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.
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.