Bringing a Family Ministry Approach to Special Needs – Part 1
When working with special needs families, the concept of encouraging and equipping parents to discuss faith within their family is still the same; it just has to be executed a little differently. You have to keep a few things in mind. The ideas shared here are not true of every special needs family; however, they are good things to remember and may help you bridge the gap between the “typical” family and the family impacted by disability.
Parents of special needs children are pulled in different directions. Between doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, participation in social groups, and necessary interactions with support agencies, the daily calendar of the special needs family can be overwhelming. These parents are not looking for more to do and they certainly don’t want to be made to feel guilty for failing to do more. Recognize the daunting daily itinerary of such a family. When encouraging these parents to foster their child’s spiritual development, offer ideas for teachable moments within the context of the existing schedule.
Parents of special needs children often have an independent and advocating mindset. Countless times these mothers and fathers have been forced to fight for the resources, accommodations, insurance coverage (and the list goes on) that their child needs in order to thrive. These parents have become accustomed to hearing people tell them “no” while exhibiting an unwillingness to work alongside their family. As a result, the idea of partnering with the church for their child’s spiritual development may not be a natural inclination for such a family.
Parents of special needs children need realistic and attainable goals for how they shepherd their child spiritually. These moms and dads already have so much on their plate. And some parents may already battle feelings of failure. As ministry leaders, part of our responsibility is showing parents how small yet deliberate interactions can lay the groundwork for the child’s spiritual growth. We can help parents find ways to connect with their child with cognitive disabilities by taking the most basic of Biblical concepts and intentionally discussing, modeling, and reinforcing them inside the home.
In Bringing a Family Ministry Approach to Special Needs – Part 2, we’ll talk about specific ways the church leader can equip and encourage parents of children with special needs to be the spiritual leaders inside their own home. ~ Meaghan Wall
Meaghan Wall is the Special Needs Ministry Coordinator for Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX where she has served for the past five years. Stonebriar Community Church currently welcomes 80 students with special needs. Meaghan taught the “Family Ministry, Spiritual Formation and Special Needs” workshop at the 2012 Orange Conference. For pictures of Stonebriar’s Special Needs Ministry Suite, see this 2011 series of posts.
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This post was written to coincide with Matt Norman’s Family Ministry Blog Tour