There’s no question, launching a special needs ministry at church is a high and holy calling. A ministry that extends far beyond individuals who are served.
Marian V. Liautaud · May 31, 2017
Note from the Editor: We thought this article is even more relevant than when it was published just about 2 years ago. If your facility is now considering how you can welcome special needs children and their families into your church, then you’ll find this article immensely helpful.
When Phil Heller became lead Pastor at White River Christian Church (WRCC) in Noblesville, Indiana, in 2006, he introduced the staff and congregation to his then 5 year old son, Cade. Precocious and full of energy, Cade also brought with him the challenges of downs syndrome, a genetic condition affecting nearly 6,000 new babies every year in the United States.
At the same time the Hellers came on-board at White River, the church was already serving a few other families whose children had special needs. So when Cade joined the church, an organically grown special needs ministry had already begun taking root. “I loved the level of servant heartedness I saw right away at White River,” recalls Heller. “And as more people became aware that we’re a church that supports individuals with special needs, more families started to come to us,” says Heller.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
At first, White River simply created a self-contained classroom and adapted its Sunday school curriculum according to the needs of each person that showed up. This provided an opportunity to share the Gospel with students of varying abilities, and it gave the families of these kids time to worship without worrying about their children’s well-being. Over time, White River’s own congregation began to understand the ministry opportunity of serving children with special needs and their families, and the desire within the church to fill that need grew.