I’ve been writing about special needs ministry all of this week. Monday’s post was about “Going to Church with a Special Needs Child.” On Tuesday, I posted about “How Special Needs Ministry Blessed My Family.” Wednesday’s post asked the thought provoking question, “Is Your Church Special Needs Friendly?” Today’s post wraps up the series by giving you information on how to start a special needs children’s ministry.
“My life goal is to see the world’s one billion people with disabilities embraced and encouraged by the church.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? To see more churches reach out to those with special needs? For parents to know that they can bring their children to the house of God without fear of rejection?
I have personally seen how special needs ministry can be a blessing to families. It gives them a chance to be active in their local churches with full confidence that their child’s special needs are being taken care of. It also reassures families that they are not alone, helping them to build much needed relationships and support networks.
The thought of starting a special needs children’s ministry can be overwhelming, but please don’t let that deter you! Laying the groundwork for any ministry requires dedication.
Our special needs ministry has been in existence for less than a year, but it is thriving and God is blessing our efforts. I’ve taken some time to think about the steps that were taken to start our ministry and a few things came to mind that I would like to share with you.
Here’s how to get a Special Needs Children’s Ministry started at your church.
1. Assess your congregation. Identify families with special needs children. Ask them how the church could better meet their needs.
2. Get approval and support from church leadership to start a special needs ministry. Their blessing will positively influence church members to support it.
3. Do your homework. Conduct online research about special needs ministries. Brainstorm for ideas and collaborate with your network of churches. Visit a church that provides special needs ministry, talk to their leaders, and observe their program.
4. Organize your core team. This includes volunteers and anyone that can provide professional advice, such as teachers and medical professionals. It is also helpful to have a few youth members to participate in the ministry as a peer buddy to a special needs child.
5. Educate yourself about medical issues the children are experiencing. Ask professionals in the community to provide training for you and your team. Search online or at the library for reliable sources on information that can help you gain more knowledge.
6. Plan with your team. Write out the vision for the ministry, curriculum, and any other goals and outcomes that you would like to see.
7. Don’t despise small beginnings. Focus on setting up a quality program. Get a solid foundation and build from there.
8. Learn about the children. Have the parents fill out a questionnaire about their child’s needs prior to starting the ministry so that you can adequately prepare. Make sure that you have a way to contact the parent if an issue arises during class.
9. Advertise about the ministry. Your Senior Pastor should promote it from the pulpit to members of the church. Members should be encouraged to invite a friend that may have a child with special needs. This could be a great evangelism tool!
10. Launch your ministry! Run it with a spirit of excellence. Be consistent and reliable.
11. Evaluate the program on a regular basis. This includes the curriculum, teaching methods, and the schedule of activities. Keep what works and throw out what doesn’t.
12. Make prayer a priority! Pray for the children in your class and for their families. Pray about the direction of the program and for all of those that volunteer in the ministry.
13. Think outside of the classroom. Consider hosting regularly scheduled support groups, family outings, and even respite care.
14. Expect to see God move on your behalf and bless many! God loves it when we step up to meet the needs of others!
Please know that this list is by no means all inclusive of everything you need for a special needs ministry, but it is a start.
If you would like to know more about special needs ministries, check out the following blogs and websites:
http://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com – The Inclusive Church is a wonderful blog that is updated regularly and contains a wealth of information about special needs ministries.
http://drgrcevich.wordpress.com – Church4EveryChild is a blog written by Steve Grcevich about special needs ministry. It’s a great resource!
http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/january/special-needs-ministries-and-church-research-ministries.html – This article gives a list of special needs ministries and resources.
This concludes my series on the importance of special needs ministry. I hope that it has given you a new perspective on how important it is to minister to those with special needs and their families. Every person deserves a chance to hear the gospel in a way that they can understand, regardless of their abilities. In Matthew 25:40 and Galatians 6:2, we are encouraged to help those in need and bear one another’s burdens. When we do this, we are answering God’s call to serve others.