Why a Special Needs Ministry Shouldn’t Be Special

We shouldn’t need any ministries in our church.  The only reason we have them is because of sin.  Ministries are needed for the purpose of teaching people to know God.  We won’t be starting up new ministries in heaven because the promise of the New Covenant is, “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:34)  And yet, we need to teach, because we’re only in the beginning of this inaugurated kingdom.  There will come a day when everyone will “get it.”

Talk to anyone with a special needs family member, or anyone who is going through a traumatic experience in their life, or who is from a different culture than the predominant one they find themselves in and they will likely confess to you, if they’re honest, that one of their bigger temptations is to tell everyone who hasn’t had their experience that they just don’t “get it.”

Shy of heaven, none of us get it.  We’re promised that the law will be written on our hearts and yet we find ourselves in need of still more heart transformation.  But the gospel is a promise of something far better than what is common in this world, a world where people are ever more fractured into subgroups and cliques of only the people who get you.  That’s why the church should look strange, because these kinds of people don’t normally hang out together.  Only the gospel can bridge the greatest human divides.  The gospel is the promise of sympathy, Jesus’ sympathy for us as our Great High Priest.  That self-sacrificial love is on display as we have sympathy for one another as a kingdom of priests.  Our ministry of sympathy is us seeking to “get” others as much as we can by the grace and power of God.  And knowing that the gospel is the power of God, we have great confidence that we can. 

When it comes to our formation of a special needs ministry, this is what we’re doing.  We want the church to be a place where all are welcome and all are discipled and all are included in the ministry as much as possible.  And this side of heaven, it’s going to take a lot of work before we get there. 

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Pray.  Nothing good will be accomplished in our church without prayer.  Unless we are totally dependent on God, it won’t happen.  Unless God is the one doing it, it won’t happen.

  2. Disciple.  Reach out to those in our congregation with special needs.  Maybe you need to discover who they are first.  Reach out to the family members in our congregation with special needs.  Seek to disciple them in the same way you would anyone else, by spending time with them, by entering into their life, by building those bridges of sympathy that only come from gospel love. 

  3. Join the special needs team.  As many of you know, we are forming a team to help coordinate the needs of those with special needs in our congregation and their family members too.  We are especially interested in having people on this team who do not already have special needs family members.  Please contact Pastor Joel if you’re interested. 

“They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”  Let’s make sure that the “least of these” know the Lord too – the children, the disabled, the foreigner, the stranger, and the unaware too.