Third Step: Planning for Special Needs Ministry

(Read First Step and Second Step first)

Planning is one of my favorite things to do. Not gifted with a visionary ability, I am most content among those who develop and implement systems to achieve established goals. Sounds like I’m a fun girl, right?!

The dreaded teacher-y phrase in school was always “Okay, find a partner!” Worse was, “You have been assigned  to a group…” (insert robust minor key music, rain in the window, and a feeling of unexpressed outrage.)

Planning on my own allows me to construct my own vision, avoiding unnecessary drama arguing whose point is better or whose idea makes more sense. No need to argue your motives or intentions, because there is no one there to question it! Planning alone is my personal favorite…but it is not the best.

Form a ministry team. To have a good plan, plan alone. To have a great plan, enlist the help of others who share your love and vision for the ministry.

  1. Choose wisely with whom you will serve. Choose others who share a similar agreeing vision. Otherwise, it will not only be painful, but will shipwreck moving forward in ministry endeavors. Imagine having someone who outdoes every idea, argues with every first step, or just bogs down the process with their agenda or lack thereof. It will not only frustrate you, it will unnecessarily discourage you and keep ministry from moving forward. Not everyone who is willing to serve with you needs to be on the planning team!
  2. Keep your eagerness in check. In the beginning, you may be so excited you have others on board with the idea, you may feel a little desperate to get started – especially if you are the parent starting the ministry at your church. Do not compromise your best judgment for the sake of getting something going. Remember, in church ministry, the goal is far bigger than one child. It should be a ministry that addresses the needs of others even before your own, and it should benefit the church as a whole. Including others in your team will keep you focused on this goal!

Make a plan. Imagine a well-intended but over-stated announcement like:

“Special Needs Night every 3rd Thursday.

All children with special needs welcome.


Just drop off. No RSVP needed!”

What if only 15 volunteers are serving 40 kids who have significant needs? What if a medical person is needed on site for an individual, but it was unknown until arrival? What if the first event was so understaffed it burns out your crew and the next month you have even fewer volunteers? Start small, specific, and prepared…you can always grow the plan, but it is hard to pull back!

  1. Prepare PEOPLE in advance. Make sure you are prepared with the most important resource of all: committed, do-whatever-it-takes, PEOPLE. You can only do what you have enough volunteers to do. Get a head count in advance. (Don’t forget to include those with medical or therapeutic/counseling backgrounds). Prepare together for scenarios, etiquette, and attitude. We all need that!!
  2. Prepare Facilities in advance. We need safe, clean, designated, available spaces. We need to see potential escape routes, hiding places, or rooms and hallways that are difficult to manage. We need to make sure necessary supplies for cleaning, bathrooming, and activities are well stocked ahead of time, making them clearly accessible.
  3. Prepare your church. Even if only 5% of your members are actively serving specifically in Special Needs ministries, everyone in the church needs to be a part. We never want to give the impression this ministry is hidden away. We want to make sure our entire church is involved. How?
    1. Pray. Prayer is necessary for the events, ministries, volunteers, and families being served. Pray for ministry leaders who develop ideas, church leaders who approve ideas, and teachers and helpers as they manage a variety of children in the classrooms each week.
    1. Give. Events often need food, extra diapers in a variety of sizes, and goodies for take home bags. Perhaps a family who visits has a need for which they are unable to pay (medical bills, school supplies, or special items to keep their children safe). Church members may be willing and able to help with that need if they know about it.
    1. Invite. We are surrounded by special needs daily. Informing church members what the church offers (including a contact person’s number) will help them feel more comfortable inviting any family to visit the church. It will be comforting to the visiting family to be able to ask some questions prior to attending.
    1. Welcome. Every church member informed of possible behaviors and needs they may see are better prepared to welcome any family that visits. It blesses families to see warm, inviting faces lit up with compassionate smiles instead of expressions of shock or judgment. Families want to feel understood and loved, and church members want to be equipped to embrace any opportunity to show understanding and love.

What would you add to this list?

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