On this week’s podcast episode, Mike and Linda are joined by Craig Johnson. Director of Ministries and nonprofit organization Champions Club over at Lakewood church, Johnson has created a place for kids, teens, and adults with special needs. Champions Club is now a special needs ministry that encompasses about 80 different locations, in every continent except Antartica (sorry penguins).
Johnson is a husband and father of three children. When their youngest son Connor was born it, was a surprise to them all. However, the real surprise began when Connor was around two years old. Before this stage of his life, he was a happy-go-lucky, talkative, and interactive kid. But when Connor turned two. everything changed. He began to show no emotion and stopped talking. It wasn’t long after when Connor was diagnosed with Autism. Through this journey, the challenges autism brought their family was finally balanced out when a miracle happened. Connor spoke his first words; the declaration at Lakewood Church.
“This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I can do what it says I can do.
Today, I will be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess:
My mind is alert, My heart is receptive. I will never be the same. I am about to receive. The incorruptible, indestructible, ever-living seed of the Word of God.
I will never be the same. Never, never, never. I will never be the same.
In Jesus name. Amen.”
TRUSTING IN HIM
I can’t imagine how hard it is to hear that your child is diagnosed with autism. Not because autism, or any form of special needs, is something to be ashamed of; but because life is much more complex with that added to it. I can assume Craig and his wife were caught off guard when they learned about Connor’s autism. Johnson even recounts a time when God spoke to him about it.
God said to him, “Craig, your child is not a burden. He is a gift. I’m going to use your son to reach millions of people.” Johnson confesses that even though he is a man of faith, he found himself doubting that his son would be able to help others. However, God reminded him just how important trust is. Johnson was reminded to trust in God throughout this journey. Fast forward a couple months, Connor spoke words unlike any other before. He spoke the declaration at Lakewood Church.
BUILDING A CLUB FOR CHAMPIONS
After God spoke to Johnson, he began thinking about the help kids receive and how kids with special needs require help as well. Boom, Champions Club is born. Johnson gained knowledge from doctors, educators, and parents dealing with autism and was able to achieve a holistic approach. Champions Club utilizes the mind, body, soul, and spirit. They reference this approach through the four stations at any Champions Club; Physical Therapy station, Sensory station, Educational station, and a Spirit/Creative station. After launching within the first six months, over 300 families joined. In addition to Lakewood Church having a program for kids, they now have a program and curriculum for kids with special needs.
CHAMPIONS CLUB AROUND THE WORLD
Soon after the launch of Champions Club, Lakewood church was able to take it global. There are about 80 different Champion Club locations around the world. They encompass public schools, orphanages, daycare centers, and even a hospital. After being asked where the next Champions Club should be, Craig did his research and found one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi. Lakewood Church was able to partner with an orphanage named, Passion Center for Children, and open the first Champions Club there. In the first four months, 60 families now had the opportunity to receive the help they desperately needed.
STIGMA SURROUNDING SPECIAL NEEDS
In third world countries, kids with special needs are often hidden to escape death. In America, families with kids who have special needs begin to be what is called, “shut in”. When this happens, families stop going out, or they’ve been rejected in some form or way by society. Most societies and churches don’t know how to respond to children with special needs, yet, the epidemic of special needs has worsened over the years. It’s all about breaking this stigma, showing kids with special needs what they can become and who they can be. Champions Club helps by focusing on what talents these kids have and what they are naturally good at. They work toward not underestimating them.
FUTURE OF CHAMPIONS CLUB
Johnson has just launched a platform for families to follow along to devotionals everyday. Even though there might not be a Champions Club around you, you can still access the help and tools they offer through this platform. Through this subscription, people can also receive help on how to run a Champions Club of their own. They help you through the training and curriculum to give to kids with special needs. They want to see the poorest of the poor get the help they need. They want to see the word of God grow through those families with kids who have special needs. Craig Johnson and his team at Lakewood church will continue to grow Champions Club in any way they can.
– Craig Johnson, who he is and what he does. Explains he is the founder of Champions Club. A little background on his family and youngest son, Connor, who was diagnosed with autism.
– The importance of trusting in God. How your trust in him can take you a long way. He knows the full picture, the plan. He just hasn’t revealed all of it to you yet.
– The creation of Champions Club. How Johnson thought to make this idea real and gained the knowledge from doctors, educators, and parents. After champions club launch and its success.
– Champions Club goes global. This program is helping out one of the poorest places in the world.
– The stigma surrounding special needs and how this has been Champions Club biggest opposition. Learning how to combat this opposition and not underestimate kids with special needs. Future of champions club.
“You need to have a mission that helps people, outside of just your work.” – Craig Johnson
“Sometimes in business, in your walk, or in church, we are all fishing from the same pond. Then there’s this pond that no one is fishing at. They are dying for help, for someone to fish in their pond.” – Craig Johnson
“There’s a practical aspect to spirituality that is often missed. In addition to the worship and preaching, finding out ways to help real people is part of spirituality.” – Mike Thakur
“You need to go after excellence. If you go out and find the top 3 needs in your community and begin to meet those needs, I guarantee your church will grow. That’s how Jesus did it.” – Craig Johnson
Craig to his son Connor, “Connor what do you want to be when you grow up?” Connor simply responds with, “Grateful.” – Craig recounting a moment with his son Connor