Elevate Community: Everything Walks The Talk

One of our core values at First Baptist Orlando is authentic biblical community and our special needs ministry doesn’t just want to Elevate Community well…we want to do it with excellence!  Why? Because as Reggie Joiner put it:

  • “One of the greatest gifts the church can give its families is a consistent network of leaders and friends who are there to help them win” (pg. 186).

Besides Think Orange, another book that our ministry is using to discuss our initial steps to Elevate Community is: Inside The Magic Kingdom by Tom Connellan.  This book really has me psyched because it’s about the principles that drive the culture and phenomenal success of Disney in the area of customer relationships.  Living in Orlando, it’s been easy to spend some time at all of the Disney theme parks.  Every time I’m there, I am always impressed with Disney’s quality, excellence, customer service and overall culture.

The four key principles from Inside The Magic Kingdom that our ministry will focus on in the process of our initial steps towards Elevating Community, and the ones that I’ll blog about, are:

These four key principles can be applied to special needs ministry and provide powerful strategies that will help special needs staff and team members become more focused on building relationships that in turn will elevate community.

Everything Walks The Talk

Connellan points out that Disney firmly believes that every thing at Disney communicates something to the guest.  It’s a concept they call “Everything Walks The Talk.”  Disney believes that every “thing”  should be congruent with the Disney philosophy because it can positively influence a guest’s experience.  From the way employees are dressed, to the cleanliness of the park, to the type of music that is played throughout the Magic Kingdom.  All of these things enhance the guest’s experience.  Connellan says,

“Everything walking the talk does effect the guest’s experience, but in ways he or she is frequently not aware of.  Employees are taught the value of this concept, but to the guest, it’s invisible.”

So if every “thing” communicates something then the question is, “What does it communicate?”  And does it communicate what you want it to?  I think this concept has some great application as we strive to Elevate Community in our special needs ministry.  If we want to connect our kids with special needs to a caring team member then perhaps we need to take a closer look at the ‘things” in our special needs classroom.

What are the things that we have in our special needs classroom that communicates the idea of building relationships and connecting adults to kids?  If our philosophy is to Elevate Community, what “things” am I giving my volunteers to be able to do this? 

Example, in my home I use a puzzle as a diversion for my son.  When I need to be able to focus my attention on something else other than my son with autism, I give him a puzzle.  As he sits down to complete the puzzle that buys me time to walk away and take care of paying bills, wash the car, fix a cabinet, or one of a dozen other things that need to be accomplished.

However, in our special needs classroom a puzzle can be the “thing” that allows a volunteer to sit down with a child and build a relationship.  Puzzles are a great “thing” that two people can do together and in the process develop a bond.

I believe that it’s important to show our volunteers that the “things” that we put in their hands in the classroom are things that can be used to connect with our kiddos.  The “things” that we make available in the classroom are the types of things that are congruent with building relationships and strengthening connections.

I didn’t put the two Thomas the Train Wooden  Railway Tables in our room so that our kids could spend time alone at the table playing trains.  They are there so that our volunteers can sit down with a child, interact with them, and have fun together!  The Thomas the Train Wooden Railway Table is some”thing” that can be used to build and strengthen relationships because it provides an opportunity for an adult volunteer and a child with special needs to do something together.

The Play-Doh Animal Duffel Bag Kit isn’t just there in our room for the kids to play with alone.  It’s for the adults to play with too!  Both adult and child can physically and/or verbally interact together with the Play-Doh Animal Duffel Bag Kit.  They can use the 11 tools to make a giraffe, a monkey, a dolphin or other animal shapes in green, purple, orange or yellow – or a combination of all four!

Other examples of “things” in your room that support Everything Walks The Talk would be note cards.  By making note cards available for your volunteers you are enabling them to write a few lines of encouragement to a child, stick the note in an envelope, and mail it so that the child receives it later in the week.  Note cards are a great way Elevate Community but your volunteers need to know why these “things” are in the room.

If your desire is to Elevate Community then I would encourage you to assess your classroom environment from the perspective of: Everything Walks The Talk.  You may be discover that there are some “things” in your room that support developing relationships and some “things” in your room that do not!

Everything Walks The Talk.  This is an important concept to remember and use proactively when you are striving to Elevate Community in your ministry.

If you’d like to follow the rest of this blog series then “subscribe” to our blog or click “like” on our Special Friends Ministry facebook page.

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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