I recently heard what I would call a Christian horror story. A family with a child who has special needs visited a mega church in my area. The child vocalized a bit during worship – not uncommon with certain special needs. That week, a minister from the church called the family and asked them not to bring their child to worship again. Unfortunately, that experience is more the norm than it should be. In fact, I was recently told that as many as 80% of families who have children with special needs have had a negative experience in a church environment. God forbid!
It doesn’t have to be this way. And it should never happen. God loves everyone – as should we. The vast majority of people with special needs will have the ability to make an informed decision about becoming a Christian at some point in their lives, yet they are often denied access to the very information that will help them make that decision.
It takes intentionality to create a welcoming and inclusive environment, but it is not as difficult as one might imagine. You don’t have to wait until a special education educator places membership in your congregation to start. Taking advantage of the resources below can be the beginnings of an amazing opportunity for your church to serve others and share your faith with hundreds of families in your area. (Estimates are that about 18% of children have been diagnosed with a special need and the numbers continue to rise each year.)
- Ministering to Marginalized Children by Thereasa Winnett. Our free ebook can be found on our website. It includes several chapters addressing ministering to children with various special needs. You will learn classroom and worship accommodations, volunteer and peer training needs, additional felt needs of young people and their families as well as common pitfalls to avoid.
- Leading a Special Needs Ministry by Amy Fenton Lee.
- Every Child Welcome by Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo.
- Classroom accommodations for ___________. A quick Google search for classroom accommodations for the child’s special need will provide lists of what educators do to make learning easier for children with that particular special need. Not everything will be applicable to the Bible class setting, but it will give you some additional strategies to try.
- Task analysis for _______________. Does the child need to learn how to do a specific skill? We don’t think about all of the little skills involved in doing something like brushing our teeth, putting on a coat or coloring. A task analysis breaks down a skill into the smaller skills needed and the order in which they should be taught. They can prove helpful for volunteers and sometimes even the parents of the children as they aren’t always aware of this tremendous tool. They can be found in a quick Google search.
- Support groups and advocacy groups for the specific special need. Often these groups provide free resources to educate people as well as experts who can answer basic questions or suggest needed resources.
- Special Education educators. Professionals generally consider their full time job their ministry. They are often reluctant to lead a special needs ministry. They can be a great resource though to answer questions, suggest resources to purchase or participate in other advisory roles.
- Teach One Reach One Ministries. We can provide on site training workshops or consult by phone or Zoom. Just use the contact feature on our website to contact us for more details. www.teachonereachone.org
Every child should be welcome in your church. Bible classes should be set up in a way that every child can learn about God. Using these resources can help make that dream a reality in your congregation.