No room at the church?

by Kathy Kuhl

Do your child’s special needs keep you from getting to church? Several parents I interviewed for Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner have sadly told me that they couldn’t attend worship because of their child’s challenges.

(I know some of you don’t care to attend a church. But because of the wonderful support some churches provide families, I’m considering this question. If you don’t attend a church, you may still find these resources helpful. Many churches that offer help to everyone, even respite care, as McLean Bible Church in Virginia does through Jill’s House, for example.)

Some parents have decided that their families can’t manage attending a service. Some churches feel overwhelmed by our kids’ special needs.

If a church is very small and no one there knows anything about special education or special needs, one can almost understand this. Almost. With a shortage of volunteers, limited budget, and ignorance of what’s needed—providing for those with special needs can look pretty daunting.

But for those who want to help, many obstacles can be overcome with the helpful resources for churches in Special Needs Smart Pages: Advice, Answers and Articles About Ministering to Children with Special Needs, created by Joni and Friends.

Special Needs Smart Pages provides the nuts and bolts of how to start, grow, and maintain classes and programs to help families.

The book is a comprehensive resource: 331 large pages and two CDs of reproducible materials. It doesn’t just provide handouts, Bible studies, and lessons. It focuses on providing practical advice and tips on how support kids with various needs.

Material is tagged with symbols to help you quickly find help in serving those with autism, vision and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, developmental and cognitive disabilities, speech and language difficulties, or physical disabilities. The book briefly explains of various disorders, basics on what to do with seizures, and other safety and personnel issues. It’s a thorough handbook.

The authors show their wisdom and experience by what they include. They suggest beginning by giving a survey of the congregation to see which special needs the members are dealing with, and what they feel they need most. (The book includes a sample survey.) They suggest starting small, and have practical ideas for recruiting volunteers, and maintaining prayer for, interest in, and awareness of the effort. They discuss care for parents and siblings of kids with special needs, and how to help other children relate better to those kids with challenges.

If your church is thinking about reaching out to families with special needs, I’d suggest this book and one other. Stephanie Hubach’s book, Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability provides a different angle on this topic. Stephanie’s book clearly discusses the foundations of and reasons for such a ministry—why it is not only good for those with disabilities, but for the whole church, as well. She helps you see how to think about it.

(Another resource for children’s ministry leaders is Vangie Rodenbeck’s Shaping Special Hearts Radio, an internet radio interview series you can download and listen to here.)

I recommend both books, Special Needs Smart Pages and Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability. Purchasing through any of the links on this post will support the work of LearnDifferently. Thank you.

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  1. I have been using Gospel Light materials for at least ten years and they are the best! I am so happy to see this product. It can be difficult to persuade church volunteers to take on special needs kids. Hopefully Smart Pages will take some of the fear of the unknown out of the experience.

    1. Jennifer, thanks for writing. I’m glad Gospel Light Publications have helped you serve. They have also published this book, which I agree looks very helpful.

      This weekend at the Accessible Kingdom Comference (which I highly recommend) I met someone who is adapting curriculum for Great Commission Publications. I’m grateful publishers are providing. resources to help us help.