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Celebrating Special Needs Ministry Volunteers – Dawson Baptist Church

October 26, 2010

Every volunteer makes for a happier lay servant when they feel that their contribution is #1 making a difference and #2 appreciated.  Two churches, Dawson Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL) and Ada Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI) both provided me with great content for this subject matter.  As a result, this will be a 2 part post – just on celebrating the volunteers.  Each church provided beautiful examples of how a church can use an event to enhance the relationship between the staff, the volunteers, and the ministry participants.

Volunteer/Special Needs Family Brunch

Hearts & Hands, Dawson Memorial Baptist Church – Birmingham, AL

Ginny Glass, Minister to Children, shares:

“We knew we wanted to create a setting that simultaneously celebrated our special needs families and volunteers.  We had the idea of doing a brunch during one hour of Sunday morning programming.  This time worked for our volunteers because many already planned to serve during the same period and it didn’t require an additional time commitment.   We served foods that children typically love such as scrambled eggs, muffins, fresh fruit and chicken fingers.  Our church kitchen prepared the meal and we paid for the expense out of the church budget.  Looking back, the event’s cost was small compared to the goodwill it produced for all involved.

We had eight families affected by special needs who were able to participate in the celebration meal.  We did not have a program or entertainment. Our goal was simply to facilitate fellowship between the children with special needs, their families, and ministry’s buddies (most participants with special needs are assigned up to 3 buddies).  Each child with special needs was invited to bring every family member.  Buddies could also bring their spouses and children.  While the event was uncomplicated, it provided a time of recognition and affirmation for the ministry.   And in a sense, our church was creating a significant memory for the child affected by disability and their entire family.

I knew the event was a success when the spouse of one of our regularly serving buddies approached me to share his observation of the morning.  He noted that his wife’s buddy (an elementary aged student with special needs) exuded joy throughout the event.  Through the child’s body language and excitement she was visibly communicating her delight in being surrounded by her favorite people – all at the same time!    As a children’s pastor, few things bring greater fulfillment than to see the ministry participants being successfully served at the same time the volunteers are honored for their service.  When a spouse of a volunteer can experience the fruits of the volunteer’s labor, such as this buddy’s husband did through the event, then we know that the celebration was a success.  For our ministry, the byproduct of the event was essentially a renewal of commitment for all the participants involved.”

Not surprising, Ginny Glass is already planning the 2011 Hearts and Hands Brunch.  For more on Dawson Baptist Church and the Hearts and Hands Ministry, click here.

For similar post, see

Celebrating Special Needs Ministry Volunteers – Ada Bible Church


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6 Comments
  1. Like many churches, for many years Dawson has provided one-on-one shadows for children with special needs. In 2003 the church recognized the need was great enough to create a coordinated ministry with a formal name. Hearts & Hands is now in its 8th official year of ministry with a super-charged set of volunteers and a wonderful children’s ministry team behind it. Way to go Laura DiFatta, Elizabeth Gwaltney, Ginny Glass, and Brooke Gibson!

  2. This sounds marvelous! I am glad they didn’t try to add on entertainment, which could have caused problems for some of the kids. Often special needs families don’t get to experience the typical events like this because they are too overwhelming, so the opportunity to do it in a relatively calm and supported environment is priceless.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Finding Special Needs Ministry Volunteers « The Inclusive Church
  2. Protecting Special Needs Ministry Volunteers « The Inclusive Church
  3. Celebrating Special Needs Ministry Volunteers – Ada Bible Church « The Inclusive Church
  4. 10 Ways to Spend Special Needs Ministry Budget $ « The Inclusive Church

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