Ringgold pastor designs worship service for children with disabilities

The Hope Kids ministry creates a welcoming environment for children with special needs. (Image: WTVC)

A Ringgold Pastor is making sure his service and his congregation are embracing people of all abilities.

He's created opportunities for children to serve and feel comfortable while worshiping in the church sanctuary.

In this week's Pay It Forward, Jessica Harthorn surprises him in the middle of Sunday service.

Wayne Chasteen is the lead pastor of Christ First Church in Ringgold and word of the "Hope Kids" ministry is spreading.

He's spearheading an initiative to create a welcoming environment for children with special needs.

So as part of Pastor Appreciation Month some families wanted to say thank you.

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In the fellowship hall of Christ First Church in Ringgold, you'll find its members busy preparing a delicious celebration luncheon as Pastor Wayne Chasteen begins Sunday service.

But what's different about this church is the Quiet Room for kids downstairs.

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Lisa Mattheiss, the Special Needs Ministry Coordinator says its a place for those who get overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of worship.

There are books, mood lighting and weighted blankets.

"It's calming, because some of our kiddos struggle with their joints and where their body is in space," said Lisa.

Lisa also showed us a basket full of fidget toys available to anyone during the service, like these colorful sequined pillows.

"They can make letters, make pictures," said Lisa.

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Lisa says Pastor Wayne even cut a pew in half to make sure there was enough room for her daughter's wheelchair.

Then he gave her the job of passing out church bulletins.

"He values the gifts of each and every person who is here, regardless of their level of ability," said Lisa.

Church member Virginia Piper says her son George who has Down Syndrome was baptized by Pastor Wayne.

Now on Sundays he prays for people in front of the church.

"George has a connection with God that so many of us wish we had," said Virginia.

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So as Virginia and George entered the sanctuary, we followed in church member Lyn Burnette who interrupted Pastor Wayne in the middle of prayer.

"I need to interrupt you for a moment. This is on behalf of Newschannel 9 and Pay It Forward and the McMahan Law Firm. So hold out your hand. Hear we go, before I start crying. 1, 2, 3, 4, $500," surprised Lyn.

"Oh my goodness," said Pastor Wayne.

"I love you. We have the best pastor!" said Lyn to the congregation as everyone clapped.

Moments later, Lisa joined them for the surprise at the pulpit.

"What makes this a a great family, is that we are a family," said Pastor Wayne.

Pastor Wayne says children with special needs are precious in the sight of God, and is thankful for the opportunity to showcase their gifts.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 cash for helping others? Nominate them here!

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