The number of children with special needs is rising. These needs may include physical, emotional, or cognitive differences. Some needs are obvious, while others may not be. I am not an expert in special needs ministry; however, through my years in ministry, I’ve learned parents of special needs children need to be ministered to as much as their children. Parents have shared their stories of heartache. Unfortunately, some of these encounters were at church. Use the four ways listed below to minister to these parents and families.
- Listen and pray. Ask parents to share their story. Allow them to share their struggles. By listening, you connect with them and discover ways to minister. Pray for them and pray with them.
- Always welcome them. Be genuinely happy to see parents and special needs children. More than likely, you and I are not aware of the struggles they face each day. Many times it’s an accomplishment to make it to church. Some families may feel they are a burden to your ministry. Protect against that perception. Families need to feel welcomed.
- Share encouraging words and affirm parents. Every parent needs to hear positive words about their child, especially parents of children with special needs. Children with special needs are a blessing to our churches and ministries.
- Educate teachers and parents of typically developing children. We can’t assume children, parents, and teachers have had exposure to kids with special needs. They may feel fearful, uncomfortable, not knowing what to say or how to act. Others may stare, or jump to conclusions about a child’s behavior. This hurts deeply. Use opportunities to educate parents and children to show compassion and kindness to children with special needs. Teach them to talk with them and get to know the child and the family. Help teachers connect with parents to gain information about their specific child in order to help the child have a positive experience at church.
I encourage you to learn more about special needs ministry. Leading a Special Needs Ministry is an invaluable resource for churches. We must seek ways to minister these children and their families. Churches need to be a place where families feel loved and encouraged.
Delanee Williams serves as a Ministry Specialist with Lifeway Kids. She is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Delanee has served in kids ministry for over twenty years and is passionate about developing, equipping and encouraging leaders.