My husband recently spoke to a group of pastors in the area about special-needs ministry. He wanted to communicate the importance of reaching this often-neglected people group. Some pastors seemed encouraged. Some pastors seemed scared. Fear holds them back from making a difference.
Four fears stand out to us from conversations we've had with pastors over the years, but I hope we can replace these fears with confidence that a special-needs ministry in your church can meet a big need in your community.
We'll make a mistake. Let's be honest—special-needs parents can be a tough bunch. We can be intimidating. But those of us who want to attend church truly want to make it as easy as possible both for the church and for our families! Don't be afraid to ask questions with the intent to learn and the motive to love. The better you can know the child and his/her needs, the more comfortable everyone will feel. Just do your best, like you do for every child who attends your church.
We aren't big enough. It's true that small churches face challenges when it comes to special-needs ministry. All the "what if" scenarios are intimidating. But if churches waited until they could meet every "what if" scenario, none of us would launch a special-needs ministry, or any ministry at all. We don't have to have a plan in place for every person we can imagine walking through our doors. We just have to love and serve the ones who do. And churches of every size can do that.
We don't have enough resources. Churches aren't required to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. So what churches do to acomidate members and guests is up to them. If you already print bulletins, consider printing a few in large print. If you already have toys in the nursery, consider adding some recommended for kids with sensory issues next time you buy new ones. As your ministry grows, you may expand the ministry and adjust the budget to meet the needs, just like you would do if the women's ministry (or any other ministry) had new needs.
We don't know anyone to ask for help if we need it. Well, if you're reading this post, you do know someone to ask for help! Key Ministry offers free consultation to churches of any size. We can recommend resources, brainstorm ideas, and problem solve with you!