I serve as the inclusion coordinator for special needs families for my church, work for the SBTC as their special needs ministry consultant, and speak at events across the country on the topic of disability ministry. I also write about special needs ministry from the perspective of a pastor’s wife and special-needs mom. Some of my most popular posts are linked below.
If you’re interested taking more steps toward inclusion at your church, I offer ministry coaching and teach a cohort through Gospel-Centered Family. Click here to learn more.
You can also learn more about All Access, a disability ministry conference I co-host in the Houston area each February. Our 2021 conference was all virtual, and the sessions are still available on Vimeo.
Laying the foundation and the first steps to take:
When James pulls up a seat at the table and joins them at the banquet—when they actually see him—the entire church culture can change in miraculous ways.
We know pastors are busy and don’t see every need in the church, so we’ve come up with four signs your church may need a special-needs ministry (and we have resources to help).
There’s really just two things I want from the church we attend: I want them to keep James safe and I want them to love him.
We don’t have to have a plan in place for every person we can imagine walking through our doors. We just have to love and serve the ones who do. And churches of every size can do that.
We’re excited to see how God will teach and stretch us in the coming months as we are sent out from our supporting church, build a launch team, serve our neighborhoods, and start preview services. We hope to spread the message that all churches should be special-needs friendly and show it can be done even in the smallest of churches. Knowing what we mean when we say our church is special-needs friendly is a good place to start!
Looking at the top four excuses we hear for not doing special-needs ministry and sharing why we don’t think they are good enough reasons to exclude families like mine.
Doing special-needs ministry doesn’t have to be scary! Families like mine need the hope of the gospel. You can share the love of Christ as your church lives out the mission of Christ!
I’ve noticed that the churches who have the strongest special-needs ministry programs have at least five qualities in common.
The percentage of children in your community who will need accommodations to be comfortable and successful at your church is likely close to 20% of your total church attendance.
Our students’ ISPs and their bio sheets have been a huge help for our volunteers and teachers to get to know the kids and help them meet spiritual goals!
Posts that focus on family support:
In order to communicate with care and compassion, ministry leaders need to understand the five phases of special-needs parenting. In the video below, I give an over view of the phases, share what families need from their church in each phase, and give communication tips that are effective no matter what phase parents are in.
Five Ways Churches Can Strengthen the Marriages of Special-Needs Parents:
I’m thankful the scary divorce stats we hear aren’t true when it comes to parents of kids with disabilities, but churches have a major role to play in helping these couples be as healthy as possible. Where can your church start to serve them?
Shadow siblings don’t have to feel like they don’t matter in our churches. They can know they are loved, appreciated, and cared for, when we take steps to love them with the love we have been given in Christ.
Rejoice in adoption and rejoice with adoptive families, but also be sensitive to those who are struggling and love them well.
If we could sit down with our pastors and tell them what’s on our hearts, it would include phrases like these: We are lonely. We wish we could do more. We know you can’t control every church members’ reactions to our family, but you do set the example. How you talk about disabilities from the pulpit makes an impact on us. The challenges we face as our children grow up change and evolve.
Special-needs ministry doesn’t only take place in a classroom on Sunday morning. It happens in the parking lot, in the hallway, during the service, and even during the week.
The days after parents hear their child has a disability or special need can be difficult days. They need an anchor to help steady them. Their church should be that anchor.
Many churches are moving away from the traditional Sunday school model and using home groups. But this way of “doing life together” can leave special-needs families isolated and alone.
Promote and Grow Your Ministry:
We see special-needs families as an unreached people group we plan to target. And like missionaries, we are taking the “go and engage” approach instead of just “come and see.”
These activity ideas are great for older teens and adults with disabilities and anyone in your church looking for social activities.
You spend a lot of time planning great inclusion activities and outreaches especially focused to bless families with special-needs in your area. So how do you spread the word so families know they are welcome? Here are five ideas to get you started
Your church website is the new front door to your church, and if special-needs families can’t find the information they need on the website, they may never make it in your church building.
I hope taking these steps will lead to a healthy ministry for special-needs families that includes people with disabilities at every level.
Churches have a responsibility to meet the special needs of families, and these families also need to take steps to let churches know how they can help.
Finding a new church as a special-needs family isn’t always easy, but with patience from your family and the desire to find a place that really feels like home, the search will be worth it!
We talk a lot about how churches can bless special-needs families. But have you thought about all the ways special-needs families bless the churches they attend?
My keynote address at Inclusion Fusion Live, 2019
Getting a diagnosis may have been a surprise for you, but it wasn’t a surprise to God. Your Plan B situation is still God’s Plan A.