The Sustainable Ministry Show Episode 136 – How to welcome families with special needs into your ministry (no budget or extra space required)

On this episode we talk to Kerri-Ann Hayes about ministering to children with special needs including how to make your ministry more accessible even if you have zero budget and no extra space. With 1 in 10 kids facing a hidden challenge like autism, ADHD, or anxiety, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss.


  • Find out more about The Accessible Church Cohort.
  • In Jesus’ time, there was a group of people who were left out of ministry and society. The same can be true in churches and ministries today.
    • Mark 2:1-5 – The friends who lowered their friend through the roof to get him to Jesus.
    • How can we remove obstacles for parents so they don’t feel like they have to cut through the proverbial roof.
  • The biggest mistake churches make in welcoming children with special needs is not expecting them to visit and thus not having a plan in place to welcome them.
  • Once doing a good job with a one or two children with special needs, often the ministry will grow quickly as word spreads that all kids are welcome.
  • There is a difference between inclusive ministry and special needs ministry.
    • Recommend most churches start with an inclusive ministry (buddy system) and then, if needed/possible, build into a separate special needs ministry. The reverse tends to be more difficult. It is also simpler to start with an inclusive model.
  • Seeing a child come into our ministry in a wheel chair prompts us to begin thinking about how to ensure they can engage successfully. But what about children coming in with invisible challenges like autism, ADHD, or even anxiety.
  • “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” -Andy Stanley
    • Often, the changes you make for kids with special needs will also benefit the rest of the children as well.
  • We need to partner with parents, they are the experts on their children.
  • How to think through the transition from where we are
    • Empathetic investigators – what’s behind the behavior of kids before jumping into discipline.
    • “Behavior is the language of a child who has lost their voice.” -Dr Karyn Purvis
  • What about if a church concludes, “We are not equipped for this kind of ministry right now”?
  • There may need to be some unlearning and re-learning of some of the skills and habits we have surrounding children’s ministry.
  • Most parents want their children to be included in normal ministry as much as possible, but some kids simply cannot safely participate.
  • Key question to ask a parent: “How can I help your child more successful?”