Special Needs Ministry
Handbook Excerpts


Table of Contents:

Why this Handbook?............................................................1
Letter from a Pastor.............................................................2

Part I - The Foundation for Special Needs Ministry
Meet Some of Our Youth.....................................................3
The Challenge of Special Needs Ministry..........................4
Who are Special Needs Youth?...........................................5
What Makes this Model Unique?.......................................7
Why is Special Needs Ministry so Important?...................9

Part II - Planning the Ministry
Steps to Getting Started.....................................................10
Spiritual Planning Form......................................................16
Spiritual Plan Annual Review Form...................................18

Part III The Results from Special Needs Ministry
What Can You Expect from Special Needs Ministry?.....20
Stories from Some Parents of Our Youth..........................23

Appendixes
Appendix A - List of Resources........................................27
Appendix B - Sample Ministry Handbook.......................28
Appendix C - Sample Annual Calendar............................32



Excerpt:

From Part 1 - The Foundation of Special Needs Ministry:

Meet some of our youth.

Sarah's face is framed with soft brown curls; she is a petite twelve-year-old whose quiet face lights up with a smile when something pleases her. Sarah was born with a rare chromosome disorder that is accompanied by developmental delay and she can neither speak nor sit unassisted. She has a tracheostomy and is medically fragile. Sarah is also a member of our church. Like the other twelve-year-olds at our church Sarah needs people in the congregation who will appreciate and accept her as she is, and recognize the gifts that she brings to us.

Michael is a warm twelve-year-old boy with a great smile. He's active, friendly, and affectionate. Michael likes the music that our church band plays during worship, and, in fact, the trumpet player in the band has noticed Michael's enthusiasm and invited him to play with a rhythm instrument when the music starts. But there are also problems. Michael can't sit still during church and his high energy level prevents the rest of his family from being able to worship. Michael has Down Syndrome and a seizure disorder; he does not talk and it is hard for him to form meaningful relationships with others. But Michael is also an important member of our church and God wants to use Michael in our life together as a congregation.

Kendra is a nineteen-year-old young woman who has been coming to church for 13 years. Although she would like to become a member of the church and receive the sacraments, she has never joined a confirmation class because the classes are too hard for her. She has trouble understanding abstract concepts and it takes great effort for her to grasp spiritual truths. Kendra doesn't engage with others socially like you and I do, and despite the fact that Kendra has been attending worship services for 13 years, she has few friends. Kendra has autism.

Perhaps you have a Sarah, a Michael or a Kendra at your church and want to help them become more involved in your church life. Where do you start? What do you do? What is it they need? The answer will be different for each one of your youth because God is working in each of their lives in a unique way.

This handbook offers a method to get to know youth who have special needs by listening to them and their families. It provides a framework for special needs youth to talk about who they are, how God made them and how they want to grow in their Christian faith. Finally the handbook offers a plan for the church to fully welcome special needs youth and their families into the Body of Christ.



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