I am very thankful for the growing number of churches that are creating a welcoming, loving, well-thought-out, helpful ministry for children with special needs. How is your church doing in this regard? In his article, “Three Ways The Church Can Better Serve Special Needs Families,” Chris Hulshof gives the following general advice:
1. Create a climate of inclusive hospitality.
… If a family has a child with a cognitive disability, who will be responsible to welcome the family, access the need through parental conversation, and suggest a suitable plan for the service?
…When a church has a plan in place to welcome those with disability, they are demonstrating a generous and inclusive hospitality. It is a hospitality that says, “We have been waiting for you.” As the number of people with a diagnosed disability continues to rise it is essential for churches to thoughtfully consider how hospitable they actually are.
2. Minister to every member of the family.
…while disability affects one family member it impacts the whole family. There is mother and father who may not have been out on a date for some time because they do not know who to entrust with the care of their child. There may be a sibling whose adolescent apprehensions also include concerns for a brother or sister with a disability…An accessible church will consider how they can address the needs of the family as well as the needs of the disabled individual.
3. Engage in collaborative ministry as part of missional ministry.
…God has gifted every believer for the work of the ministry within the church. Sadly, those with disabilities can find themselves on the sidelines because no one has taken the time to understand how they are uniquely gifted and can contribute to the body of Christ. This may not be an easy process but it will be a rewarding one. I believe a church that takes seriously the giftedness of their disabled members will experience firsthand the delight of worship without pretense.
Getting Practical: If your church would like to be more proficient in ministering to the special needs families in your church, listen to this excellent seminar by Brenda Fischer, “Disability, Autism, and the Tender Mercy of Our God.” Also, here is the accompanying handout that contains a wealth of practical tips.
There will be a seminar on ministering to children and adults with disabilities during our 2016 National Conference, April 14-16 in Indianapolis. John Knight will be presenting, “From Genesis To Revelation: Disability and His Sure Promises of Help.”
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