Inviting and welcoming persons with disabilities enriches the congregation. As God’s children, they are gifts to us and we to them. Persons with disabilities include those persons who are blind, autistic, deaf or hard of hearing, mobility impaired, or who have cerebral palsy, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, the many intellectual disabilities and other impairments.
The need for inclusion of persons with special needs is huge. This has been proven at Chapelwood where we started with a Wednesday night group of four persons and now have eighty in attendance, Sunday school classes for all ages with buddys, a Pals’ Place respite program for teens and friends, American sign language for a church service, an Artists in Action program for teens and friends and a church staff that plans inclusion into all activities. The motto, “Every meeting of persons is a gift exchange” is true since every one of God’s Children has brought gifts to us. Some teach, sing in the choir, serve in kitchen ministry, and are officers in the church, while others bring their gifts of prayer; encouragement, Bible reading, and many others serve or bless us with their presence. Students are welcome to attend typical study groups and come to special needs events, and mentors are provided when needed.
As material was needed for training leaders in Texas Conference or my local church, I wrote material that seemed appropriate. I offer them to you, and will offer more all the time. They represent my insights only, and do not speak for any organization. You may reproduce the materials, but do not sell them.
The information on Special Needs is divided into sections:
1. Church Environment Speaks describes a wholesome inclusive environment, and gives practical information on how to achieve it. Church Emergency Planning for Persons with Special Needs is part of the church environment.
2. Leader Information gives guidelines for safety and goals and presents leadership practices, construction of a lesson plan and gives material for mentors (buddys) to accompany students needing a little extra help.
3. Worship Information highlights differences in perception in worship and gives ideas for making worship a more holy experience for everyone.
4. Parent Information will give instructions for a ministry with persons who have children of any age with special needs. The section will also provide materials for use by parents such as how to use the Bible with children and how to prepare for an emergency.