"Thanks to both the Dobbs Sunday School class and the Hand-in-Hand ministry, my Easter was more meaningful than ever before."
When Shades Mountain Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL) launched a church-wide campaign encouraging members to select and participate in a service project, one Sunday morning class contemplated all sorts of ideas for a group ministry activity. Upon remembering that several of their own class members volunteered in the church’s special needs ministry, the class leaders approached Amy Kirby, director of Shades Mountain’s “Hand-in-Hand” ministry.
“We were absolutely delighted that another group within our church cared enough about our ministry to ask ‘how can we help?’” Kirby shared. “Together, we loved the idea of creating an event that special needs families often miss out on. At the same time, the Dobbs class members wanted to give our regular ministry leaders a break.” The end result was an Easter egg hunt for the benefit of the Hand-in-Hand ministry participants and their families.
The Easter egg hunt was an incredible success, and by many counts. Families often bypassed by the typical church, were not only served, but celebrated. Children with limitations weren’t sitting on the sidelines, but were participating in an activity every parent envisions for their child. And the regular weekly ministry servants attended but were freed from their usual responsibilities.
Working with Special Needs Students
Kathy Sanders, a member of the Dobbs’ class and elementary school teacher, was familiar with effective teaching methods for children with special needs. Sanders presented the Easter story using the Resurrection Eggs, which allowed the children to see, touch and feel the story of Christ’s sacrifice. Other members of the Dobbs class split the tasks of preparing an Easter craft and providing lunch to the families.
David Dobbs, director of the Sunday morning adult fellowship shared, “The beauty of this project was that our class members were able to use this as a teaching opportunity for their own families.” Children of the Dobbs class members were involved in every activity: the put out food for the luncheon, assisted parents by carrying plates to the tables, and helped the children with special needs in preparing their own crafts.
I was fortunate to have been invited by Shades Mountain to attend the egg hunt and learn about the Hand-in-Hand ministry. It was one of the most memorable and touching days of my life. I will forever reflect on the sound of a ventilator amidst the children’s joyful exclamations and the visible signs of enthusiasm from a child once void of positive interaction and communication. Thanks to both the Dobbs Sunday School class and the Hand-in-Hand ministry, my Easter was more meaningful than ever before.
Other Ideas to Assist a Special Needs Ministry
People often say, “I’m not sure I’m suited to teach or care for individuals with special needs. So, how can I help?” Here’s how:
Recruit puppeteers from pre-teen and youth ministries. Present regular puppet shows.
Decorate special needs classrooms – updating bulletin boards, posting seasonal décor or creating visually stimulating sensory murals.
Lead music in a special needs setting - one-person guitar, small praise team, or even expressive singer with CD player.
Create, maintain, and update special needs ministry website.
Produce graphic design for marketing pieces and website.
Photograph or video program events for website, marketing, and in-church ministry publicity.
Provide administrative assistance such as helping with volunteer training preparation.
Plan, book and publicize expert guest speaker series to help special needs families.
Set up and coordinate a food drive involving special needs ministry participants.
Donate snacks, crafts, classroom equipment, music aides (tambourines, etc.) and other requested items.
Host social or fun activity for ministry participants, families and/or typical siblings. Recruit different Sunday school classes or small groups to plan, coordinate and staff the event. Here are some ideas for themes:
- Skit Night or Talent Show
- Family Easter Egg Hunt
- Bowling Night
- Puppets & Popcorn
- Pools & Popsicles (set up baby pools and blow-up water toys)
- Movie Night & Crafts
- 50’s Dress-up & Soc-hop
- Christmas Party
- Outing to minor league game, museum or zoo on a special needs friendly event day.
Amy Fenton Lee enjoys equipping churches to serve children with special needs and their families at The Inclusive Church.