Disability Ministry Goes After the One

by Feb 7, 2024Special Needs Ministry, Special Needs Parenting, Spiritual Support0 comments

Guest blogger Mark Arnold proclaims that by looking at the example of Jesus, we can say that disability ministry goes after the one.

Disability ministry goes after the one according to guest blogger Mark Arnold. In this post he explains how we can be like Jesus and do it too.

Sometimes I get asked why churches should make an effort to reach those with special or additional needs, when it means balancing their needs against those of the rest of the group. I always say the same thing.

Jesus told us to go after the one.

In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus told of a shepherd leaving 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. Here’s the version from Luke 15:4-7.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ ” (New Living Translation)

Jesus uses this parable to explain how heaven rejoices more over one person who repents and comes to faith than for ninety-nine people who have never strayed. I like to think it can represent some children and young people with special or additional needs too.

They can sometimes be marginalized, overlooked, and “lost” to the rest of the church. They are sometimes sent away and excluded by the very people who should love them and care for them. I’ve heard stories of children with special or additional needs being told not to come back next week, or their parents told “this is not a special needs church”. I’ve even heard of children being excluded because “they might be a health and safety risk.”

But Jesus said to go after the one.

Disability ministry goes after the one by valuing the one: Too often, children and young people with special or additional needs are looked down on as of little value in our churches. The Good Shepherd valued the one sheep that had wandered off. In a way he valued the one more than the ninety-nine because he left them to search for the one. We need to value them, prioritize them, love them as Jesus does.

Jesus said to go after the one.

Disability ministry goes after the one by investing time and effort: The Good Shepherd scoured the wilderness looking for the one. We need to invest the time and effort needed to reach the children and young people we are journeying with. We can’t expect them to adapt, to change, to find the way themselves. The lost sheep needed the Good Shepherd to find it where it was and bring it home. Children and young people with special or additional needs require their leaders to do that too.

Jesus said to go after the one.

Disability ministry goes after the one by rejoicing in and with them: The Good Shepherd brought the lost sheep home and rejoiced because it had been saved. All too frequently, we don’t think about the spiritual welfare of children with special or additional needs. Their time in our groups becomes babysitting. But heaven rejoices for each person who is saved. We should do all we can to bring children and young people into God’s presence to show them their spiritual home and rejoice with them when they make little steps of faith.

Jesus said to go after the one. Will you?

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Photo by Hiu Yan Chelsia Choi on Unsplash.

By Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, a leading national Christian children’s and youth organization. He is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a national and international advocate for children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. Mark is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, a member of the Council for Disabled Children and the European Disability Network. He writes an additional needs column for Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine and blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. He is father to James, who has autism spectrum condition, associated learning disability, and epilepsy. To find out more about how Mark’s work can help you, contact him at: marnold@urbansaints.org or @Mark_J_Arnold


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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