At some point in your youth ministry career, you will (if you haven’t already) bumped up against special needs students who want to grow in Jesus.
What do you do? What kind of ministry do you have for youth with special needs?
My guess is — you don’t have much. I think we are all still trying to figure out how to minister to special needs students and their families.
All I have done is just to love them for who they are and where they are at and try my best to make them feel included. I always wanted to do more, but never took the time to figure out a plan nor I never had a burden to address this special needs in youth ministry issue.
Well there has been a shift in me in how I see ministering to youth with special needs.
I have had three groups of people really challenge me to consider how youth pastors deal with special needs students.
1. Amy Fenton Lee. Amy is super sharp, strategic and has a strong passion for special needs ministry. Amy Fenton Lee is the Special Needs Consultant to Orange and is responsible for developing content and resources for special needs kids (check out her new training DVD here or book on how to lead a special needs ministry here) and has a blog (The Inclusive Church) devoted to helping churches successfully include children with special needs. Amy has written extensively on the subject of special needs inclusion in children’s ministry and student ministry environments. So seeing Amy train leaders on how to do deal with special needs kids has really given me a heighten awareness on how to deal with special needs.
2. Luke. Luke was a highly functioning autistic teen who was in my ministry 5 years ago. Luke loved coming to youth group but at times it was really difficult having him there. But Luke and his family taught me that if you keep including and inviting him to be an active youth group student, be super flexible and keep in constant communication with his parents — it is possible to effectively minister to special need students like Luke.
3. A number of youth pastors who have a passion for ministering to special need students. As of late, many youth pastors (Bekah Miller, CJ Barone, Jeremy Kirby, Rebecca Johnson) asked me: What is there for special needs students in student ministry? There are some great blog posts out there on Josh Griffin’s blog — More Than Dodgeball, but many are not sure what to do.
So I wanted to poll my readers.
- What kind of ministry have you done for families who have youth with special needs? What is your approach to including special needs in your ministry?
- Do you have a passion/curiosity to figure out this special needs issue in youth ministry? If you do, please tell me why in the comment section below and make sure to include your name and contact info.