Young kids with disabilities and siblings moving from their cars into church
Enfolding Families at Christ Pres in Nashville

Attend Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville on a Sunday morning and you’re likely to run into people involved in the church’s Special Needs Ministry. With several Sunday School classes for children and adults with disabilities, and special care during worship services, Christ Pres is meeting the spiritual and practical needs of approximately 20 individuals who have disabilities.

Extending the Vision Beyond Sundays

The scope of the Special Needs Ministry, however, is much larger. It includes intentionally ministering to the 20 families, addressing the unique needs that each one has. The reach of the ministry extends beyond Sundays. A mom’s support group, “Extreme Moms,” allows the women opportunities for support and community throughout the week. Regular respite events provide opportunities for parents to have a much-needed break from the daily challenges of caring for their family members with disabilities. More on that ministry below.

Extending the Vision to the Whole Congregation

The Special Needs Ministry doesn’t focus only on families living with disability. It also includes intentional ministry to many other church families by giving them opportunities to volunteer and be blessed by the people whom they are seeking to bless. Special Needs Ministry Director Gigi Sanders tells the story of a volunteer mother-son team. “They volunteered at one event and said their lives were changed as their own spiritual needs were met by the children with whom they went to minister to. They now regularly volunteer with us as buddies to our special kids on Sunday morning.”

Volunteers aren’t only recruited from among the general church population. Sanders says, “As our kids with special needs grow up, we reach out to their parents and ask if the kids can become helpers in the ministry, too.” The Special Needs Ministry also partners with Christ Presbyterian Academy whose students have been greatly impacted by serving others with disabilities.

Yet the Foundations Remain the Same

While the program aspect of the Special Needs Ministry is important, the heart of the ministry is the same as it was 27 years ago when it began: people coming alongside others to celebrate life’s joys and face life’s challenges together. The church didn’t launch an organized ministry. It began with people taking one step toward others, and then another step and another. Sanders says, “It all started when one of our members had a baby with Down syndrome. As she walked the halls at church with her baby, a church member said, ‘Let me hold your baby and you go to service.’ That began our special needs ministry.”

Extending the Vision to the Community

As the ministry grew, the church recognized the needs of families touched by disability beyond the congregation. In 2006, the church began a new outreach in the community. Special Saturdays was born out of the need for rest and respite for parents of kids with special needs. Every second Saturday of the month, about 60 children (including kids with disabilities and their siblings) from 30-35 families spend a day of exciting activities at the church while their parents have a day off to do things they ordinarily can’t do.

Christ Pres recently posted a video about Special Saturdays. It describes better than any article could how this outreach is changing lives.

If you would like to learn more about the special needs ministry of Christ Presbyterian Church, please email Gigi Sanders.