There are many styles of ministry that have been effectively used by the church to meet the needs of individuals and families affected by disability. Consider these five models as options for your church.
- Buddy Ministry—an adult, teenager, or peer is paired with an individual who has special needs during the typical activities of church life. Churches often call these individuals by a name that identifies the relationship between them and the special needs children they are supporting. Some examples of names include Sidekicks, Friends, and Heroes. These buddies support those with special needs so that they can participate to their full potential. The buddies are not babysitters. The buddies do make sure their partners are being evangelized and discipled with opportunities to serve, worship, fellowship, and disciple others.
- Sensory Space—an environment where individuals who need a break from typical sensory input (like worship music or people talking) or who need sensory input not found in a typical church environment (like the feeling of motion or being wrapped tightly in a blanket) can have their sensory needs met so that they can fully belong. Sensory spaces can come in all shapes and sizes like the corner of a classroom with a tent and squishy chairs, or a bag that a person can pull sensory items from as needed in his or her typical environment.
- Self-Contained Instruction—an environment where individuals who do not learn well in, or do not benefit from, the typical environments with their peers can be discipled effectively. This environment can be highly successful if supported inclusion is not effective.
- Respite—an opportunity for caregivers to have a break from caregiving while allowing the person who is cared for an opportunity to have fun with friends in a safe environment. Respite can have a spiritual emphasis, or it can simply be a time of sharing Christ’s love through relationship.
- Support Groups—a time for moms, dads, couples, siblings, or people with disabilities to gather for encouragement and support from others sharing their experience. This should not replace the larger community of the church body but can be a transformative addition to it.
We hope that you can use these ideas, along with the direction from your church leadership, as a starting place to explore the best way of meeting the needs families and individuals within your church express.
What type of disability ministry does your church have? What have you found to be the most desired service for families affected by disability?
This blog is an excerpt of Start with Hello: Introducing Your Church to Special Needs Ministry. Go to Amazon or click here to download the full text for free!