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Getting Leadership On Board – The Big Picture

April 9, 2010

Question:  “How do we get church leadership on board with a special needs program?”

I liken churches to grocery stores.  Most large metropolitan areas have food markets that cater to the health conscience.  It has been these same chains and specialty stores that have evolved to provide non-standard food items to people with unusual dietary restrictions.  The sheer number and profit margins of those stores have exploded in recent years.  Why?  Among several contributing factors, the increase in special needs diagnoses that carry food restrictions has grown their customer base.  Just as many of those same customers don’t find what they need at the typical grocery store, they too struggle fitting in the typical church.  Are these people in any less need of spiritual nourishment?

Mainstream grocery stores still outnumber the diet conscious specialty markets.  But most large grocery chains now have a section of products that are gluten free, casein free, wheat free, dairy free, and the list goes on.  My family has celiac disease and now we can buy a gluten free cake mix at the mainstream grocery store one mile from my doorstep!  Indeed not every church is called to be the “Whole Foods” of congregations and special needs ministry.  But the market is changing and growing.  Just as the corner grocery store now provides for a handful of unusual dietary needs, it is time for every church to accommodate special needs on some level and in their typical environments.

Help your church staff see the way that special needs affects individuals and family members in your community.  Provide personal stories of congregation members or people who should be prospects for your church.  Keep in mind that when a child with special needs can’t find a place in church, a mother isn’t involved in women’s ministry, a father isn’t attending a weekly discipleship/accountability group, and siblings aren’t participating in children’s or youth activities.  Make the examples personal, real and relevant to your staff and congregation.

See  the Getting Leadership Onboard – The Details and Just the Facts!  Special Needs Statistics for a specific issues to cover with church leadership.

For more on this topic, see the short video “Welcome to Our World, A Message to Pastors“, created by McLean Bible Church’s Access Disability Ministry.

Amy Fenton Lee

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