A few years ago, we opened up our special needs ministry at Ada Bible Church. From one-on-one buddies to two amazing special needs environment, I’m thrilled that we’re able to offer this programming throughout Discovery Village. For Orange Week 2.0, I interviewed Sally Brown, our special needs coordinator about our ministry and how we’re thinking Orange in how we care for these great kids and their families.

1. How do you build trust with parents and kids so they feel completely comfortable being able to attend the worship service?

First, make sure that we have a lot of helpers in the room. We keep a 1:1 or 1:2 adult to child ratio. We provide a wide variety of activities and have several hands on manipulatives to reinforce what we are teaching.

We create an environment where the kids feel like they belong.  I have heard from several parents that it used to be so hard for them on Sunday mornings to get ready for church, and now their child can’t wait to come to the special needs room. Parents say they can hardly keep up.

2. What sort of communication do you have with parents as they drop their children off each week?

When a child first comes to our class, we have a quick questionnaire for the parents to fill out.  This gives us crucial information on how to care for the child.  These say in the room for volunteers to refer to if they need ideas or information.  We ask the parents to update them yearly.

Each week, we also ask the parents how the week went when they arrive on Sunday and if there have been any changes we should know.  It really helps to ask these questions up front as in the moment parents may not think to share new information

3. What does a typical morning look like in your rooms?

When the kids come into the room, a volunteer engages them or “plays” along side of a student. We put in a music DVD and the kids wave scarves or play tambourines and sing along to the music.  Afterward, they sit around a table and listen to the Bible story and make a craft.  Then there is “free time” and the volunteers play alongside the kids some more and reinforce the story or memory verse.

We are very blessed to have two rooms in our ministry.  One of our rooms is a sensory room with a cuddle swing, therapy balls, sensory balls, mats, body socks, small trampoline, and a scooter ramp.   The swing has probably been the most used item we have. I highly recommend it for any special needs ministry.  There is a clip at the top so it can be removed if space is an issue, but it is an excellent tool to calm an agitated person down.  It is also very fun for the siblings that join us during Amomos and Parents’ Night Out!

4. What are Amomos and Parents’ Night Out?

Amomos is a Greek word meaning “without defect”. This is a community group for parents of children with disabilities.  The purpose is to offer support, encouragement, education, and share the ups and downs of parenting a child with disabilities.  The parents meet twice a month, and we provide childcare for both our kids and their non-disabled siblings.

Parents’ Night Out is a once a month opportunity for the parents to go out while we watch our kids and their siblings.  While the parents away, we have dinner, watch a movie, make crafts, play games, or whatever else the kids would like to do. It’s a great resource for parents, and we have a blast with the kids!

If you have more questions for Sally, she’s always willing to talk to other churches and families about special needs ministries. Just comment below or shoot me an email. I’ll be happy to get you in touch with her.

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