Skip to main content

Insight for Welcoming a Family with Special Needs to your Church

Walking into a new church for the first time can be hard for a family who is navigating the world of special needs. These families approach new situations with such caution and precision. Life is challenging in the most well planned and familiar situations. When coming into a new situation, it can throw off individuals who rely on rigid routines and predictability. Parents and caregivers will make sure they are prepared by doing a little homework. Most will call ahead or visit prior to the first visit. While they are there alone, they will talk to people who attend the church or a lot of times the pastor. They will ask questions that pertain to their situation. For some, knowing that the church is familiar with individuals with special needs will be important. "Are their others who attend who have children that have special needs?", they might ask.  "Is there a disability ministry at the church?",
is another common question. 

What they might not ask for, but would be really helpful, is a tour of the facility. It is a hospitable gesture whether a church has a special needs ministry team or not.
  •  Knowing where the restrooms are for a quick emergency is a must. Are they handicap accessible?
  •  Do you have a dedicated space for sensory breaks? If so, make sure that it is included in your tour. If you don't have a dedicated space at this point, is there a place that this family could bring an overwhelmed child? Is it a place to take an older child with special needs where they could feel welcome? 
  • Ask if the family needs special accommodations for seating? Maybe closer to the back? Balcony seating is often easier in some situations other times not, especially for wheelchair accessibility. Maybe the church could recommend placing a  "reserved seating" sign up for the family across the chairs where they will be seating. 
  •  Churches should seek to protect the dignity of the families and the individual in all situations. Keeping a door of communication open with someone that can assist in meeting the families needs is really key for success. Assume nothing. If you have a question please ask lovingly. 
  • If something doesn't quite work out the first time, be patient as you work with the family as they find their place in your community. 
  • Would the individual with special needs have a place in a classroom with same age peers? If so, arrange for the parent to meet the teachers to discuss accommodations that would need to be made for the student. Would the parent be welcome to sit in? Having a parent sit in a class would be a great idea. This would give the student time to know the teacher and the other students. Providing awareness training for the class is often helpful in building 'natural supports' (peer friendships) in the class. 
A tour and placing someone who knows the ends and outs of the facility, that has the authority to make a quick judgment call for the families needs, can make a world of difference when making them feel welcome. It is easy to get misplaced in a new community. If you don't have someone looking out for you. Not knowing what is acceptable within the church could really make a family feel uncomfortable and ultimately feel unwelcome. Having a disability ministry in place at your church can be a great support for the church and for the individuals and families that need this type of support. 

For training and other resources check out stepscare.org. We look forward to serving you.  #ChurchIsForEverybody

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Taking the Leap- Don't Hesitate to start a Disability Ministry

I was recently talking with another mom. She was considering starting a disability ministry in her church. She knew it was a great idea and they had a handful of individuals at her church already that would benefit from her starting a disability ministry. But---

There is always a hesitation when diving into something new. She was scared that she would not have enough time to give the program what it needed to be a good program. She questioned if she would have the support she needed to do it. She was a mother of children with special needs herself. What if they needed her? What if she was too busy heading up the ministry that when her children were in trouble she would have to walk away from it and then what would happen to the program?

I was right there with this mother. I too am a mother with children who have special needs and there has been more than one occasion that I volunteered  to get involved with something and I had to back out because I am my kids care giver, I am their p…

Structure and Ministry as a pendulum

Churches can benefit from structure and operational systems. The challenge for most churches are that they hang from one side of the pendulum or the other. We have some churches that lean heavily on the organization and structure and fail to connect personally to the ministry side, the personal touch that relates and connects with an individual and their humanity. Then I have been in churches that lack in structure and organization, but seem friendly and personal. Which is great, but in these church that rank high in friendliness and likability yet struggle with structure and organizational systems which overlook crucial opportunities for ministry productivity. 
Church systems of operation help break down individual ministry to ensure that not one person that comes in through the doors of the church is over looked or are not plugged in somewhere. The longer an individual lays dormate once joining a church, the potiential of a lasting membership is less likely, especially in this genera…

Steps Care Inc

I have been stocking the mail box for days, looking for a piece of mail from the States office.  I have filed for nonprofit status through the state of Missouri. Getting Steps incorporated is just another great step in the right direction. We are looking forward to seeing this foundation unfold. Not only by providing training for churches, but also providing resources for families of children who have special needs. We look forward to growing awareness in religious/faith based organizations everywhere.



Help us spread the word. Share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Keep coming back to our blog for more helpful training tips and information.
We look forward to serving our community.
www.stepscare.org