by Mark Entzminger/ September 1, 2015
There is a significant ministry opportunity that is going largely unmet in many of our children’s ministries: an intentional strategy to reach kids with special needs. It may sound a little daunting to you. You may be saying, “Mark, I’m barely getting by as it is!” I hear you, but I want you to know that there are small and simple ways you can develop a strategy for reaching special needs kids.
Three Ways to Launch an Intentional Strategy for Kids with Special Needs
1. Learn: Having a special needs ministry is more than an extra staff person in a private room. Before announcing and recruiting the first workers, take some time to read and learn as much as possible. I recommend starting with Amy Fenton Lee’s book, “Leading a Special Needs Ministry.” This practical handbook is full of ideas about how to train and equip volunteers and develop programming and policies. It also gives resources about how to minister to parents who have recently learned about their child’s diagnosis. Additionally, every leader in your church can go through the Momentum Leadership Development Unit: Education. In this workbook, you will discover solid teaching on special needs, dynamics of mentoring, and learning styles.
2. Pray: Ask God to identify the individual(s) who will love and care for each one of the children He will send your way. Don’t fall for the trap of requiring parents of these children to serve, even once a month, in this ministry. Churches that fully understand the role of a special needs ministry realize it’s a ministry for the parents as much as it is the child.
Having a person on the team who is dedicated to leading the special needs ministry ensures these kids will have someone who is tuned-in to them and considers their needs when the kidmin team is planning for the future and special events. Equip this team member with resources and support so they can lead this ministry well.
3. Engage: Leaders who fail to initiate contact with parents of special needs children are beginning the journey at a disadvantage. Parents are usually more than willing to share the best ways to soothe their child, how to pick up cues of sensory overload, and at what point they would like to be notified to come in to help the child.
This may seem like an uncomfortable task. But rather than trying to figure it out each week, many parents would rather have caregivers ask, “Are there any insights you can provide to help me care for your child in the best way possible?”Launching a strategy to minister to kids with special needs begins with learning more about the needs of the kids within your ministry, praying for and finding people who are passionate about reaching these kids, and engaging their parents to help you minister to them effectively.