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How to Start a Special Needs Ministry

special needs ministry

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.

Be blessed!

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Tamara February 13, 2014, 11:32 PM

    I think what you are doing is great. Keep up the great work. I know it must be very rewarding.
    Stopping by from The SITS Girls

  • Wendy Bottrell February 13, 2014, 11:52 AM

    What a wonderful program. Sounds like you have done your homework and it is working. Congrats. Best Regards, Wendy #sitsgirls

  • Tranae February 13, 2014, 1:24 AM

    I agree. I was the director of a children’s ministry a couple of years ago and I saw a great need. I was in a small church at the time so I can’t imagine the need in larger congregations.

  • Tonya W. February 12, 2014, 10:33 PM

    I love this post. We attend a very large church that has a huge childrens’ ministry. I am not sure if we have a special needs ministry. Your post has prompted me to pursue what our church has to offer. Although I do not have a special needs child, my younger brother is special needs so I understand the importance. God bless.

  • Tonia February 12, 2014, 1:45 PM

    What a timely post! It would be wonderful if more churches would look into environmental changes/needs of special needs families. Our daughter has some mild sensitivity issues and we’ve had our share of struggles, even in the church environment.

    It’s nice that things like that are beginning to be addressed.

    • Tonya Nash February 12, 2014, 2:41 PM

      I agree. Our churches have to rise to the occasion to meet the needs of everyone that desires to attend. My son had some sensitivity issues too with noise levels in children’s church. Once the teachers noticed the problem and stepped up to meet the need, my child started to thrive and blossom at church. Sometimes, a few small accommodations is all it takes. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Rachel February 12, 2014, 12:38 PM

    This is so important! Thanks for having a heart for this and sharing your ideas.


  • Tammy February 12, 2014, 12:06 PM

    I’ve been going to church basically all my life and I’ve never even heard of a Special Needs Ministry. Seems there is a ministry for everything else though. What a wonderful idea and thanks for sharing this. I am passing this post on to my church and others who may be interested. Good luck. There is such a need for this.

    • Tonya Nash February 12, 2014, 2:28 PM

      Thanks for sharing and spreading the word! There really is a need for this kind of ministry. The church should be a place that everyone feels welcome, regardless of their abilities.

      Have a great week!

  • Tanya February 12, 2014, 8:55 AM

    I think this is a wonderful idea! I do not have a special needs child, but I do live with a chronic illness. I belong to an online group by Lisa Copen called Rest Ministries and she teaches you how to start a support group for adults with disabilities or illness. I suppose some of the same tips would apply to both. Thanks for sharing! I think it’s great that you are helping people in this way! Visiting from #sitsblogging!

    • Tonya Nash February 12, 2014, 10:37 AM

      Thanks Tanya! Your online group sounds like a wonderful idea! Traveling can be an issue, even if it is local, and being able to stay in the comfort of your own home while getting support seems like the most ideal situation.

      You have a great name by the way. 🙂

    • Tonya W. February 12, 2014, 10:26 PM

      Hi Tanya, I am going to check out Rest Ministries. Support groups are an invaluable resource.

  • Val @ Love My DIY Home February 12, 2014, 2:30 AM

    I wish our church had been special needs kid friendly. We adopted 13 of our 15 children, and 12 were special needs. FAS, ADHD, OCD, ODD, you name it. The people lost a chance to be a blessing to our kids – they could have seen them grow up with love and support from their church family. There were only a couple of people who loved my kids, it as obvious they were unloved and unwanted by most of our church people, including the pastor, our boss (my husband was his assistant, I was a full time teacher in the school). Cuddos for bringing this need to light. The church we are in is fabulous and loves our kids from afar, prays for them, loves us (we are empty nesters now, and our kids are spread all over the country). Churches need to love these kids so they have a better, not bitter, experience, a chance to grow into loving adults based on the examples before them. The church people could have made such a difference in their lives. It’s sad, really. But God knows and can make up for what they missed out on…if only they would let Him. Sure they were difficult. But love could have made all the difference. We were their parents, so we had to love them (In their eyes it was a given, a sure thing), but if someone else loved them, then obviously they were worth something. Few people showed that to them. Churches need to love everyone, regardless of how lovable they are. Thanks for writing this!

    • Tonya Nash February 12, 2014, 10:51 AM

      You and your husband adopted 13 children, 12 with special needs? Wow! You two rock! 🙂 We need more people like you in the world.

      Sounds like this topic would be a good blog post for you too! I totally agree with what you said. Showing love goes a long way and can make a difference in the hardest of hearts. I’m glad that you found a church that supports your entire family. I wish this was the case for all churches!

    • Val @ Love My DIY Home February 12, 2014, 11:03 AM

      I have a personal blog that has several articles on the subject of raising “interesting” children – http://www.momofmany.wordpress.com. Since I have Love My DIY Home, a newer blog, I don’t write much on my personal one, but will get back to it again hopefully soon. I spend more time one on one with similar families via email and texting. No sense in learning all I did and not share it by supporting others!

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