The difference between a good student ministry and a great student ministry isn’t what happens during student ministry programming. What makes a great student ministry is all about what happens outside of programming. It is all about relationship building. Show them they belong by showing them you care enough to be there for them. Do teens value top notch programming? Sure, they do! But the programming isn’t as important as knowing that the leaders of the programming care about them. Students will come to average and sometimes sub-par programming if they have a leader that is personally invested into their lives. Students on the other hand won’t care about sticking around for amazing programming if no leaders take the time to care about them.
Let them see you in the crowd. Teens affected by disability are often just as involved in sports and extracurricular activities as neurotypical teens. Make sure to take the time to cheer them on at Special Olympics, Challenger Baseball, Signing Choirs, Dance Recitals, or wherever they are involved. Take the time to go to their school and have lunch with them. This relationship building outside of programming will go a long way to having success within programming.
In this relationship building effort your impact will go well beyond the individual teen. Many teens affected by disability have grown up their entire lives and never been invited to a birthday party, asked out on a date, or to a sleep over, or to a prom. This is not only a difficult reality for the teen in your ministry, but also for the parents. Parents grow and live through different cycles of grief as they watch their children grow. If you take the time to build relationships with teens affected by disability you will gain a powerful ally, the parent. Make sure to take the time to build relationships. If it isn’t you personally as the ministry leader make sure one of the key volunteers on your team does.
The impact you can have through personal relationships is life changing.