Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

As I attempt to add my advice to the other good advice that is out there – I was thinking about how ministry for people with additional needs may be quite diverse. It is a good idea, even once you have collected lots of good ideas from other places to then stop and reflect on the needs in your locality.
If you have spent time praying and getting your leadership on board there is further research you can do.

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What are the needs in your local community?

Who comes to your church? If anyone comes with additional needs talk to them, get them on your team and ask them what works and what does not in your church.

Are there families with children with SEN? Do you have a special school near by? Are there support groups, or other services in your area?

Are there homes for adults with learning disabilities? Is there a day centre? Try contacting the local social services and ask them what services they provide.  If you can make contact with someone and meet them for coffee, outlining what you are doing, it can be a very useful contact indeed.  Our Good News Group has been advertised on social and other services websites.

Do the people who come to your church know anyone with additional needs?  Families? Neighbours? Friends?

Do you have anyone who works with or is knowledgeable about any kind of additional need? (Especially if the person has that need. They can be invloved in awareness training and equiping others to meet needs effectively).

This is a good time to get all your church involved.  You could do a talk (or get your pastor / vicar to do it!). I once did one to recruit new team members and used a great DVD clip from Prospects where adults with learning disabilities talked about their faith.  You could use a parable, for example the Good Samaritan. Be creative and be visual to help people see as well as hear what you are talking about.

I would ask the congregation to do the detective work with me.  All of them could look something up on the internet, speak to their family and neighbours or investigate where they live. Do a survey of your local needs and provision together and collate this so that you can see more clearly what there is and who there is.

When you have all this information collated you are then ready for the next step…

…deciding what your church should do first.  Brainstorm and prioritse…

Then pray.   And see what the Lord will guide you to do.

Hope this helps someone out there. Do let me know how you’re getting on or if you have done this kind of activity before – how useful was it?

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