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January 18, 2013Research

Special Needs Ministries and the Church: Research, Ministries, Links, Leaders, and More

I recently asked on Twitter and Facebook for resources and links to special needs research. The response was overwhelming. Several of you sent names, examples, links, and organizations specializing in ministering to families with special needs children.

I've organized the responses into three different categories: research, ministry links, frequently mentioned people.

As you might expect most are related to physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. There was a notable lack of specific mental health ministries. Again, this is just a list I gathered from Twitter and Facebook. I do not know all of the ministries and cannot vouch for them all, but they were suggested by multiple people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

If you have more suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments below. I will be keeping this post updated as more information comes in, so some of you might want to add it to your bookmarks for future reference.


• From Amy Fenton Lee (see this link for source information)

  • 7% of children ages 3 - 17 have ADHD. 11% of boys, 4% of girls
  • 8% of children ages 3 - 17 have a learning disability. 10% boys, 6% girls
  • 10% of children have an anxiety disorder.
  • 13% of children ages 13 - 17 have a developmental disability (ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism).
  • 41% of children with a developmental disability have multiple disabilities
  • 17% of Americans will experience a communication disorder at some point in their life, which includes sensing, interpreting and responding (i.e. auditory processing disorder).
  • 1 in 88 children have an autism spectrum disorder. 1/54 boys, 1/252 girls.
  • 1.6 % of children will receive an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnosis at some point in their lives. 2.6% boys.
  • 37.5% of individuals who receive an ASD diagnosis will go on to lose that diagnosis.
  • 41% of people with an autism spectrum disorder have an intellectual disability (which means that 59% do not necessarily have an intellectual disability).
  • 19% of Americans are classified as a person with a disability, which equals the population of the states of FL and CA combined. Both the number and percentage of Americans with a disability has risen in recent years.

However, I was not able to find any substantial research on how churches are ministering to persons with disabilities, though I still have a possible connection or two out there. In other words, other than word-of-mouth and such connections, I cannot definitively say what is, and what is not, happening and what we can learn from it-- so I am a bit disappointed.


99 Balloons -- Founded in 2007 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and exists to help others engage children with special needs locally and globally. They provide tools to churches in order to help them build relationships with families affected by disability.

Special Touch Ministry -- Current operating programs and services include local fellowship chapters, summer get aways, retreats and special events, conferences on disability ministry, awareness and training seminars, and resources and consulting.

Shepherd's Ministries -- Shepherds Ministries is a nationally recognized organization founded on Jeremiah 23:4 and provides compassionate Christian care, vocational education and job opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities, helping them attain Appropriate Independence with fulfilling jobs and lives, while also providing for their spiritual development.

Faith for ALL -- a not-for-profit, non-denominational organization that starts with the basic premise that all human beings are created in the image of God and designed to be in relationship with Him. Because relationship with God is a matter of faith, people with disabilities should have equal access to both express and explore their faith of choice within the context of a community of their choice. Faith for ALL therefore accelerates congregational accessibility so people with disabilities and their families can have deeper access into the community life of a congregation.

Key Ministry -- Trains ministry leaders to have a greater understanding of disability. All training and resources are offered free of charge to remove any barriers that may prevent a church from embarking on the mission to reach these incredible families.

Pure Ministries -- PURE stand for (P)erfectly created by a loving sovereign God, designed for His purposes; (U)nique in his or her own gifts, blessings, talents, desires, and contributions; (R)eceptive and responsive to our communication, touch and acts of love; (E)ternal: there are no disabled souls.

Bethlehem Baptist Church -- Includes people with disabilities in the life and work of the church while building supportive relationships of love--to reach out and help families and individuals find the best fit for both growing in their faith and for exercising their spiritual gifts.

College Church -- Located in Wheaton, IL, they provide a robust special needs ministry for all age levels in the church.

Rough Diamonds -- A ministry of Nations Heart Church in Canberra, Australia.


Amy Fenton Lee -- Special needs consultant for Orange

John Knight - Director at Desiring God; involved in disability ministries at Bethlehem Baptist Church

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