Bringing a Family Ministry Approach to Special Needs – Part 2
In Part 1 we shared general insights to help the family ministry leader better understand parents of children with special needs. In today’s post, we’ll offer specific pointers for equipping and encouraging those same parents to lead inside their own homes.
Ministry leaders can apply the concept of a church-parent partnership inside a special needs ministry by being intentional about what we do in the ministry and how we involve the parents.
Invite the parents to watch as the Bible lesson and songs are taught to their child in the church setting. Inside Stonebriar Community Church’s Special Needs Ministry, we intentionally offer the Bible story and reinforcing music at the end of our time with the children. As parents arrive to pick up their child, we allow them to stand outside the door and beyond their child’s view. We encourage those parents to observe large group, giving them the opportunity to have Bible teaching modeled for them. More importantly, these families are seeing how their child is engaging in and learning from our Bible lesson. Parents can also hear the music so that they can reinforce the songs at home (songs are a wonderful teaching tool!). Note: Since everyone who enters our classroom must be background checked, we do not allow the parents to physically enter the room.
Provide a take-home piece each week to parents. Parents can benefit from ideas for at-home activities and conversation that may play off Sunday’s lesson time. By offering two or three suggested questions, this helps a parent facilitate dialogue to spur their child’s spiritual growth. It is important that the weekly handout be simple and practical. This is also a great opportunity to point parents towards the big picture goal for their child, leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ (an important reminder for special needs families). Parents need prompting to talk to their child about faith issues during those moments in the car, amidst therapy sessions, or in personal care times. A very simple example of a weekly handout can be accessed here: Truth 1_ God is real.
Enable and encourage parents to pursue their own faith development. It is important that these parents be given the chance to receive adult-level teaching and interaction. At Stonebriar Community Church, we feel called to offer special needs accommodation so that all parents can participate in their respective learning and worship environments. We know that mothers and fathers are the real missionaries inside their home. Through my regular interactions with our families, I am consistently encouraging parents to utilize opportunities to join a Bible study, a support group or maybe even a book study with others.
All of this sounds very simple but it needs to be intentional on our part as ministry leaders. It’s really easy to simply provide childcare; however, it takes more work and planning to invest in the spiritual development of the children and families we serve. I encourage you to take baby steps and work towards the latter. It’s definitely worth the investment. ~ 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. For more from Meaghan, see Family Ministry and Special Needs on the Orange Leaders blog.
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This post was written to coincide with Matt Norman’s Family Ministry Blog Tour