Inside Out: Meeting Special Needs

05.25.16 | Martha Manikas-Foster

Members of an unreached people group are probably living down the street from your church.

Christians pray for opportunities to tell others about healing and restoration through Jesus. Some of our neighbors want to hear this Good News, but they’ve been turned away from so many churches that now they’ve stopped getting the family ready on Sunday mornings. 

That’s the story for many special needs families.

“I’ve seen some figures that say 75% of special needs families don’t go to church,” says my Inside Out guest Sandra Peoples. “That’s just unacceptable for it to be that big of a population that says we don’t feel welcome, or it’s too hard. It’s just not okay to continue that.”

Peoples is a seminary grad, church planter, and author who writes for families with special needs children.  Five years ago her family officially became a special needs family when her youngest son was with diagnosed with autism.

No one is saying it is simple for a church to welcome children with special needs. Sunday school classrooms and children’s church programs may need additional staff and specific training. The Peoples family’s church rose to the occasion, turning their experience into a success story. After James’s diagnosis was announced, congregation members with specialized training rose up to tailor a program to engage James and integrate him into church life.

But the experience is very different for many other families. According to Peoples, churches regularly tell families—directly or indirectly—that their child would be too disruptive or require too much work for the church to welcome them into the life of the congregation.

So the families stop trying. “They just say it’s easier to just stay home and stop reaching out and trying because they had been rejected so many times,” Peoples says.

The good news is that more churches are establishing programs that make it easier for children with special needs—and therefore their families—to attend church.

“That’s why I’m so encouraged,” she says. “I mean everybody right now seems to be getting on board with the idea that we have to do better.”

That’s good news for everyone. One reason is because churches that welcome special needs families are not simply engaging in an act of service.

“Churches who welcome all types of people—regardless of ability or disability--they see the works of God displayed.”

To learn how Jesus taught about disability, or to help your church become more welcoming to families with special needs, click on the LISTEN or DOWNLOAD icon above and you will be able to listen to our full conversation.

You can also connect with Sandra Peoples on her website.

Read her her.meneutics blog post “My Son’s Autism Changed Everything—Even Our Church.”


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 05.25.16 Martha commented

Sandra's most recent blog post is titled
"How to Help Your Church Realize the Need for Special-Needs Ministry." She posted it on 5-9-16 and as of 5-25-16 it remains the first post you will see on her website.
Access it here:




Inside Out airs Wednesdays at 12:20pm EST during the Family Life Noon Report.


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