When you hear the words “special needs,” what comes to mind?
Special Needs Ministry is as varied and yet similar as the people who make up our church and community. A special need can be any physical, developmental, or mental challenge that affects anyone – not just children – and limits their daily ability to integrate into their school, church, or community life.
As a church who has always had a pioneering spirit to address urgent spiritual and physical needs, there are many reasons why we have a Special Needs Ministry, but 1 John 4:19-21 provides a clear picture:
“We love because he first loved us … We have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”
And these are our brothers and sisters.
What does Special Needs Ministry look like today?
Approximately 20 children and teens who have an adult Buddy serving with them weekly on a Sunday or Wednesday night. These Buddies make sure that the child or teen is safe and able to integrate as much as possible into their Small Group and worship communities.
Approximately 35 adults who serve as a Buddy on any given week caring for our children and teens with Special Needs. These adults are some of the most caring, giving, and flexible people I’ve ever been privileged to serve with. Some work vocationally in the areas of medical, therapeutic, and educational occupations, while others just want to be a friend to someone needing a little extra care while at church.
Approximately 20 Brook Hills moms and dads who are able to have a few minutes of encouragement and equipping while attending worship or Small Group, knowing that their children and teens are safe and cared for that day.
A Small Group specifically designed for young adults (ages 18-30) with special needs providing a specialized Bible study curriculum and loving leaders each Sunday morning at 11:00am.
When I look at some of these Brook Hills families walking a journey with special needs, I see some of the bravest and strongest (even though there are days I’m sure they may feel weak) parents. They are some of the most passionate people – advocating and providing care while nurturing and loving their children, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I see children, teens, and adults, some of the most lovable, smart, resilient, and beautiful people, who God has uniquely created in His image.
We feel privileged to shepherd, care for, and love them.
How will Special Needs Ministry look in coming days?
More adult Buddies to care for more children and teens needing individual care while gathering here. These children range in age from infants to teenagers and have a wide range of challenges. We need more Buddies now to help care for more children awaiting their Buddy.
A Special Needs leadership team who will begin meeting soon to regularly pray, dream, and cast vision for future ministry to children with special needs and their families. This team includes parents of children with special needs, medical professionals who serve this population daily, Buddies who serve faithfully each week, and siblings of adults with special needs. It includes adults of all ages and backgrounds who have a passion and a heart to see this ministry grow and these children and families served well.
More opportunities for parents and families of children and teens with special needs to connect to the faith family of Brook Hills through gatherings, activities, and fellowship. And this provides additional ways for parents to be encouraged, equipped, and supported in their marriages, parenting, and the daily care of their children.
So Brook Hills, how can you help?
Pray for this ministry to see clearly the needs of our children and families walking a special needs journey and for the direction we need to prioritize this year.
Pray for our current team of Buddies as they serve these children and families each week – for the love of Christ to flow from them and the compassion of Christ to guide their steps.
Pray for these children, parents, and siblings. Pray for God to give them strength each day and comfort for the journey.
Pray about serving with this ministry as a Buddy or partner to these children and families.
Dawn Stephens has served as the Women’s Minister at Brook Hills since 1998. Recently, she also began serving as our Special Needs Coordinator. She and her husband, Greg, have been married for 27 years and have a son named Tyler.
If you have any questions or are interested in serving with the Special Needs Ministry, contact Dawn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-313-7791.