Special Needs: Managing or Ministering?

We have several boys in the after school program that are diagnosed with specific special needs. One boy has high-functioning autism, and another is in a special education class in his school. And as I’ve said before, a handful have ADHD.

I’m thankful for the leaders I got to work with over the years at Grace Church, who worked diligently to minister to families who have children with special needs. I learned so much from them, not just terminology and information, but I saw them sacrificially serve these families.

In working with these children in our program, I was reminded of a couple of articles written by Amy Fenton Lee, of The Inclusive Church. I got to know her through a mutual friend, and she once came up for a special needs training event that we did. From that meeting, she produced a couple of articles that I still refer back to, to help me get re-oriented to a ministry mindset.

  1. Special Needs: Managed or Ministered To?  The title of this article came from a comment that a friend and fellow parent made, “Parents of children with special needs don’t want to be managed. They want to be ministered to.”
  2. Special Needs Training for Church Greeters  This is a summary of the training event we did, where a staff member interviewed both volunteer leaders and parents who have children with special needs.

These articles reminded me of a couple of things as I interact with families who are a part of the after school program:

  1. I need to be intentional to reach out to families here who have children with special needs. Yes, I need to manage the needs of the child, but I need to do it out of a desire to lovingly minister to them, not just check off a box.
  2. I need to be intentional to ensure that all staff and volunteers are equipped to minister to these families.

On the other side, if you have a child with special needs, here is another article that Amy wrote, about how you can help the church (or other ministry organization) prepare for your child’s visit.

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5 responses to “Special Needs: Managing or Ministering?”

  1. Valerie Campbell says :

    Your club there is looking more and more like my home everyday! LOL… I defintely find myself getting caught up in 'managing' my kids and just trying to 'survive' rather than actively dealing with the heart issues behind their behavior. I find that whether I am managing or ministering to them ties completely into where my heart is with God and if I am letting him minister to me…

    Plus- if I am looking for a long term change in behavior, managing them is not going to cut it. So really, it is worth the extra effort to go straight to the heart and minister to them. Not saying that this will make things 'easier' later, but at least I will not be dealing with the exact same issues 5+ years down the road with no progress.

    ALSO- if I am just focusing on behavior management, what happens as soon as I'm not there to hold them accountable? They feel free to go back to the poor behavior.

  2. Valerie Campbell says :

    By the way, out of all my kids, my low-IQ, but high-functioning autistic kid has the most powerful prayers and will even initiate prayer with me.

  3. Jen P says :

    Im not sure what i'd do without our current church who gave me hope that my kids could grow up to have a church family.

    We've had experiences of churches who only wanted to manage and churches who only wanted to minister. Now we have a nice balance of both and the best part is that they truly don't treat them any differently that the other kids. Sure The Elder has an assigned seat, but they would do that for any of the children. Our Children's minister even allowed us to arrive 30 minutes early to do odd volunteer jobs (which the kids love) so they could avoid arriving during the hustle and bustle of the noisy rush time. And best of all, when he flees, the staff and volunteers don't freak out, they just follow him at a reasonable distance. They allow him his quirks and don't force him to conform. They love him like I would, so I trust them. He's free to enjoy church and for me it's nice to be able to participate in the worship services and not be constantly called away or worried about getting ready to maybe be called away.

    The truth is that each child is special and has individual needs. The only common treatment among kids is love, and love is displayed in many forms. And at least for me, love comes back to me in the form of good behavior!

  4. Joey Espinosa says :

    Jen — would you mind sharing where you live and what church you attend? You never know who might benefit from it.

    I love what you say about how churches need to both manage AND minister. And that EACH child is special.

  5. Jen P says :

    Farragut Christian Church in Knoxville, TN


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