But What If We Don’t Have Anyone With Special Needs At Our Church?

June 1, 2011


This is a good question. It’s a logical one. It’s one that often comes up when a church first begins discussing special needs ministry.

It’s just not the right question.

Here are some better questions:

1) If you had no children’s ministry – no nursery for babies, nothing taught in an age-appropriate way for preschoolers, and so on – do you think families with children would feel welcome in your church?

Another way of wording that: if you were starting a church but had no children in the first few families, would you include a children’s ministry, or would you say, “No, we won’t concern ourselves with that until kids show up. Then we’ll play it by ear”  or something like that?

2) Do you have people with disabilities in your community?

I can already tell you that the answer to that is yes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, 19% of Americans have a disability. This group – 54.4 million people – is about the same size as the combined populations of Florida and California.

If you want to know the exact percentages and breakdowns by disability area for public school students in your area, search for “child count” on your schools district’s website or call the special education department and ask for that information. For funding purposes, every district is required to track and support the count of students with disabilities, and this information is part of public record. Those numbers won’t include children who are in homeschools or private schools, nor does it include children too young or not yet diagnosed. It is a good place to start, though.

3) Do you want to share the Gospel with everyone in your community, or do you want to limit who has access to your body of believers?

Some churches communicate this to their members: “Please invite your friends to join us next week.* (*And by ‘friends’ we mean friends that would fit well and easily in our facilities and current programs. If you would like a complete list of who to invite and who to exclude, please see one of our ushers in the back after the service.)” 

Okay, maybe the last bit is a stretch. Nonetheless, I’m guessing that’s not the message you want to send.

Throw out the initial question. Answer the other three instead.

Reprinted with permission by:  Shannon Dingle (The Works Of God Displayed)

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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3 Comments on “But What If We Don’t Have Anyone With Special Needs At Our Church?”

  1. snappinministries Says:

    You make EXCELLENT points, Shannon! But this question always cracks me up… We humans always seem to make judgments based on what we can see with our eyes. And what irony that it’s no less common in the faith community! As with the Lord we follow, there is much we cannot see with our eyes. It’s about time we, the church, get with with program and start welcoming ALL of God’s children.


  2. 5kidswdisabilities Says:

    We are so fortunate to have a church interested in welcoming people with disabilities. We obtained a sign language interpreter for one woman who is deaf, and now we have 4 others who have joined. We have cut outs in the pews so wheelchairs can fit without blocking the aisles. We have an FM system for individuals who are hard of hearing, and recently put in an elevator because the only ramp into the building was too step. Our church is so welcoming to everyone that it has been a natural progression.


  3. Jodecy Says:

    I guess finding useful, rieallbe information on the internet isn’t hopeless after all.


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