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Getting Started

 As a follow-up to some of my previous posts I have attempted to provide a few concrete steps for starting/developing a disability ministry. Below are guides from The Evangelical Covenant Church of Chicago and the North American Mission Board. Many of the steps will repeat and others might contradict. The point is that you walk away with a sense of direction from these resources. Following the two above-mentioned guides is a list of web resources for you to explore in your ministry efforts (check the recommended books on this page).




Twelve Step Program for Disability Ministry[1]

1.    Pray. Invite God into all of your thoughts, plans and actions throughout the following 10 steps.
2.    Write a letter to decision-making pastor to share what’s in your heart and on your mind.
3.    Meet with pastor. Manytimes God has prepared his heart long before you approach him. Pray for him before your meeting.
4.    Form advisory and prayer team. Ask pastor for referrals to people of like hearts. Include pastor or rep, special ed teacher, a parent, OT, PT, etc.
5.    Surveythe congregation and building to assess needs. Address the needs with your pastor.
6.    Formulate Ministry Planwhichincludes mission and vision statements, potential programs, proposed budget, 3 year goals, and your Ultimate Dream Plan.
7.     Form Disability Outreach Team (DOT) from those sharing your vision (may retain some from your advisory and prayer team). They will help you put plan into action.
8.     Conduct team and relationship building via fellowship events and studies.
9.     Identify families in need of service via survey and by talking to your pastors.
10.   Grow programs in accordance with needs, and number of volunteers per ministry plan.
11.   Attend workshops and conferences, i.e., BASS, Through the Roof Summit, JAF Disability Ministry Training, THRIVE, etc.
12.   Praise God for His awesome provision!


 1. Pray.   No ministry is ever effective unless is it surrounded by prayer. Ask some people in your church who are effective pray-ers to pray for this ministry.
2. Talk with your church staff or missions development councils. Bring them the information you have collected about the need for this ministry in your church. The stronger the support you have from the church staff and missions development council, the more likely you are to have a successful ministry.
3. Create a committee. If at all possible, the person selected as leader of this committee should have training in special education or have experience with persons with special needs. The entire committee needs to receive training. One of the main functions of this committee is to sensitize the church to the needs and capabilities of persons with special needs. 
4. Do an accessibility inventory. As a result of this inventory, make suggestions about how your church can make its facilities more accessible.
5. Do a survey to discover persons with special needs. As a result of this survey, make a list of potential persons with special needs who might be a part of your ministry. Make a list of persons who might be resources for your ministry.
6. Contact local agencies about the numbers of persons with special needs they serve in your community. Consult your local phone book for numbers.
7. Determine which ministries you will begin first. The needs and resources discovered from your survey should be the basis or determining where you will begin. After your ministry gets under way, you may discover other needs your committee wants to address.  Start out with a manageable number of ministries. As the work grows and more people get involved, more can be done.
8.   Recruit volunteers. Put articles in your church newsletter, make announcements from the pulpit, speak in opening assemblies during the Sunday School hour.
9. Provide training. One suggestion is a four-part series of videos called Blessings Out Of Brokenness. They provide a clearer understanding of God’s perfect design in our disabilities. A group discussion guide is available with these films. (Available from World Wide Pictures, 1201 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403.)
10. Remove barriers. Persons with special needs will not continue coming to a church where they do not feel welcome. The congregation needs to learn how to act around persons with disabilities and how to make them feel welcome and a part of the church. Obtain the cooperation of your pastor and church staff. Some suggestions include:
·         Write a series of articles in your church newsletter. 
·         Ask someone with a special need to give a testimony during a worship service.
·         Ask a family member of a person with a special need to give a testimony during a worship service.
·         Make necessary changes to make the building physically accessible.
·         Show a movie such as Joni or Reflections of His Love to sensitize people in the church to the need for this ministry (Available from JAF Ministries, P.O. Box 3333, Agoura Hills, CA 31301, 1-818-707-5664).
11. Promote the ministry. Two or three months before your ministry is to begin, let your church and community know what you are doing. Some ideas for promotion include:
·         Send letters to persons with special needs and their families that you discovered from your church survey.
·         Ask some of the local agencies you contacted if you can have a few minutes on their next program to explain what your church is trying to do. Also ask if you can advertise in their newsletters. 
·         Advertise in your local newspaper.
·         Advertise in your church newsletter
12. Visit persons with special needs and their families. The committee for ministry with persons with special needs should make a personal visit with every contact they receive. 
13. Begin the ministry.
14. Evaluate the ministry regularly.

WEB Resources

The National Association of Christians in Special Education seeks to support and provide education for individuals with disabilities, disability service professionals and faith-based disability ministry efforts to individuals and families.
Joni and Friends International Disability Center
Working through its local field offices JAF provides support and resources for local disability ministries. JAF administers several other programs including an international wheel chair distribution (Wheel for the World) and the Christian Institute on Disability which seeks to engage in the political and cultural debates surrounding sanctity of life, euthanasia, stem cell research and other hot-button issue in the culture.
Friendship Ministries  
Friendship ministries provide curriculum, consulting and other resources to local disability ministries. Friendship also provides Spanish language resources through its Amistad program.
Special Touch
Special Touch ministries provide curriculum, consulting and other resources to local disability ministries.
Manger Consulting
Manger Consulting provides training, advocacy and 1:1 support for individuals with disabilities and those dealing with various social service programs and agencies.


[1] "Twelve Step Program for Disability Ministry." 21 Oct. 2008. Evangelical Covenant Church. 21 Oct. 2008 <>.
[2] White, L. J. "Beginning a Special Needs Ministry." Beginning a Special Needs Ministry. 21 Oct. 2008. North American Mission Board. 21 Oct. 2008 <>.