Special Needs: Are You Missing Opportunities to Make Every Child Welcome?

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Here’s how to make every child—regardless of ability or special needs—feel welcome in your children’s ministry.


“The Real Me” by Joe Bishop

Don’t just see my legs not running; Don’t just see my hands not writing; Don’t just see my mouth not talking; These broken pieces are not me.

See instead the light in my eyes; See instead my loving soul; See instead my thinking mind; These inner pieces are the real me.

*This poem appeared in the July 2001 issue of Exceptional Parent Magazine.


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My passion for investing in children like Joe began in 1992 when I became children’s pastor at a church with an exciting ministry to children with special needs. Supervising that amazing Royal Hearts program of 25 children ages 2 to 15 changed my life. When their regular teachers were absent, my husband and I gladly substituted. The class met on Wednesday evenings to allow parents to enjoy a support group or Bible study at Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California. We quickly discovered that these special children loved doing everything a regular class did but needed a little more help…and more hugs, laughter, puppets, music, and fun!

Two years later, the special needs ministry at our church took on a new perspective for us. A precious little girl with Down syndrome became a part of our family and Jessica won our hearts instantly. We soon realized that Joe, Jessica, and children like them don’t always find a warm welcome at church.

Missed Opportunities

If Jesus walked the earth today, what would his ministry be? Some people believe it would be with children and adults who have special needs because they’re so close to God’s heart. In fact, think of all the times that Jesus’ ministry focused on people with special needs: he healed the blind, the deaf, the disabled. In Luke 14 Jesus said, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”


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