It has been a privilege for me personally during this past 25 years to be involved in Christian outreach to people with developmental disabilities. At first, this outreach was difficult because I felt some of the same fears and apprehensions that others in the mainstream church community experience: I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong things; I was afraid of being unintentionally hurtful, instead of helpful. I also had much to learn about what an effective ministry outreach to people in the disabled community should be like. I am so grateful to the Lord for His calling, for His patience and for the direction of His Holy Spirit as I sought to serve Him. By His grace, our ministry, Christ for People with Developmental Disabilities (founded in 1979), is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of disabled participants throughout the greater Twin City metropolitan area.
From the beginning, our desire and commitment was to focus primarily on the spiritual care needs of people with developmental disabilities. Ministry priorities like evangelism, discipleship and genuine Christian fellowship quickly surfaced as our goals. We began by sponsoring an evening fellowship group at Wayzata Community Church on Tuesday evenings. Approximately 25 adult participants and volunteer helpers attended our first meeting. Since that time, we have been blessed with a fruitfulness that we could not have imagined. That is not meant to sound self‑serving or prideful, but rather as a testimony to God’s faithfulness when His people respond to His call. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15.5 NIV)
Them is no question in my mind that the Church community should be the best example of love and acceptance, demonstrated by a willingness to interact with people regardless of their physical or intellectual abilities. I used to criticize churches for not doing more. Over the years I have learned that, for me, it works better to simply encourage these churches to follow the example of those who are ministering effectively—or, if nothing else, lend a hand of support to those who are serving in this “specialized” arm of ministry.
How has God blessed us over the years? News of our ministry began to spread early on, and the ministry mushroomed quickly. This was because residential facilities, families and churches were all looking for help in this area of Christian outreach. Today, we sponsor three fellowship groups and a Bible study outreach program serving group homes throughout the area. Nearly 25 households take part in this outreach, with nearly 300 disabled children and adults being served overall. We have been blessed with many volunteer church workers, and through the prayer and financial support of churches and friends we’ve been able to maintain a full‑time outreach.
If you have felt the Lord’s leading to get involved with “Special Needs Ministry,” either in your church or community, we encourage you to take the first steps. Whatever talents or interests you have, they can be a contribution to any ministry endeavor. We also know that the Lord will honor your willingness to serve Him, and you will bear much fruit as you abide in Him. If the Lord should bring our ministry to mind when you pray, this would also be a special blessing for us!
Don Anderson is cofounder and Executive Director of Christ for People With Developmental Disabilities, 1727 3rd Avenue South, Anoka MN 55303. His background includes experience in Residential Services, Special Education and Family Treatment Foster Care. For more information, call (612) 422-1369 or (612) 272-5039.