Elevate Community: Who’s Your Competition?

April 11, 2012

Building Relationships

Elevate Community for me, is about building relationships.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe that if there’s one thing that we can do as a special needs ministry 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 developing authentic biblical community and our special needs ministry doesn’t just want to do this well…we want to do it with excellence!

The first step in determining what changes need to be made in order to Elevate Community in your ministry is to determine your ministry’s culture.  Every special needs ministry has a culture!  How do you determine yours?  Thru observation.  Everything that you observe your special needs staff and volunteers do, and say, is a reflection of the culture of your ministry.

If you want your kiddos and their parents that you serve in your special needs ministry to engage in relationships and build community it has to start with your volunteers.  The truth is, however, that if you want your volunteers to engage in relationships and build community, it has to start with you.  It always starts with the leader.  The leaders of the special needs ministry needs to be relationship-focused first before expecting others to follow suit.

Relationships are everything to your ministry.  And one of the first principles in creating stronger relationships identified by Tom Connellan in Inside The Magic Kingdom is:

“The competition is anyone the customer compares you with.” 

How does this apply to special needs ministry?  Consider it this way, if there is anyone else out there who does a better job at building relationships than your ministry, no matter who they are,  your ministry suffers by comparison!  Who might be some examples of competition for a special needs ministry when it comes to building relationships with your kids and their parents?  Here are a few:

  • Schools.
  • Service agencies.
  • Specialized therapists.
  • Doctor/dentist staffs.
  • YMCA.
  • Babysitters.
  • Respite providers.

What does this mean for your ministry?  It means that parents and kids will consciously or unconsciously compare their interpersonal interactions and relationships that they have with everyone else…to the people in your special needs ministry!  And if they have more satisfying relationships with others, your ministry will suffer by comparison.

Recall a situation where you were very impressed with the level of personal service you received.  How did it raise your expectation of other businesses?  Why did it raise your expectation of other businesses?  Because it’s human nature to compare one thing to another.  Comparison is often the way we rate things as “better than” or “worse than.”  Comparison helps us to make “sense” of the world and it’s important to remember that this is also true when it comes to relationships!

“The competition is anyone the customer compares you with.” 

As far as special needs staff and volunteers are concerned, you’ve got to be really good at engaging the kids and their parents.  It means, as Seth Godin would say,

“You have to be remarkable. You’re either average or you stand out. What you do is either invisible to others or it’s remarkable.  Remarkable doesn’t mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to the other person.”

In other words, people should REMEMBER what you do and WANT more of it.

What are some tangible things that you need to do relationally to be remarkable in your quest to Elevate Community in your special needs ministry?  Here’s a list of 6 ideas that our special needs ministry brainstormed.  If you think of more, please feel free to comment and add to our list!

“Build each other up” (1Thess.5:11):  stay in touch with your kids and their parents on a weekly basis during the weekdays via phone call and/or email.  Let them know that you are thinking about them other than just on Sundays.

“Be hospitable to one another” (1Peter4:9):  welcome parents and their kids as soon as they enter your classroom and let them know how glad you are to see them.  For kids, kneel down and get at eye level with them!

“Encourage one another” (1Thess.5:11):  look for at least one positive thing that a child does during Sunday School and make sure to let him know AND his parents know what it was.

“Pray for one another” (James 5:16): provide parents with a prayer request card that they can fill out and give you to you before they leave so that your ministry can pray specifically for them.

“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13):  call your parents and ask them what you can do to help make their transition to and from church less stressful.

“Accept one another” (Ro.15:7): avoid judgmental attitudes towards parents when they show up late for church and/or inconsistently to church.

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Michael Woods

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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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4 Comments on “Elevate Community: Who’s Your Competition?”

  1. drgrcevich Says:


    I had to reread your post because I don’t think of what I do with my team at my day job as “competition” for the local church. I do think parents of kids with special needs (especially those who are most effective at advocating for their kids) develop expectations of excellence that the local church needs to prepare to meet.


    • SpecialNeedsMinistry Says:

      Steve, is it possible that the expectations of excellence that a parent has for the local church to meet their needs is in comparison to how effeciently another organization (school classroom) or person (therapist) met their needs?


  2. Colleen Swindoll-Thompson Says:

    Great, great post. Thanks Mike. Colleen Swindoll-Thompson


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