Special Needs Ministry: Making Disciples and Loving Families

Ellie Axford

With Christ as Our Example

Jesus had a heart for special needs. He engaged people with disabilities by including them, speaking with them, and ministering to them. We are truly missing out on an amazing people group by not actively pursuing the addition of families affected by disability to our congregation.

As a special needs ministry, it is our ultimate desire to make disciples within the special needs community. Our ministry seeks to do this by demonstrating Christ’s love and equipping our congregation to welcome and minister to their special needs so that all can worship and serve together.

Blessed Beyond Measure

Jesus’ statement in Luke 14 is so powerful: “When you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed…make them come in, so that my house may be filled.”

Those currently working in this ministry realize that not only do we have the opportunity to bless those with disabilities, but when we embrace these families, WE are the ones who are truly blessed beyond measure.

Our rEcess Ministry

Realizing the enormity of what parents with a child with special needs face on a daily basis, we began our respite night in November 2013. This event, called rEcess, is a special time once a month where we currently host 13 families for a fun night. These parents can drop off their children with special needs (and their siblings) for a few hours. Their children are cared for while they have a few hours free for a date or just to relax.

We have children from age 3 through middle school. One parent recently told a volunteer that it was the first hot meal they had eaten together in a very long time, and another couple mentioned it was their first date night in two years. This is just another way we are able to minister to families in a way that truly can make a difference.

Making a Difference

Our church also continues to be blessed by a partnership with Young Life Capernaum as the YLC Williamson County Club meets here at Brentwood Baptist twice a month. The Special Needs Ministry partners with our Missions ministry to provide a meal and other resources, as well as some volunteer support. Young Life Capernaum–Williamson County has over 50 families of students/young adults with disabilities, ages 14-22.

This ministry is truly making a difference for families in our church.

The Ramseys’ Story

Chad and Shelley Ramsey are parents of Andrew, a four-year-old with special needs in our ministry. This letter is a beautiful picture of the significance of this ministry not only for families already attending, but also for families that could have the opportunity to experience its impact in the future.

Parents of children with special needs struggle more on a daily basis than parents of typical children. I feel qualified to make such a statement because I am the parent of both. We are so thankful the Lord chose us to parent a very special and unique child; we also know that parenting a child with special needs can be more challenging and stressful. Making it to church is no small feat. My tendency is to handle things myself and not ask for help; I never want to be a burden. Having Andrew forces me to realize that we need to allow others to help sometimes.

I can’t express how thankful I am that our church is committed to ministering to families with special needs. Knowing that our son has a place and isn’t a burden at church allows us to come to a LIFE Group and service. Without the special needs ministry, we would not be able to attend as a family and would be rotating who stayed home with Andrew.

Many people do not understand the dynamics of a child with special needs nor the value of including them with typical children. I can’t tell you how much it hurts to hear statements like, “This child would be better suited in a place that can help him.” The fact is, we are part of this church family, and Andrew is part of our family. We can’t exclude him because it’s difficult. I believe God placed him in our lives for a specific purpose which includes being part of Brentwood Baptist.

I don’t expect everyone in our church to understand. In fact, most probably never will. So you can imagine how excited we were to see ministering to special needs families was listed as a strategy in the Annual Report of the church. Knowing that we have this ministry and staff affirms to us that this church is where we need to worship, serve, and give. I recall hearing Dr. James Dobson speak about families with special needs years ago before I was married. I don’t know why his talk stuck with me, but it was maybe because the Lord was preparing me for Andrew. He said that these families were a forgotten group; many were unchurched primarily because the church didn’t provide an option for them. Schools figure out a way to include the children, but church didn’t. I recall thinking that was very sad. But like most other believers, I did nothing about it.

I just can’t express enough how thankful I am of what you are doing. Without your program, would we ever be able to attend church as a family? Would my other children grow up in church, or would we hire a babysitter to leave Andrew behind? These scenarios don’t have to be considered for those attending Brentwood Baptist Church. How many families are out there that may be dealing with these questions not knowing there is a solution? How many non-believers would come to a place if they knew there was someone to love on their child? Our God can do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine!

A Heart to Serve

There are so many possibilities to grow and expand this ministry. We receive inquiries weekly about new families interested in our ministry and attending our church.

Our greatest prayer and current need is for church members to join us in ministering to those affected by disability in our community. So many are surprised to realize that it does not take a special education degree or experience to volunteer. It simply takes a heart and a desire to serve this community that is an integral part of the body of Christ.

If you have questions about the special needs ministry for a specific age group or would like to know how to begin volunteering with this incredible ministry, you can contact the coordinator of each age group:

Contact Tiffany McCullough at [email protected] with any other questions.