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Church Staff – Team Approach to SN Ministry

April 25, 2010

I was thrilled to receive a phone call this past week from two participants in my workshops at the March Children’s Pastor’s Conference in San Diego.  Brandy Barr, Children’s Ministry Leader of Group Life with Austin Christian Fellowship (Austin, TX) and Erika Dunham, an occupational therapist and children’s ministry volunteer at ACF called to share of their successful special needs ministry proposal meeting with their church’s executive team.  This outline (and post) was developed by these two ladies to show the staff how a newly launched special needs initiative would draw from and affect every area of ministry.  This is the model way to launch a formal effort to accommodate special needs for a church of any size!  Way to go Erika & Brandy – and – Austin Christian Fellowship for catching the wave!

Special Needs Ministry – A Team Approach

Lead Pastor:

  • Achieve Buy-In from the staff and church body.
  • Communicate God’s heart for the Special Needs community.
  • Understand SN lingo and diagnoses of the individuals in his church.

Director of Pastoral Care:

  • Develop First Response team
  • Be aware of services in the community to recommend families at appropriate time.
  • Develop etiquette training program to volunteers and staff.

Youth and Children’s Ministry Directors:

  • Recruit volunteers.
  • Develop a very thorough system to protect themselves, the church and the families (policies & procedures, volunteer training).
  • Provide teaching strategies to small group leaders who teach children/teens with special needs.
  • Create waivers/contracts for parents to sign for liability purposes.
  • Gather full medical history and needs of students entering their ministry.
  • Equip classrooms with Special needs friendly activities.
  • Be in communication with Pastoral Care when difficult behavior or concerns arise.

Women’s Ministry Leader:

  • Network and/or provide sources for childcare.
  • Coordinate Care calendar.
  • Develop Bible study options (outlet) for moms.

Men’s Ministry Leader:

  • Create and coordinate a service project to build h/c ramps for homes.
  • Create discipleship and support for dad’s of children with Special Needs
  • Inclusion for adult men with Special Needs.

Small Groups Coordinator:

  • Provide training for leaders and/or groups who have parents participating with children with SN.
  • Budget additional funds for childcare on small group nights to assist in childcare for parents of children with special needs
  • Coordinate special trainings and group meetings to educate small group members on diagnoses and necessary care for children in their group that have special needs.  This will help them share in the journey of raising a child with special needs.
  • Note:  It is important to not create small groups specifically for SN parents so to integrate and blend both typical families and special needs families into the same small groups.


  • Create parking spaces designated for families with members with Special Needs.
  • Consider converting a church bathroom to a family bathroom equipped with changing table or mats for diaper changes, tube feedings.
  • Contact a local attorney to better understand Texas laws for people with disabilities and how this may affect the church

Guest Services:

  • Train all members in proper SN etiquette. (So Important!)

To read about a guest services equipping event and to see a training outline, see the post Special Needs Training for Church Greeters

–       Erika Dunham, Occupational Therapist & Austin Christian Fellowship Children’s Ministry Volunteer – and – Brandy Taylor Barr, Children’s Ministry Leader of Group Life with Austin Christian Fellowship.

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