Partnering with parents to display the works of God in special needs ministry

shutterstock_225534871Do you want to partner more effectively with the parents in your ministry?

If so, a good learning place is special needs ministry. Because every child’s disability is unique, it’s vital to talk with each family to figure out the best ways to include their child in your church. While it’s possible – though not optimal – for other parents to drop off their kids without talking to you or someone on your team, that’s usually not possible for a parent of a child with special needs. It’s a great opportunity to become a student of your families, learning from them instead of exalting yourself as the ministry expert.

Why am I passionate about ministry to people with special needs? And why should you be? Because God has called us to make disciples of all peoples. Because Jesus invited all children to come to Him, not just the ones that had a certain number of chromosomes or behaved in a church-appropriate way. Because there is absolutely no indication in the Gospel that it isn’t meant for people with disabilities.

Doing ministry with families with special needs is one way that we, the church, can be part of the display of the works of God.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3, italics mine)

shutterstock_116209885Yes, Christ did display the work of God in healing the blind man later in that same chapter, but evidence from the rest of the Bible and from experience shows us that God doesn’t always choose to display His deeds by miraculously healing every ailment here on earth. A great example is that of Paul, whose weakness was a conduit for showing God’s perfect power.

…that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments… (Psalm 78:6-7, italics mine)

Inviting people with disabilities – children and adults – to fully participate in your ministry displays the works of God:

  • To the individual with special needs and his/her family, showing that God’s love isn’t exclusive and that we base our identity in Christ rather than diagnoses,
  • To the other children in the class and the other members of your congregation, showing that being created in God’s image doesn’t mean that we all look or act the same,
  • To volunteers in your ministry, who are able to be part of the unique plan that God has for each person, and
  • To the community surrounding your church, showing that you truly believe that there is a place at the banquet for anyone who accepts the invitation (Luke 14).

Of course, special needs ministry isn’t the only way that God displays His work, but it is definitely one way to do so. Special needs ministry isn’t the only place in which partnering with parents is important, but it is one in which you can learn a lot about ministry in which the family – and not just the child – is the priority.

Which parents could you partner with more intentionally this week?

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Dingles SpringCheck out Shannon Dingle’s blog series on adoption, disability and the church. In the series, Shannon looked at the four different kinds of special needs in adoptive and foster families and shared five ways churches can love their adoptive and foster families. Shannon’s series is a must-read for any church considering adoption or foster care initiatives. Shannon’s series is available here.

This entry was posted in Families, Key Ministry, Parents, Shannon Dingle, Special Needs Ministry, Strategies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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