Michelle's Story

  • Feb. 29, 2016
  • #8826

Want to introduce your church to special needs ministry? Listen to Michelle's Story.

Michelle's Story

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a story that just might change your church.

My friend Kate Brueck has a big heart for serving special needs families. Just recently, Kate shared with me about a woman she met at her church named Michelle. The two sat one day for coffee, when Kate probed her heart, asking what life is like for her and her husband to raise a son with autism and a younger daughter in our church. Kate wanted to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. What hurts had been sustained through the years? Why did they choose this church? What blessings had they experienced? What service and community had they enjoyed? Together, they discussed Michelle’s dreams for her children, how she desires them to grow in grace, serve in the kingdom, and be totally included in the body of Christ.

Michelle graciously answered Kate’s queries until, suddenly surprised, she said, “Kate, this is the first time I’ve shared some of these thoughts with anyone. No one has asked me these questions, or taken the time to work through the answers.” A few months later, Michelle shared with Kate that their conversation started a deep healing process in her heart. Michelle now works on staff in the children’s ministry and has pulled a team of people together to form an effective special-needs outreach. And the neat thing is, she is now sitting down with others over coffee, and asking them questions.

I share Kate and Michelle’s story because while simply asking is something that seems so small and commonplace, it is actually the best place to start. Start not just a friendship, but a ministry to families like Michelle’s in your church. After all, how do you find out what the barriers are between your church and special-needs families? How do you know what environment would be best for that 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome, or that 14-year-old boy with autism, or that middle-aged man who is nonverbal? How do you know if they know Jesus? How do you know what programs would be helpful or in what ministries the family is longing to take part? Well, you ask.

And you ask not only people like Michelle and her family. You ask God. You seek out His heart when it comes to starting an outreach to special-needs families. You ask your church leadership. Ask for their input and guidance, as well as affirmation of your vision, and approval of your plans. In addition, ask for your leadership’s blessing and support as you survey your congregation and community for the specific needs and the desires of people with disabilities and their families. Find out which church leader will ultimately be responsible for special-needs ministry. As you move through this journey, keep your leadership partner informed, celebrate God's provision together, and support your leaders as they interact with other leaders and members of the congregation.

Start by asking. In fact, you can ask our church relations department at Joni and Friends. We have some great resources for you. A lot of resources are in a 70-page primer we’ve put together called “Start with Hello: Introducing Your Church to Special Needs Ministry.” So please friend, visit my radio page today at joniandfriends.org and ask for your free copy of the booklet “Start with Hello.” We also have it in a downloadable format that you can file right on your computer for easy reference. Or if you want to go deeper, just go directly to our church relations page at joniandfriends.org and get your church involved. Michelle would be so happy. And you know what, so would I. So visit my radio page today at joniandfriends.org and ask for your free gift of the primer “Start with Hello." Ask, just ask and then watch God work.

* The transcript has been corrected to address an error in the original script.

© Joni and Friends


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