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Starting programs raises questionscomment (0)

April 13, 2000

By By Alice L. Elmore


Baby dedication is an anticipated time during most morning church services.

Everyone shifts for a look at the infant and laughter ripples through at the sight of the pastor’s tie being grabbed or at the sound of a screech. Aside from that, the church members solemnly promise to meet the child’s need at every stage of life.

But what if the child’s needs aren’t typical?

A baby with special needs often spurs churches to begin a special education ministry and to develop the ministry as the child grows. For churches, it’s easy to see the need this ministry will meet, but there are still a multitude of questions brought on by the prospect of a special education ministry.

The most weighty of these questions may be: “Where do we start?”

The first step, as with all serious endeavors, is prayer. After that, the church staff should discuss the ministry’s intentions. To help with this process, a committee can be established.

Committee members, with input from the church staff, should set guidelines and goals for the ministry. Decisions that have to be made include whether the ministry will focus on a particular age group?

Another consideration is whether it will be limited to Sunday School or will other activities be included.

“Our basic goal is to let these individuals see there is love. God loves them like He loves everyone else,” said Tommy Russell, a former special education professor and volunteer with the special education program at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa.

Next, push a volunteer around your church campus in a wheelchair to determine if every level is easily accessible.

Probably the best place to learn about prospects for the special education ministry is within your own church family.

To make sure you will not be providing a service already available in your community, touch base with local agencies that service people with special needs. These agencies can also give you advice and put you in contact with many prospects in group homes and sheltered workshops.

The next step is a vital one: Recruiting and training volunteers.

According to Cindy Wester, a special educator, there are a few basic requirements volunteers should meet. The most important skills to look for in volunteers are an abundance of patience, compassion and a positive attitude.

While a children’s ministry or a music ministry are fairly standard in most churches, many people don’t assume a church would have a special education ministry. For this reason, churches should make sure they publicize the ministry.

Once the word’s out, it’s time to start. The special education curriculum provided by LifeWay Christian Resources takes workers step-by-step through a Sunday School lesson or a Vacation Bible School session. Also, be sure to focus on making the time these individuals spend in your church enjoyable.

And, as you would with any potential church member, visit prospects in their homes.

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