Use this blueprint for special needs ministry success.
You’ve heard the Field of Dreams line, “If you build it, they will come.”
It’s the truth.
When God called us to build a special needs ministry at our church, we knew we had to build. We questioned whether we could do it; we wondered where we’d find resources; and of course we — and others — wondered if it would flop. Still, we built.
They came, all right — they’re still coming!
It all began when two children with special needs joined our children’s program at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado. We knew we needed to serve these kids and their families. So what began with a couple of volunteers stepping up to build relationships with these kids and their families soon grew into, quite literally, our field of dreams.
We initially envisioned a program for children with severe needs, but our dream quickly expanded. We met families whose children needed just a little extra assistance, so we began a buddy program, enabling kids to attend class with their peers. Today our dream is thriving and people are still coming! We’ve connected with families we might never have had the opportunity to know. We’ve learned that all children with special needs have a place in our ministry — regardless of their situation. And we’ve learned that disabilities impact entire families, not just a single child.
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“If you build it, they will come” — that’s truth. So is Jesus’ message of love and redemption, and it’s a message we want everyone to hear regardless of circumstances. Our special needs families are hungry for God’s Word; they’re also hungry for love, care, rest, and comfort.
Consider the impact a special needs ministry could have in your community.
My eyes were opened when I first coordinated our special needs ministry. As these precious children attended our classes, I learned that many of their families didn’t attend church or special events because they had no help or supervision for their children. Some parents said they took turns attending church — one parent stayed home with the child while the other went to church alone. But most frequently, families skipped church altogether because it was too difficult to attend, they couldn’t go as a family, and their churches weren’t equipped or prepared to welcome them.
According to pastors.com, one obstacle families with special needs children often face is a lack of acceptance in churches. About 90 percent of special needs families are unchurched.
Is this the church Jesus would’ve built? Of the miracles Jesus performed in the Gospels, nearly two-thirds were done to assist people who had physical needs. The Bible’s very clear that Jesus ministered to the lame, mute, blind, and sick — the disabled. As his followers, we’re called to do the same.