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3 Ways to Reach Families with Special Needs in Your Church

3 Ways to Reach Families with Special Needs in Your Church

Posted June 11, 2019 by Kristen Eleveld

Families of people with special needs or those with special needs themselves often feel isolated, even from close friends or family. The struggles that come with having special needs, along with the need for multiple doctors appointments and therapies, mean that many families do not get to participate in church events or attend a small group on a regular basis. But by discovering what these families need and the best way to reach them, you can help every family in your church feel included and welcome.
 

Be Intentional

Many families who have a child or loved one with special needs may feel isolated, even from a warm church community. They may not be able to attend services or events regularly, or they may not have many close friends who understand their situation and its needs.

The church has an opportunity to find these families and reach out to support them and show they are not alone.

Consider creating a dedicated team of volunteers who can make contact with families or individuals who have special needs on a regular basis. Postcards, emails, and text messages are all great ways to reach out with a weekly or monthly message of encouragement.
 

Include the Details

Since the outreach team will already be sending regular messages, they can also remind families of upcoming events, along with information about regularly scheduled activities.

Include all the usual details, like time and place, but also consider including details about the environment. Will there be excess noise at this event? Are there restrooms near the sanctuary? Is there an elevator for wheelchair access to the second floor? Think about what needs your families have, and how you can accurately address them specifically.

These details can go a long way in reassuring families or individuals with special needs that their needs can be accommodated safely and easily.
 

Know the Lingo

IEP (Individualized Education Plan), OI (Orthopedic Impairment), ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), PT (Physical Therapy)—these acronyms may not make much sense to someone unfamiliar with the special needs community, but they mean everything to someone who has a loved one with special needs!

As your team establishes connections with families with special needs, ask the team members to take time and research information provided by the families. Not only will this equip your team with vital information on ways to meet the needs of the special needs community, but it will also give your team the chance to develop a deeper relationship with families as your team members take an interest in learning more about their lives.

 

If you have families or individuals with special needs in your church, take the time to reach out and let them know you care! Whether it’s a long letter or a quick text message, a small effort goes a long way in showing these families they are not alone.


 

Filed under: Communications

About the Author

Kristen Eleveld

Kristen Eleveld is a writer and self-proclaimed Mario Kart champion from Atlanta, Georgia. When she isn't working on a story or playing with her kids, you can find her at her blog.

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Comments (2)

  • Hilda
    11:53 AM
    Tue, Jun 11, 2019

    I am a parent of a child with special needs who no longer attends church.  These suggestions are not enough to make him feel welcome at church.  What is the church willing to change to make it more welcoming for my son?  Is it possible for him to go back to church and move in his own way without people asking us to move, telling him he is going to wreck things or having people move away from us?  Sending us an email is safe and easy but does not welcome us back to church. 

    Instead of creating a group of volunteers to send an email train with an encouraging word instead train these volunteers to be able to help with those with special needs so they can actually attend church.

    Instead of including details of the environment include details on how you will make it more accommodating for my child like if it is going to loud have noise cancelling headphones available or another room they can be in but still watch

    If the volunteers want to learn the lingo that’s fine but don’t give advice.  Don’t tell us something you read online or what worked for your friends daughters son.  It doesn’t make you a better person because you know what IEP stands for.  It doesn’t support me that you now know what this means.  How about just listen.

  • Bryan Haley
    11:58 AM
    Tue, Jun 11, 2019

    Hi Hilda, thank you for your comments! Kirsten (the article’s author) is also part of a family with special needs. So this hits home for her as well. The article here does not pretend to be an all-inclusive, across-the-board solution for churches, but rather to help guide steps in the right direction. I’d love to talk with you more about ways churches can communicate better to all families!

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