Including Children with Disabilities in Your Ministry

It’s ok to do something small. But everyone needs to do something. At the “Every Child Belongs” special needs conference held April 4 at Cresthill Baptist Church, Allie McCarty, communications/operations manager of The Banquet Network (TBN), and Kris Buckman, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) children’s and youth ministry consultant hosted a breakout session on practical ways to equip church leaders to minister to children affected by special needs.

Allie McCarty from TBN shares tips on making ministries disability-inclusive (photo by Sharon Mager).

They emphasized you don’t need a large budget to care for children and families affected by disabilities in your church and community; all you need is faith, compassion, and a little creativity. The most important thing you can do is consider these individuals as you build your services, events, and ministries. This awareness alone will have a transformative impact! Conference guests were left with tangible and practical ideas to utilize immediately in their ministries. In addition, each attendee received a useful booklet co-authored by TBN and BCM/D to guide church leaders in their efforts. The guide includes tips, tools, and techniques to include children who have disabilities in all facets of ministry within the church. 

BCM/D’s Children’s and Youth Ministry Consultant Kris Buckman assisted Allie in the breakout session (photo by Sharon Mager).

Some of the topics touched on in their session included creating inclusive classrooms, buddy systems, sensory rooms, visual aids, and tools and lesson modifications. One of the visual aids discussed was picture cards that can be used to create visible schedules, memorize verses or key concepts of Bible lessons, or tell a story. Attendees were each given a set of picture cards created by TBN to use in their ministry.

McCarty and Buckman encouraged attendees to be creative, using what they have and knowing what their students like. They discussed the importance of intake cards. These cards give families space to share about their children while communicating any special needs they may have. Completed intake cards allow ministry leaders to prepare for children affected by special needs to ensure they have the best experience in the safest environment. 

A few key points to remember from their session are:
• Every student is different!
• Be creative using what you have.
• Trial and error is not a failure!
• Disability does not equal incapability of learning.
• Bestow grace on yourselves and the students.

Attendees received several sample intake forms to use at their church (photo by Sharon Mager).

Churches are encouraged to download a copy of the booklet from the conference. Attendees also left with a copy of Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo’s book, Every Child Welcome.

The BCM/D and TBN have linked arms to partner in inspiring and assisting churches to make sharing the gospel with individuals affected by disabilities a priority. If your church desires more specialized, in-depth training, please reach out to The Banquet Network

Allie McCarty serves as TBN’s communications and operations manager, and Kris Buckman serves as the children’s and youth ministry consultant for the BCM/D.