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Special Needs Ministry Emphasis Sunday (& Family Picture Wall)

August 22, 2011

Today’s post is the eighth in a series about my visit to Stonebriar Community Church’s Special Needs Ministry in Frisco, Texas.  Meaghan Wall, the Special Needs Ministry Coordinator for Stonebriar, was kind enough to provide a tour of the church’s special needs suite. In today’s post we’ll talk about the Family Picture Wall and give the background on why it was created – for the purpose of producing a video for the special needs emphasis Sunday.   The other posts in this series have or will feature helpful information related to:

Meaghan Wall also authored the following posts featuring pictures from Stonebriar Community Church’s 2012 Special Needs Family Photo Shoot:

Bringing a Family Approach to Special Needs Ministry – Part 1

Bringing a Family Approach to Special Needs Ministry – Part 2

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Behind the check-in desk is the picture wall featuring church families who have a child participating in the special needs ministry.  As soon as I entered the special needs suite, I noticed the well-displayed and striking photographs of these beautiful children and families.  Without a doubt, to the families involved in the ministry (and to a new or visiting family) this wall communicates “you are welcome and loved here“.

The history behind the family photos…

Meaghan shared that the picture display was a byproduct of the church-wide special needs emphasis Sunday.  Earlier this past year and during all the worship services, the senior pastor, Chuck Swindoll, interviewed Meaghan about the special needs ministry.  In the same services a video about the special needs ministry was shown to the audience.  These pictures had been taken for the purpose of producing the video.

To create the video (and this picture wall), the church contracted a professional photographer to come to the church one Saturday morning.  The families participating in the special needs ministry were then invited to come for a free sitting with a photographer.  By having the church select and provide the photographer there was consistency in the photos and families could come to a familiar place (where their child felt comfortable) for their photo shoot.  Meaghan noted that this was the first time many of the participating families had ever done professional photo as they had feared their child with special needs would not participate as expected.   The photographer the church used followed the families, snapping numerous pictures while allowing the children to select where they would sit and how long their session  would last.   This photographer did a great job of capturing natural moments and allowing the photo shoot to be fun rather than a tug-of-war.  Each family was provided one free family photograph and offered the opportunity to purchase additional photos at a reduced cost.  For many families this experience was both a gift and treasured memory.  Meaghan shared that oftentimes a gifted photographer is willing to donate their time for the sitting fee.  Professionals of all backgrounds may relish the idea of using their talents to serve their church in such a meaningful way.

Stonebriar Community Church’s special needs emphasis Sunday

Along with being interviewed by the church’s Senior Pastor in each worship service and showing the video (mentioned above), the special needs ministry participants served in visible roles on the church’s emphasis Sunday.  Children and/or adults who participate in the special needs ministry could be seen

1.  Greeting worshipers and handing out the bulletins
2.  Serving alongside ushers, receiving the offering
3.  Reciting Scripture from the pulpit (one student or adult was selected for this role)
4.  Singing on stage for the special music
5.  Collecting an “exit offering” specifically for the SN Ministry as worshipers exit the worship center

Meaghan advises special needs ministry champions approaching their church’s senior leaders, “When planning or requesting a Special Needs Sunday, it’s important to take what you can get the first year.  If it’s only a video, that’s great.  If it’s only a child on stage singing, even better.  The congregation will buy into it (most say it is the most meaningful Sunday of the year) and they’ll request more the following year.”

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For more ideas related to a special needs emphasis Sunday, see  Finding Special Needs Ministry Volunteers.

For more ideas for ways to use the talents of church members, see Create a Variety of Special Needs Ministry Opportunities.

Does your church host a special needs emphasis Sunday?  How does your faith community honor families impacted by special needs?  We’d love to get ideas from you…please leave a comment!

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