A unique teaching program for the gospel
Lawrence, the older brother, likes to do things quickly, while Matthew likes things done slowly. Lawrence is quiet and reserved, but Matthew is more animated and verbal. He also enjoys being around people, whereas Lawrence prefers to be alone.
Five years ago, their aunt, who attends the Cantonese services, began taking them to the youth group to give them a place to go. Even though their mum wasn't a Christian, she welcomed the respite and was appreciative of the help.
The boys liked to play games and other activities at the youth group and enjoyed spending time with the leaders. However, they became disengaged whenever the group sat down for their Bible study and just sat there.
Nathan, a leader at Jesus Club Strathfield
Nathan, a Jesus Club leader, knew the brothers from their time in youth group, "I used to go to study with him and I saw how difficult it was for them to understand the study," said Nathan.
Without appropriate resources and formats accessible to people with intellectual disabilities, Daniel, the Youth Group pastor and Jesus Club coordinator, found it hard to cater to the brothers and other youths on the autism spectrum, or with other intellectual disabilities.
"A lot of the time, I think they just don't really understand what we're talking about," said Daniel.
But he was determined to help them understand the gospel and come to know Jesus personally. Daniel invited Mel Fung to speak at their church about Jesus Club a few years ago, and after some initial groundwork, Jesus Club Strathfield opened its doors in 2019.
Not having had much prior experience with people with intellectual disabilities, apart from his time in the youth group, Daniel was pleasantly surprised by how much more interactive and engaged the brothers have become at Jesus Club.
It's mainly shown in the little things, like how they now respond to questions about what they learnt during lesson time and can recall teaching ideas even from weeks past.
Or how Matthew would insist they repeat certain material if they taught it a little fast the first time. "He wants us to go back and repeat the material again, [because] he is quite into it and wouldn't want to miss a lesson," said Daniel.
Daniel accredits this success to Jesus Club Ministries' unique teaching program with its simplified language, visual aids, the use of buddy sheets and craft activities that help reinforce each lesson.
"It has been quite helpful, the repetition… craft… all those different elements help with their understanding and engagement," said Daniel.
"I feel like they [now] have a good understanding of the gospel and of who Jesus is for them."
Daniel is now planning a study on baptism, as he believes the brothers may soon be ready to commit themselves to Jesus.
In addition to the members, Daniel is also encouraged by the impact Jesus Club has on the members’ families. Lawrence and Matthew's mum, who wasn't a Christian and didn't attend church, now regularly attends their Cantonese service. Appreciative of the church's support, particularly after losing her husband, she started coming to church and became baptized a few years ago.
Jesus Club Ministries helps local churches establish and run their own Jesus Club program, equipping them with resources such as Biblical lesson plans and training materials written specifically for members with intellectual disabilities.
It has helped establish 17 local Jesus Clubs in locations around Sydney, from Northern Beaches to Lower Mountains and Thornleigh to Jannali. Plus, new Jesus Clubs are about to start in Melbourne, Albury, and Bathurst. Communities where adults with ID can come to learn and experience the gospel in a meaningful way and grow to love our Lord Jesus Christ.