Elevating Community In Special Needs Ministry

Our Special Friends Ministry at First Baptist Orlando is beginning a season of transition.  Our Development Team is currently learning and discussing how to apply the Think Orange approach to how we “do” special needs ministry.  Our Development Team is comprised of parents of children with special needs, volunteers from our special needs ministry, and staff.  I believe that if we are going to really think about how to make the changes that will create a more effective special needs ministry, our approach needs to incorporate representatives from all the people who will be affected by the changes.  At this point in time, based on the ages or functional level of our kids with special needs, we are not able to incorporate any of them into our Team.

There are five Orange essentials and the first one that our ministry is tackling is Elevate Community.  Elevate Community is essentially about building relationships.  Relationships are the connections people have with each other. Every human being has a deep desire to be connected with others.  Everyone has a need to be believed in by others and to belong to a group of people that authentically care about them.

However, a child with a developmental disability such as autism may make it challenging for families to engage in ordinary activities, from Thanksgiving with the grandparents to soccer in the community.  What’s more, parents may feel that their friends and family are uncomfortable with their child, critical of their parenting, or deliberately clueless about what it means to raise a child with a developmental challenge.  Feelings of isolation from others can be the result.

Our Development Team is starting with Elevating Community because I believe that if there’s one thing that we can do as a ministry, as a church, that our culture cannot compete with, it’s building relationships in the context of authentic community.  One of our core values at First Baptist Orlando is authentic biblical community and our special needs ministry doesn’t just want to Elevate Community well…we want to do it with excellence!  Why? Because as Reggie Joiner put it:

“One of the greatest gifts the church can give its families is a consistent network of leaders and friends who are there to help them win” (pg. 186).

Another book that we’re using to discuss how our initial steps to build relationships is: Inside The Magic Kingdom by Tom Connellan.  I love to read and read a lot, and this book really has me psyched because it’s about the principles that drive the culture and phenomenal success of Disney in the area of customer relationships.  Living in Orlando, it’s been easy to spend some time at all of the Disney theme parks.  Every time I’m there, I am always impressed with Disney’s quality, excellence, customer service and overall culture.

The four key principles from Inside The Magic Kingdom that we’ll focus on in the process of our initial steps towards Elevating Community, and the ones that I’ll blog about, are:

  • The competition is anyone the customer compares you with.
  • Everyone walks the talk.
  • Everything walks the talk.
  • Reward, recognize, and celebrate.

These four key principles can be applied to special needs ministry and provide powerful strategies that will help special needs staff and team members become more focused on building relationships that in turn will elevate community.

If you’re interested in following along and discovering what we’re learning then “subscribe” to the blog or click “Like” on our Facebook page.  You’ll be glad that you did!

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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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