Special Needs Ministry: You Can Succeed!

“Every church can be successful in serving those with special challenges.” This is something I share in workshops across the nation. However, that statement is met with expressions of doubt by many. They reference the church size, location, building codes, curriculum cost, staffing, financial support and other issues as obstacles to having a special needs ministry. While there isn’t a one- size-fits all, or even most, program, the success of special needs ministry will hinge on how the entire church embraces it as a significant part of the great commission. Although some might not agree at first, it doesn’t take long to share in scripture where we are all created in the image of God Himself and thus part of His perfect plan found in Scripture. As we continue to think about God’s plan and look at Bible heroes of our faith, we can see that God made an intentional decision to embrace those who may have special challenges in bringing people together in ministry according to and for His divine plan and purpose.

Some of the biblical heroes were born with challenges and others developed them later in life. Moses had an expressive speech disorder that God used to show His plan is perfect and is not hindered by our perceived limitations. King Saul displayed a mood disorder, yet God chose him to be the first king of Israel. Jacob had a limp after his encounter with an angel, but it did not stop him from fulfilling his purpose. When those we serve bring to us special challenges in ministry, even when we think it impossible or are concerned as to the why, how, or when, it is time to take a pause and let the Holy Spirit lead us into the Word. We must seek guidance and clarity with accountability for bringing the good news of Jesus to everyone.

Success in building a program in your local church for the purpose of ministering to those with special challenges must be a commitment from the entire church, seeking to include and connect. Having a program on paper while holding meetings or activities will not be successful unless the component to live out the ministry as intentional is manifested. We must seek to build relationship to bring people who have special challenges to the one who knows them best, loves them most and created them in His likeness for meaning and purpose according to His divine plan. With these elements, every church can be successful in their ministering to those with special needs and challenges.

Ideas You Can Use



Commitment to special needs ministry involves a vision, a strategic plan, and human resources.

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Format (Structure)

There are basically three structuring strategies to promote inclusion for people with special needs that have been successfully used in children’s ministry: family inclusion, reverse inclusion, and full inclusion.

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Instructional Strategies

No matter which inclusive format you select to use for your program, consistent instructional strategies are important to understand as you minister to those with special challenges.

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The way in which your children’s ministry connects with your community will many times be dependent on the philosophy of inclusion that is widely used in your geographic location.

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Every church can be successful in serving those with special challenges.

Special Needs Resources

We have compiled a list of resources you can use to help minister to children with special needs.  Check them out today.

Resource List

Contributing Author: Anita Disbrow

Anita Disbrow, began her career in 1977 serving as one of the first children’s ministry director’s in COGOP  for Michigan. She has served over the many years in various capacities. Anita holds undergraduate degrees in Human Development and Family Life, Education and holds teaching certification in ECE-Adult Education. She holds credentials as an ABA Therapist, Trainer for the MANDT System of Relationships Building, Communications, and Conflict Resolution with Behavioral Support Techniques. She most recently earned her Ph.D in Organizational Leadership; having completed research in Spiritual Formation for the Intellectually Disabled Learner. Anita and her husband, Kurtis, currently are involved in COGOP Mid-Atlantic Regional Ministries. Anita and Kurtis have three adult children. At this point in their lives, their greatest honor is being grandparents!  Feel free to contact them at bestoflifeforever@gmail.com.


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