Thinking about a special needs ministry start-up in your church? Here are tips to get started.
Children’s pastors are often the first members of a church staff to encounter children with special needs and their families. It’s people like you, people who are serving children, who sense the need.
- Pray for God’s wisdom and direction.
Keep the planning, your children and their families, and your current and future volunteers surrounded in prayer. As you embark on sharing Jesus’ love with children with special needs, ask their Creator to bless your efforts.
Organize a prayer team. Assign these segments of the ministry to specific members of your team for prayer: teachers, volunteers, parents, and children. Be sure everyone in the ministry is being regularly prayed for by someone else.
When it comes to praying for each child, ask the family for permission to share the child’s needs with the person who is praying for the child…and to share the family’s needs as well. Pray that children’s involvement will help them realize their God-given potential. Pray that children will hear the message of God’s love and respond to it. Pray that families’ needs will be met, both physically and spiritually.
Pray for your volunteers. Pray that children without disabilities will enjoy their friends with disabilities. Pray that your congregation will embrace this ministry. Occasionally send notes to remind people that they’re being lifted up in prayer.
2. Recognize the value of every person.
Recognize the value of every person regardless of disability. People with disabilities have value. They matter. God loves them. They have souls. They need salvation. If this philosophy doesn’t motivate our service, we’ll be operating from the standpoint of service because parents ask us to do it, we feel sorry for the kids, or we want to increase overall attendance.
Psalm 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” People with Fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, and autism are all part of God’s creativity.
Mark 16:15: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'” People with Fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, and autism are a part of the church’s responsibility to share the message to everyone regardless of ability.
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Share your plan to involve the leadership of your church.
Your church leadership needs to enthusiastically embrace the disability ministry. It’s more than buying into a concept; it’s buying into Jesus’ atti-tude toward kids: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).
Children with disabilities need to have their spiritual needs met. Disabilities shouldn’t be a hindrance to involvement in the family of faith. Your leadership needs to see every child in its care as a valuable person who’s loved by God.
3. It really isn’t an option for a church to not have a disability ministry.
When pastors see the value and become actively involved in a disability ministry, it tends to flourish. Get your church leadership on your team.
4. Share how you’ll find the people with disabilities in your congregation.
Don’t be concerned about meeting the needs of every person with a disability in your community. Disability happens to people one person at a time. Some of those people are in your church already — you just don’t know it.
From Special Needs, Special Ministry (Group Publishing, Inc.).