the church.
• Have you ever had someone visit your church that made you uncomfortable?  Be honest about the experience and share it with a ministry friend.  How did you react?  How could you have extended grace?  What have you learned from the experience?
• As a church who are we called to serve?  What are the next steps your church needs to take in reducing those in the margins?  What do you feel called to do personally?

Chapter Six:  Partnering With Leaders

Sometimes it may take a while to get the leadership of the church on board for a new ministry.  That is ok.  God is working even when you are waiting.

Discussion questions for Chapter Six:

• Is your leadership on board for special needs ministry?
• Have you shared your passion with them?
• Have you introduced them to the people in your congregation you are hoping to serve?
• Have you been gracious?
• Have you been thankful?
• In what ways do you need to be patient?
Chapter Seven:  Serving Volunteers

“No matter how incredible our recruiting efforts were, they needed to be ongoing.  My experience is that recruiting is not an issue that can be solved or eradicated.  You merely become more efficient at it.”
• What are your ideas on recruiting volunteers?  Where will you find them?  What direction or course will you set for them?
• How are you casting vision for your volunteers?
• Have you celebrated lately?  What things do you have to celebrate in your ministry?
• What are the most important things you need to do for your volunteers?
• Are you praying for your volunteers on a regular basis?

Chapter Eight:  Fairness

“Fairness is not about giving people the same thing, it is about giving people what they need.”
“How Difficult Can This Be?” Richard Lavoie

• Do you expect all of the children in your ministry to worship the same way?
• Does it make you uncomfortable if they worship differently than the rest of the kids?  Why?
• Whose weakness needs to be looked at?  The person with special needs or yours?
• Who are you missing out on because they are different from you?
• What have you let a five-year-old teach you lately?

Chapter Nine:  Fear Vs. Pity

Here are some interesting questions to discuss for chapter nine…
• Have you ever been afraid of someone with a disability?  Why did they scare you?  What changed?
• Have you ever been grown close enough to someone that you no longer saw their disability?
• Have you ever experienced a time when your greatest strength became your greatest weakness?  Explain.
• Have you ever experienced a time when your greatest weakness became your greatest strength?  Explain.
• Have you ever pitied someone?  Why?
• Has anyone ever pitied you?  How did it make you feel?
• Have you ever disabled someone with your mercy?

Chapter Ten:  Shun, Enable or Empower

Have you ever thought about what these words mean?  Our perspective on these three words will affect how we interact with people in our ministries and our personal lives.
• Have you ever been shunned?  Have you ever shunned someone else?  How did it make you feel?
• Have you ever been enabled?  Have you ever enabled someone else?  How did it make you feel?
• Have you ever been empowered?  Have you ever helped empower someone else?  How did it make you feel?
• How do you feel about comforting, stabilizing and then empowering families affected by disabilities?  What would it mean for your church to do this?  What changes would you need to make?

Chapter Eleven:  Listening With Your Heart

“The ability to listen with your heart can come naturally, but it can also develop over time.  I think this is one of the many reasons God asks us to serve one another.  It gives us time, in the presence of another, to learn when they need and what they are going to be able to impart to us.  Listen with your heart.”
Relationships are not easy.  Even the ones we think are easy have their difficult moments.  I wish I had heard the phrase “listen with your heart” many years ago.  There are so many relationships and moments within those relationships when I wish I had stopped, taken a step back and listened with my heart.  If I had set aside my own desires…if I had listened to the wisdom of someone else…if I had just comforted instead of tried to “fix” something…if I had listened for the real concern rather than the one I assumed it was… things may have turned out differently.
Listen with your heart when you have a conflict
• with your parents
• with your friends
• with your boss
• with your spouse
• with your children
• with the child in your Sunday School class
• with the family walking through the doors of your church
• and especially, with God

Chapter Twelve:  Wookie Wookie

It has been a blessing to me over the years to find a special greeting for the kids that it takes a little more time to build a relationship with.  Think of a greeting that compliments the child.  For example, I worked with one little girl that could not communicate orally and rarely showed expression on her face.  It was important to be consistent and to greet her the same way the moment I saw her.  With her, I always signed “beautiful girl.”  I can’t say she ever smiled when I greeted her but she always looked for my sign and then would come towards me and hug me.  She will always be my “beautiful girl.”
Turn towards your ministry partner, hold up your hands, make them “talk” and say, “Wookie Wookie.”  Do this over and over.  It was kind of fun, wasn’t it!

Here are some ideas on developing a special greeting:

• Give them a “sign name.”
• Give a “high five.”
• Give a “fist bump.”
• Give them a compliment.
• Greet them with the same phrase.
• In your discussion group, share ways you have done this.  What greeting have you continually used without realizing it?
• Give an example of a time when you entered someone else’s world.  What was the outcome?
• Share about a child you are wanting to reach.  Let the group give you some ideas on how to greet them or enter their world.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Chapter Thirteen:  Sharing the Gospel

Sometimes we loose sight of what matters the most in ministry.  We can become so focused on the logistics of ministry that we forget the ultimate purpose and that is to introduce people to the love, grace and salvation of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
• Do you have someone on your ministry team that is passionate about sharing the gospel to a variety of children with a variety of backgrounds and abilities?
• Do you properly value this aspect of the ministry?
• Are you providing him/her the resources needed?
• Do you provide training and growth opportunities?
• Do you have a team of people committed to praying for evangelism opportunities?
It can be tempting to doubt you are making a difference in the lives of children that are non-verbal.  You may never know the outcome of your efforts until you get to heaven.  That is ok!  Trust God, trust the Holy Spirit, pray and be full of joy and anticipation.  One of the most amazing things about God is, you never know what He is up to.  We can trust, however, that He is always working in the hearts of the people we minister to as well as ourselves.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  (NIV)

Chapter Fourteen:  Let’s Be Honest

Christ did not choose whom to love.  He simply loved.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)
• Who is hard for you to love?
• Where are your blind spots?
• What type of person do you make assumptions about?
• In what relationships do you need to grow and change?
• How can your ministry partners hold you accountable?

Chapter Fifteen:  Recognizing Similarities

As people we tend to think we are alone in our trials and sufferings.  Sometimes we think we have it harder than anyone else.  The truth is, we all suffer.  Everyone of us will go through something difficult that we don’t think we will ever be able to survive.  I have met very few people that have not experienced deep sorrow and disappointment, and, if I think they haven’t, they probably haven’t shared the deep wounds of their heart, or they haven’t had their turn yet.
• Think of a time with the unexpected happened.  How did your react?  I love Andy Andrews book, The Noticer Returns.  In the book a young man is pushed into a very cold pool and the wise man that pushed the young man in says, Every single day for the rest of your life, somebody is going to push you in the pool.  And you’d better decide now how you’re going to act when it happens.
• Think about a time when your life changed course?
• What are some of the challenges you think a family affected by disability experiences?
• How about reaching out to a family in your church and asking them about their journey.  You will be amazed and you will be blessed to hear their story.

Chapter Sixteen:  Advocate Vs. Influence
• Can you recall a time when God set you up for something amazing?  He prompted you to do something.  You did it only out of obedience and then you watched God’s plans unfold.
• What is the hardest part for you in trusting God’s promptings?  Do you second guess if you heard Him right?  Is it hard to take the next step?  Is it hard to not be the one in control?
• What images and situations come to mind when you think about the word “advocate?”  When have you seen advocacy used effectively?  When have you seen it do more harm than good?
• What images and situations come to mind when you think about the word “influence?”  When have you seen influence used effectively?  When has it not been effective?
• In your current ministry, in what areas do you need to advocate and in what areas do you need to influence?  Who is the best advocate on your ministry team?  Who is the best influencer?  What do you need to learn from each other?

I found a quote yesterday that I love.

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.
~Logan Pearsall Smith,
“All Trivia,” Afterthoughts, 1931

I remember one Sunday I heard a children’s ministry volunteer talking to another volunteer about the “normal” children.    I leaned over and whispered, “Have you thought about what that word communicates about the other kids?”  That is all I needed to whisper.  This particular volunteer is an amazing lady and I share it with humility because I had someone whisper in my ear years ago.

Chapter Seventeen:  Unexpected Tools

This is probably one of my favorite chapters because I love to talk about the incredible things God does.  In the book I share about a friend of ours that has a disability but looks for ways for God to be glorified through it.  I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t read the book but I do have some questions to consider…
• What do you think is your greatest weakness?
• Have you ever seen God use your weakness to do something amazing?
• If not, do you think God could ever use it in a powerful way?
• Do you believe that God can use your strengths and your weaknesses equally?
• What are some of the tools you have available to you in ministry?  Think of some ways you can help a child feel acceptance, feel loved, feel connected, and feel valuable in the church.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

Chapter Eighteen:  Unexpected Mentors

In this chapter I share about two different mentors that had a huge impact on my life.  I have always told my children, Always look for advice from someone further down the road than you are and listen to people that have had more life experience than you have.
I am amazed at how many mentors we can have in our lives if we just take the time to notice them.  They are all around us.  Sometimes we learn best from an elder, sometimes a child, and sometimes a complete stranger.
It’s funny.  I have been teaching for the past ten years and I always thought of my student’s parents as peers until one day, all of a sudden, I realized I was the same age as some of their parents.  They started calling me Mrs. Boggess and their children, who used to slip and call me “Mommy,” were now slipping and calling me “Grandma!”  That seemed to happen overnight!  My point is…you are probably a mentor to someone else and don’t even know it.  You are teaching others, not as far down the road as you are, on a daily basis.

• Who are the mentors you have had in your life?
• What have you learned from them?
• Are you currently seeking counsel from them?
• Who are you learning from spiritually and in ministry?
• Is your ministry set up to encourage mentoring in regard to stage of life, stage of spiritual growth, and stage of serving in ministry?
• Who are you reaching behind for and pulling forward in life and ministry?  Are you looking for opportunities to help someone else in their journey?
“Remember those who led you
who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct,
imitate their faith.”
Hebrews 13:7 (NASB)
Chapter Nineteen:  Teaching Typical Children About Children With Special Needs

I will never forget the last time I went to the grocery store with my five-year-old grandson.  As most five-year-olds do, he was asking questions as we went around the store.  As a middle-aged man,  about his same height, starting walking towards him, I knew there would be questions in a matter of seconds.  I smiled and then in my head I counted, “1, 2, and 3.”
“Meme, why is he so small?  Why didn’t he grow?  Meme, will he get bigger?”
What I love most about kids is they don’t have any walls, they just have questions.  My grandson wasn’t uncomfortable, he didn’t make any assumptions, he simply had questions.
One of my favorite things to do is answer children’s questions.  Lol…now, some of the more sensitive or controversial questions I don’t answer and I just smile and say, “That would be a great question to ask your parents over dinner tonight!”  The questions that can be resolved with information, however, I love to answer.  “Why can’t she walk?”  Why can’t he hear?”  When I explain the situation and answer the question, the child is fine and may even talk to the other child or start to play with them.  I love to tell them we all have things we cannot do and sometimes that is the best way for God to show His power.
• This Sunday, make an effort to answer a child’s questions.  If you see a child staring at a child with a disability, go up and introduce them to each other.  Tell the child about some of the gifts and interests the child you are assisting has.
• This Sunday, let a child with a disability lead the prayer time or have a part in the Bible story.
• This Sunday, make accommodations in the classroom that no one else will notice, but will help the child with a disability feel more involved and connected with his/her classmates.

Chapter Twenty:  The Disappearing Ministry

One of the questions I continually think about is, “How do you get the culture of the church to change so much that your advocacy can fade into the background but the influence remains?”  Can we get to a place where an individual can walk through the doors of the church and they will be noticed long before their wheelchair or disability?  Can we get to a place where there is no longer a need for a special needs ministry because everyone in the church greets the person, helps them get connected, engages them in ministry, and can come up with accommodations as they are needed?
I have been fortunate to watch the evolution of civil rights from the sidelines.  We have such a long way to go, but we are so far from where we used to be.  My father was an advocate for civil rights and I know at times he was frustrated that some of the laws put in place to grant civil rights would get twisted and used inappropriately.  Often change requires a stage of exaggeration in order for a new normal to develop, however.
As time has marched on, do we notice the wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs anymore?  Do we notice the lowered water fountains?  How about the Braille signage?  The ramps into buildings?  The large print?  They have become the norm now.
Could our society change in such a way that we no longer notice the wheelchair, the hearing aides, or the differences in appearances?  Or even better, we notice the accommodations but we do not make assumptions about a person because of them.

Chapter Twenty-One:  Err On Grace

When we look at the life of Jesus, we can see that He lived in the throws of society.  People knew who He was.  Jesus also lived in the margins.  He reached out to the lepers, the blind, the lame and the woman at the well.  He did not choose who to love, He just loved whether you lived in the margins of society or not.
As a society we tend to choose who we will love and who we will serve.  At various times I have heard people say, “Our church is not called to serve the disabled.”  Do we decide whether or not we are called to serve men, women, or children?  Do we decide whether or not we are called to serve people who are struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, or weight issues?  Do we decide whether or not we care called to serve tall people, short people, or quiet people?  No, we just love and serve the people that come through our doors.
We are called to serve the people God brings us.  If there were qualifications for grace, none of us would receive it.  As my friend Pastor Les Avery shared with me years ago, I have walked in legalism and I have walked in grace.  Always err on grace.

• Take a moment to study the meaning of grace.
• When did you receive God’s grace?
• When did you share God’s grace with another person?
• In what ways do you still walk in legalism?
• This week have a cup of coffee with someone that is quite different than you.  How can you share God’s grace with them?
Chapter Twenty-Two:  Moving Outward

I have been serving in ministry for a lot of years now.  I feel more comfortable saying I started serving in ministry 30+ years ago but in some ways it is even longer.  I first starting teaching a Sunday school class when I was 14 which is almost 40 years ago.  But you know what?  I feel like I am just getting started.  There is so much to learn and so much to get excited about.  The journey is for a lifetime.
When God blesses us with a ministry to serve in, it is the most rewarding when we hold on loosely.  God make take us on many twists and turns along the way and we don’t want to miss any of it.  Sometimes the ministry may be at its peak when God calls us out to do something else or to take a next step.  Sometimes it may be at its lowest when God reveals a new plan.
What I have learned along the way is to keep my eyes on God for direction.  It is a daily walk of faith.  We never know what God wants to teach us along the way.  It is probably something we never suspected.
So enjoy the ride.  Keep seeking God’s direction on a daily basis.  Journal the lessons He shares with you and give thanks along the way.

• Where is God directing you in ministry right now?
• Are you willing to change course to where God leads?
• What is your next step in ministry?
• Are you trusting God with it?

My hope is that, through sharing my heart with you, you have been moved.  Maybe there will be a child that will come through the door of your church this week and you will look at them differently.  Hopefully, you will not look at them with the fears of starting a new ministry, but with a heart of compassion that simply wants to embrace them and all that God has made them to be.  I promise you the journey will be amazing and you will be both changed and blessed!

As a result of your small group discussions:

• What do you feel is the next step for your ministry in reaching out to all of the people that walk through your church doors?
• What simple accommodations can you make that will help people of all abilities feel welcome and comfortable?
• What can you do to help the culture of your church change in such a way that welcoming someone with a disability is part of the very fabric of your church?
• What aspect of growing in ministry makes you uncomfortable?  What is your next step?


Classroom Supplies For Self-Contained Classrooms

Classroom A (for more fragile children)

  •  Special lighting (incandescent fluorescent)
  • Calming color of paint (we have used a soft blue)
  • Table and Chairs (kidney shaped tables would be preferable)
  • CD player with children’s worship music (soft and lively)
  • Changing table and supplies (we built our table big enough to accommodate older children)
  • Shelf over changing table for supplies
  • Hospital curtain around the table
  • Cubbies with hooks for children’s personal items
  • Nursery and preschool level toys
  • Tumbling mat
  • Bean bags
  • Bibles
  • Standard preschool supplies for the classroom
  • Interesting and unbreakable mirrors hung at children’s height
  • Swing (approximately $400)
  • Pictures of the children on the walls
  • Scripture on the wall
  • “Boardmaker” schedule chart
  • Calendar for volunteers to write when they will be out
  • Write-on/wipe-off chart for list of children and their locations
  • Small write-on/wipe-off board for notes for the day
  • ID tags with allergies listed on them
  • Curriculum and manipulatives
  • Communication devices
  • Paperwork for parents to fill out

Classroom B (for older and/or more active children)

 Special lighting (incandescent fluorescent)

  • Calming color of paint
  • Table and Chairs (kidney-shaped table would be preferable)
  • CD player with children’s worship music (soft and lively)
  • Cubbies with hooks for children’s personal items
  • Preschool and elementary level toys
  • Tumbling mats
  • Pictures of children on the walls
  • Scripture on the wall
  • Standard preschool and elementary supplies for the classroom
  • “Boardmaker” Schedule Chart
  • Calendar for volunteers to write when they will be out
  • Write-on/wipe-off chart for list of children and their locations
  • Small write-on/wipe-off board for notes for the day
  • ID tags with allergies listed on them
  • Curriculum
  • Communication devices
  • Paperwork for parents to fill out
  • Bean Bags
  • Tree house for climbing on and getting into smaller spaces
  • Bibles
  • Braille Bible
  • Books and puzzles
  • Sand and water table
  • Computer with evangelism programs (computer time can be effectively used as a reward for children)
  • Small trampoline

 It is important to remember that all of this equipment is not necessary in order to have a special needs classroom.  All that is needed is a heart of love for these children to get things started.  We have provided this list for some ideas on equipment to gradually purchase for your ministry.  The swings in each classroom have proven to be our best purchases.


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