Disability ministries are beginning to bloom and grow across the nation—an amazing answer to prayer. However, as churches work to serve our friends impacted by disability we have noticed a trend. Most ministries are geared towards children with special needs, leaving our adult friends struggling to fully belong. Here are three helpful tips on building an adult, special-needs ministry.
1. Consider their needs
When planning an adult ministry, it is helpful to consider the greatest needs of the adults you wish to serve. The needs of the adults in your class may vary widely, but most adults desire the following:
- Fellowship with similar adults
- Finding a place of belonging in the church as a whole
- Hearing the gospel presented in a manner they can understand
- Knowing how to make and keep friends at church
- Access to activities that currently present physical, social, or emotional barriers
- Opportunities to serve and to be celebrated for their unique gifting.
Ministries for adults with disabilities, whether they take place on Sunday mornings or weeknights, should have a heavy emphasis on building community. Within that context, your friends can benefit from various ministry components, including lively worship, Bible lessons, food, fun, and fellowship. The leader of this class should freely present the gospel, trusting that the Holy Spirit will fill in the gaps as they are faithful to present it in ways that accommodate the physical, intellectual, and sensory needs of the class members.
2. Create an environment
It is important to create a classroom that adults, with and without disabilities, would enjoy spending time in. Avoid the use of childish pictures and decorations, choosing instead to use visuals that are age-appropriate. Classrooms should be set up to accommodate physical and sensory needs. Creating this environment will say to your friends, “you are important, and you belong here.”
3. Equip them for more
Within the context of your ministry and within the church as a whole, it is important to help your friends recognize their gifts and find opportunities to serve. Each of your friends is marvelously and intentionally created with gifts and talents to share. Consider bringing in church members to share about their interesting hobbies or jobs. This will not only inspire your friends to evaluate their professional interests, but it also has the potential to initiate mentor opportunities when your friends are interested in the hobby or job that was shared. You may also consider teaching life skills such as planning meals, understanding public transportation, and handling money. The possibilities are endless and your friends will be much faster to learn those skills within the safe and trusted environment you have created.
As you and your church engage in disability ministry, we encourage you make intentional plans to include adults with special needs. If your church already hosts an adult, disability ministry—thank you!
Some of the content in this blog was taken from the Irresistible Church book, Pathways to Belonging.