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Dear Siblings: a Letter to Those With a Special Needs Siblings

This letter is for “the others”: for my two kids who are not special needs, who are considered typical, and for everyone who has a sibling with any special need(s).

Disability Concerns
Conference or Event
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Disability and Youth Ministry Conference

How might the Church be reformed and reshaped by God’s work in young people with disabilities? Join us for this conversation at Princeton Theological Seminary, Feb. 1-2, 2018. Hosted by the Institute for Youth Ministry.

Disability ConcernsYouth Ministry
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An Honor, Not a Job

Children both amaze and inspire me to be a better person. As I see Christ in them, I know God has placed them in my ministry not only to learn as students, but to teach as well.

Disability Concerns
0 rating

Resources for Teaching ALL the Kids in Your Sunday School Class

You’re pleased the Carters have joined your congregation, and you want things to go well for Matthew, who has autism, but you’re feeling intimidated because you don’t know how to make things work for him.

Disability Concerns
0 rating

Dear Teacher: Heartfelt Advice for Teachers from Students

The kids who collaborated to write and star in this "Dear Teacher" video represent students with various learning disabilities. They wanted to share with educators how their brain works and offer simple ways teachers can help. 

Disability ConcernsSunday School
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Black, Disabled, and Proud

Not many websites focus on the experiences of people from particular ethnic groups who also have disabilities. This site has a laser focus on black college students with disabilities. 

Disability Concerns
0 rating

Blake’s Frightening Surprises

From all outward appearances, Blake is a typical kindergarten boy. However, Blake has a sensory processing disorder. Almost daily Blake fights battles that are invisible to others.

Disability Concerns
Book or eBook
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Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities

Children with disabilities are part of God's family, but people don't always treat them that way. In this book you'll discover how to help kids and their leaders welcome and include kids with disabilities at church or school.

Disability Concerns
Webinar Recording
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Youth, Depression, and Suicide (recording)

This webinar explores the issues of depression and suicide particular to youth and how we as a church can be equipped to be effectively helpful and supportive.

Disability Concerns
Book or eBook
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Book Review: Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship

Practical advice and poignant stories that illustrate both loving inclusion and painful exclusion of youth with disabilities in church life.

Disability Concerns
0 rating

Teaching Children About Inclusion

Inclusion is the idea that all people, of all abilities are to be active integrated members of their community. How do you teach your children to be inclusive?

Disability ConcernsFaith Nurture
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Young Life Capernaum

Youth ministry leaders often struggle with how to include high school age participants who have autism; developmental disabilities; or physical, visual, hearing, or intellectual impairments. In the United States, starting a Young Life Capernaum group can be an excellent option.

Disability Concerns
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Church Experience of Parents of Children With Disabilities

Do you ever wonder what it is life is like for parents in your church who have children with autism; developmental disabilities; and physical, visual, hearing, and intellectual impairments? Your ministry will be enhanced if you ask them, and also if you check out this video.

Disability Concerns
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Resources for Disability Awareness and Ministry

Leaders from a local church, from Joni and Friends, and from CLC Network discuss tools and resources for engaging all children and youth, including those with autism; developmental disabilities; and physical, visual, hearing, and intellectual impairments, fully in the life of the congregation.

Disability Concerns
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Congregational Student Ministry

Three veteran ministry leaders describe ways that they seek to ensure that all children and youth, including those with autism; developmental disabilities; and physical, visual, hearing, and intellectual impairments, engage fully in the life of the congregation.

Disability Concerns
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Redirecting Challenging Behaviors

Ministry programs and lessons with children and youth can get derailed by the challenging behaviors of just one participant. In this lively video presentation, author and special educator Barbara Newman describes a way to respectfully redirect participants who are having a hard time staying focused.

Disability Concerns
0 rating

“Doing Ministry with Youth on the Margins” Conference Wrap-Up

Over 100 ministry leaders from across North America gathered in Grand Rapids, MI, for an afternoon of discussion and learning about doing ministry with students living with autism; hearing, visual, and mobility impairments; mental health challenges; and other disabilities.

Disability ConcernsYouth Ministry
Guide or Toolkit
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Suggested Accomodations for Specific Behaviors

Here are some great guidelines for Sunday school instructors, GEMS or Cadet leaders who may be struggling with behaviors in the classroom.

Disability Concerns
0 rating

You Have to Start Somewhere

At the weekend, the chairman led a team of volunteers and journalists to rescue the boy who had been tied and chained to his bed and locked up for 10 years. The rescue operation shocked neighbors, many of whom appeared not to have known that there was such a child in the home.

Disability Concerns
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Include ALL Kids in VBS With These 9 Tips

It’s summertime! That means school is out and your church is most likely working on its summer programming. Your church can take a few simple steps so that every child will feel welcomed and included in your summer activities.

Disability ConcernsVBS
Children's Message
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In the Image of God

Based on Genesis 1:26-28, a great children's message about being created in the image of God.

Disability Concerns
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Breaking the Barriers to a Vibrant Youth Ministry

Most churches have ministries geared for children and youth, but many kids with disabilities don’t feel at home in these ministries.

Disability ConcernsCRCNA and Synod
Book or eBook
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Book Review: Leading a Special Needs Ministry

Rachel Miller Jacobs writes about the book, "Lee makes the important point that while churches are generally good at providing help in crises, most congregations struggle with the long-term reality of children with special needs, since caring for them requires cultural and systematic transformation rather than three weeks’ worth of casseroles.

Disability Concerns
0 rating

Opening School Sports to Kids with Disabilities

Some may fear that this law will "dumb down" competition, but that's not the point. As with employment provisions of the ADA, kids must be able to play the sport well to make the team. However, certain conventions exclude kids with disabilities.

Disability Concerns



This article from the Harvard Business Review (Dec. 27, 2017) makes the same case for the value of work force diversity: The Case for Improving Work for People with Disabilities Goes Way Beyond Compliance. "As Chieko Asakawa walks around IBM’s campus, she explores new ways of getting from point A to point B. She recognizes the faces of colleagues approaching her and greets them. She reads snack labels and decides whether to eat them. Although she is blind, Asakawa doesn’t need a human or canine companion to complete these tasks. She’s helped invent a smartphone app that, as she explained in a recent TED talk, 'understands our surrounding world and whispers to me in voice or sends a vibration to my fingers. Eventually, I’ll be able to find a classroom on campus, enjoy window shopping, or find a nice restaurant while walking along a street.'"

Just prayed for you Dirk, now go forward knowing that the Lord is always more powerful than any evil! 

posted in: Deliverance

I feel for you about your struggles with support! I had to live for 2.5 years to get my disability! I will pray for your family!

Unfortunately, a lot of people look at disability insurance and rights as a entitlement! Especially in this political environment! It’s on the docate for this year according to Paul Ryan. Along with Social security and Medicaid!

What does this comment have to do with this excellent article?

I hear you Angela,I too have MS! People can’t see how you are doing and assume your fine! Most people don’t want to know to be honest!

I don’t think most deacons are equipped to do this. Most of the time deacons and elders are chosen by how successful they are or how popular! I have always thought it would good to have training if you are elected to deacon or elder! 

Thx Eric, I might take you up on that offer. I so use to going it alone I not sure how anymore. It’s also difficult for me to type and concentrate for extended periods! Aka 5 min! Lol

Hi Ken,

I hope you are well.  I see you must have been doing a lot of reading lately, and your thoughts on various topics are most welcome.  Sometimes when topics have grown stale, re-igniting the conversation can be difficult. 

I'd like to hear more of your story, Ken, and would love to be in communication with you if that is something that would be uplifting in your life.  Please feel free to email me at if you would like to be in conversation.  Thanks for your contributions, and may God bless you as you seek to flourish under his sovereign care.

In Christ,


The lack of interest iof people who can’t communicate in a “ normal” way or participate in “ normal” activities is my biggest barrier! I have plenty to say and receive but few to actually commune with! I understand why because I was Normal once! I have learned to rely on the Lord and create my on small world! 

Making a effort to communicate would help too! It can be difficult to initiate a conversation or show if you have a interest in the person. Take this site as a example, no one has engaged me on any comment or even asked “ how are you” or what’s going on in life. I have heard people don’t like the UN, lol

Very true, without knowing they are sometimes. 

Wow, that surprises me Max would think that! Thx Mark

Excellent Terry!

Thx Terry, It’s nice to know the struggles it’s taken to get fairness for the less abled! I am one too and appreciate the efforts of those who worked hard on this through history!

Thank You Mark for flushing out some details about the CRPD! I live in a state where my elected Senators already are for the treaty but I will Help by spreading the word.  

Good post Terry, I share your concerns as a disabled person also. If there were some information or plan in place to support these concerns, I wouldn’t be writing this but there is nothing that I know of to replace what already exists! That does make me wonder what will happen! 

That’s great! We have to raise support where ever you can. This won’t solve the issue completely but it’s a move forward! Good job Canada! 

Thank You Jonathan, This was suppose to be about disability! 

It is a sad day Mark, the disabled including myself need all the support we can get no matter if the organization is controversial to some! We need to keep focusing on the problems and issues that prevent help! A lot of people don’t like social security because of it’s a government program, but not turn down the benefits when they are available! 

Mark, you did nothing wrong! The facts are apparent in a lot of locations. Keep up the great work!

Thx Mark for the information! 

Sad, I know of no programs or even awareness at my church! 

Thanks Ken. Yes, like Barb Newman likes to say, we're all like green and pink puzzle pieces. Every one of us has things we're good at and things we are not good at, and those things differ with each of us. So we all need each other. 

Good job Mark! We all are disabled by life in various ways! Some are just visible!

Good post! Thank You

Beautiful story with a whole lot of truth. Thank you for giving ME fresh footing on the path today! 

Excellent guide! I like it how it covers a host of issues! Thx

 A little late in the day for our Worship Committee.  We've already done our Holiday planning.  We would need this in mid-November already.  But I'll forward this to the other committee members anyway. 

I would love to discuss this more with you.  Please feel free to email me at

Because she is too "high functioning" for Social Security she does not qualify.  

I am not sure i understand what you mean that because your daughter does not have SS (Social Security?) that the cost of having a CLS worker are somewhat prohibitive.  Do you mean she does not qualify for state assistance with a CLS worker because of her income? 


I loved your article ..... Has Your Church Ever Helped Someone Who Needed to Find Paid Assistants? .... and the question it asks.  However, I do wish it included people who have other disabilities.  We would love to have a CLS worker for our daughter.  She does not have SS so the costs of having a CLS worker are somewhat prohibitive.  Churches should be reminded that the families of people with disabilities have shelled out thousands of dollars over the years, and they could be strapped and unable to provide services their child, mother, or father need, today.

  That's nice, but what about people with disabilities who have professional training? Although I've pretty much given up looking for a job, let alone a career, I have two B.A.s and the second one was in English Studies with a Major in Professional Writing in English.  Surely, not all the people with disabilities you work with have Down's Syndrome or are intellectually deficient?

Thanks Heather.  And may God bless your work with Friendship Ministries.  Hope to see you again.

I have been hiring caregivers for 20 years and this has been the most difficult time between the low pay and economy providing so many choices for employment.

Diane, this sounds like a deeply meaningful worship service. Thank you for sharing it here. 

Here is a service we have done in the past. We have used this basic form for the past several years, with some minor changes. One of the things we often do is to give nametags to the people who attend, and have them write the name of the person (including themselves) or situation they are thinking of or mourning during this season.  Something about naming it and writing it down helps begin, or open them up to,the healing.

Solo/Duet: Breath of Heaven



This evening we gather during this Christmas season in a spirit of somber

remembrance. While the rest of the world seems to celebrating the joyous

occasion, we come to manger realizing that the world is cold as stone, feelings of

loneliness and loss overwhelm, and our heart cries out help me be strong, help

me . I invite each of you this evening not to hide or suppress those feelings, but

embrace them, realizing that they bring you much closer to the real Christmas



For this evening we remember the true story helpless babe born into a world that

was struggling, a world that was questioning where was God, and world crying

out why? The helpless babe born in cold stone room without the joyous welcome

we often picture. The helpless babe born in a family that was poor, tired, and

frightened. The helpless babe who would change all this for the world.


We Gather in God's Presence

Lono, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May

my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed

with troubles, and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those

who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. (Psalm 88:1-4)

Light Christ Candle


The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the

land of deep darkness a light has dawned ... For to us a child is born, to us a son

is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the

greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. (lsaiah 9:2 & 6-7)


Song:  O Little Town of Bethlehem


God's Greeting/Mutual Greetings


We Remember and Seek Comfort


Advent Candle Lighting: A Litany of Remembrance


First Candle; Persons who have been loved and lost


We light the first Advent candle and remember those persons who have been

loved and lost. We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices.

We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us in this season.

Lord, surround us all with your eternal love.


AII sing: O come, O Come, lmmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! lmmanuel shall come to you, O lsrael.




Word of comfort: Psalm 103:13-17

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and  its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord's love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children's children


Second Candle: Pain of Loss


We light a second candle mindful of the pain of loss: the loss of relationships,

the loss of jobs, or the loss of health. As we gather up the pain of the past,

we offer it to you, O God, asking that into our open hands you will place the

gift of peace.

Hold, help, heal us, O God.


All sing: O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar!

Dispel the shadows of the night. And tum our darkness into light.

Rejoice! Rejoice! lmmanuel shall come to you, O lsrael.




Word of Comfort: Psalm 139:11-12 (NLT)

I could ask the darkness to hide me

and the light around me to become night but

even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.


Third Candle: Pain of Our Loss


We light a third candle to remember ourselves and the pain of our loss in this

Christmas season. We pause and remember the past weeks, months and,

for some of us, years of difficult times. We remember the poignancy of

memories, the grief, the sadness, the hurts, the fears.

We remember that the dawn overcomes the darkness.

AII sing: O come, O Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home

Make safe for us the heavenward road and bar the way to death's abode.

Rejoice! Rejoice! lmmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.




Word of Comfort: Psalm 34.19 (NLT)

The righteous person faces many troubles,

but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.


Fourth Candle: Remember others suffering with us


We light a fourth candle to remember all who have shared in our sorrow. We

thank you for their compassion, for their presence with us in times when our

hurt went deeper than words could express. We remember that you, Lord,

came to sympathize with our weakness and to carry our sorrows.

We thank you for those who held us and pointed to your light.


All sing: O come, O King of Nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.

Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.

Rejoicel Rejoice! lmmanuel shall come to you, O lsrael.




Word of Comfort: Matthew 5:4 and 7

Blessed are those who mourn, for the will be comforted.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.


Prayer of Comfort


We Hear God's Word

Scripture: John 1:1-5

Message: Christmas in the Darkness and Storm


We Respond in Hope


Prayer of Hope


God of compassion, we come again to you as Christmas nears. We grieve over

what might have been. A death or loss or struggle tarnishes our experience of

this season. We feel cut off from joy, lost from what we once felt, wondering if

the light will indeed come. We find ourselves adrift, alone, lost. Lord, help us

find our way.

Loving God, hear our prayer,

and in your merciful love, answer.

The Advent season reminds us of what used to be but is no more. Memories of

what was, and the fear of what may be, keep us from the joy of today. All around

are the sounds of celebration, but joy eludes us. Be near us this night.

Loving God, hear our prayer,

and in your merciful love, answer.

In this season of Advent waiting, we bring you those sorrows and longings too

deep for words. Hear the groans of our heart and tend us with your comfort and


Loving God, hear our prayer,

and in your merciful love, answer.

In the silence, we bring you our own words of need, our own words of hope.




ln this dark night, let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives

rest in you. ln the quietness of this night, may your peace enfold us and all dear

to us, and all who have no peace. Keep us in the truth that the night is nearly

over; the day is almost here. We look expectantly to a new day, to new joys.

Loving God, hear our prayer,

and in your merciful love, answer.


Word of Hope: Psalm 33:22,lsaiah 40:31and Romans 15:13

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Lighting of Candles and Song of Peace: Silent Night

While we sing Silent Night,

ail who wish are invited forward to prayerfully light a candle -

in memory, in honor, in gratitude, in hope, in love-

inviting the love of Christ to dispel our darkness.


Passing of the Peace

Benediction: 1 Peter 5:10-11

And the God of atl grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after

you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you

strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Joyce, thanks for sharing additional resources. 

Diane, what a loving service your congregation does for hurting people in your congregation and community. Because you do this every year, you may have developed some resources as a congregation. If you have, would you like to share them so that others can benefit from your work?

Thank you for posting this! We do a Blue Christmas service annually, and those who attend are always so appreciative.  These resources are helpful to give us some new ideas.  Thanks!

Also consider these resources from Reformed Worship

A Time to Weep--During Advent

Real Joy, Genuine Faith: Biblical Lament during Advent

Light for Our Wilderness: A Candlelight Service

From Lament to Praise: A New Year Eve's Journey Through the Psalms

RW subscribers can also access "Longest Night: A Service of Christmas Mourning" in the latest issue (RW 125). 

Also see: Lift Up Your Hearts #62 "An Advent Lament". 

Beautiful prayer. Thanks for sharing. 

The impression I get from the excerpts of The Disabled God is that Jesus' stigmata somehow still affect His ability to use His hands and feet as though He were limping along or would have difficulty using His hands to open a jar or drive a nail through a plank of wood.  Yet He doesn't seem to have had any difficulty breaking the bread when He was having dinner with the two disciples at Emmaus.  So,if Christ's scars don't impede His functioning after His resurrection, in what way is He disabled?

I second this! 

I so appreciate how your ministry walks the talk on accessibility! Thanks for modeling it for the rest of us learners. 


I appreciate your approach.

"I sadly think the CRCNA and the Banner have contributed to the current polarization and divisiveness"

Truth has been spoken, even if it is not heard. 

I agree that we should reach out to show kindness to others, although that may be viewed antagonistically by someone who wants to be "left alone". In the case of the Las Vegas shooter it may be too soon to fully analyze him. While he preferred to gamble alone with a machine, he did have a "girlfriend" and may have hired female companionship shortly before his rampage. There is plenty of room for speculation.

This kind of evaluation is outside of my area of expertise, but I think that the current social divisiveness and dehumanizing may be a factor in motivating mass killers. I agree with MLK that we should judge people as individuals. Today, many judge others by their race, gender, political orientation, social status, age, and even which side of the border (U.S., Canada, or Mexico) they are on, and there is a general denigrating (or extolling) of those in one group or another.

All members of an ethnic group are not criminals, or at least untrustworthy. All members of another group are not "a blessing". All members of law enforcement are not racists. Thinking like this leads to dehumanizing others, and think what dehumanizing has done in the case of the unborn. Not long ago abortion was generally considered abhorrent, now many openly defend "woman's right to choose" (to kill her unborn child), which is "only a blob of tissue" (that has fingers and toes and a beating heart), but can be dismembered for body parts, and if I disagree I'm anti-woman and an evil person. The abortion industry is kind of a rampage, too, but the victims are killed one at a time.

Other mass killings have targeted specific groups of people. The Oklahoma City bombing was a protest against government. The 9/11 attack using airplanes was religiously-oriented, as have been attacks by cars, trucks, and guns in Europe, and the Orlando nightclub shootings. These were perpetrated by people who needed to be loved, but may not have been lonely persons. The killers were all people who simply thought other people should be killed. Now we hear of individuals who weren't concerned about the victims in Las Vegas because of their perceived political orientation. (Check Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 106-107 on that. Are they also killers by that definition?)

I sadly think the CRCNA and the Banner have contributed to the current polarization and divisiveness by official pronouncements and reporting. An example of this is the denominational reaction to the disastrous Charlottesville rally and protest of this summer. Instead of saying, "A plague on both your houses", as I did, the excesses of Antifa and other violent counter-protestors who showed up with masks and weapons were ignored. Freedom of speech applies to all, regardless of how despicable their message, but that does not include physical violence or destruction of property by either side. We can't complain only about misbehavior by the bad guys on the other side and ignore misbehavior by bad guys we agree with.


I'd suggest getting on the "Canada is superior" train isn't constructive.  The US Declaration of Independence isn't US law frankly.  The Articles of Confederation were adopted after the Declaration, which were scrapped for the US Consitution.  To quote the Declaration is rhetorically cute perhaps but that's about it.  The rant of "rugged American individualism" smacks more of Canadian snobbery than reality.

The US and Canada are quite different in quite a number of ways, the biggest of which I think is population (which then creates other differences).  Compared to the US, the whole of Canada is  a single state.  Indeed, I believe California bests Canada both in population and economic output.  All of which means that in general, Canadians may act more like a rural area than an urban area.  And indeed, the greater the population (the more urban), the less people know and interact with each other, and vice versa.  Which may explain why so few of these kinds of events (zero?) happen in farm country Iowa.

I'm not enough of an anthropologist to know if individualism is stronger in the US than Canada, but other Canadian friends have told me the same, so I'm inclined to believe you. One Canadian friend suggested that the difference is already highlighted in our founding documents, with the US Declaration of Independence highlighting the individualistic pursuit of rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867 emphasizing the collective goals of "peace, order, and good goverment." 



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