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open doors ministry

Opening Doors for Special-Needs Children, Youth, and their Families

Most families have complete freedom to participate in worship and other church activities. But it can be more difficult for some families to find suitable accommodations in the church environment for a child or other loved one with physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral issues. In those cases, not only the child but also the rest of the family may become discouraged from joining in fellowship with others in the spiritual and social activities of the congregation.

The mission of the Open Doors Ministry is to make Grace United Methodist Church a more accommodating and accepting church home for these families with special needs. Our initial focus is on the enhancement of the Sunday school and youth activity experience, not only for children with special needs, but also for others around them. Over four years of this ministry, we’ve found that when appropriate resources are provided for the integration of a child with special needs into the church’s spiritual and social programs, the entire family feels more welcomed and becomes more active in the congregation.

Each of us is a special person, a unique creation of God.

And each of us was conceived with a purpose, “...for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Although we are created in God’s image, we’re not all alike.

Each of us has particular strengths. Some are athletic; some are artists, writers, or musicians; some are natural salespeople; others are insightful thinkers, problem solvers, skilled mechanics, compassionate caregivers, great cooks, loving parents, or steadfast friends.

But no one is strong in every area. We all have various challenges. We may not be as organized as we’d like. Some of us may not feel comfortable in public speaking. Some may be uneasy in social situations. Others may have physical or emotional challenges.

We are pieces in the puzzle representing God’s plan for His people.

Our strengths can be represented by the green areas, but we also have pink areas, which represent our weaknesses.

Why can’t we be all green?

The answer is that God made us this way on purpose, so that our strengths complement other people’s challenges, and vice-versa.

Like pieces of a puzzle, God’s plan fits us together as one body, recognizing the talents and challenges in each of us.

“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many....God arranged the members in the body, each of them, as He chose.” (I Corinthians 12:14-18)
Where one of us is strong, he or she can help someone else. Conversely, where one of us needs help, another one can provide it.

This is the essence of our Open Doors Ministry, which strives to include those with special needs in the activities of the congregation so that all can appreciate their particular gifts and strengths. In so doing, we enrich the lives of everyone in the church and help to build up the body of Christ.

The Open Doors Ministry offers a variety of services to families with special needs:

  • Review of each child’s unique special needs in confidential dialogue with the family.

  • Development of a resource plan for each child.

  • Training and ongoing dialogue with teachers and youth leaders in the implementation of the resource plan.

  • In some cases, one-on-one support by “buddies” of children and youth with special needs in church activities.

  • Resources on spiritual education and accommodations for families with special needs, available in the Grace United Methodist Church Library.

  • Educational seminars—open to the congregation and the general public—on the opportunities for service to families with special needs in the church.

If your family has special needs, or if you’d like to help, please contact Nicole Zaccaria, Director of Open Doors Ministry, at

Please be assured that information regarding the special needs of your child and your family will be treated as confidential information and will be shared only with those staff members and teachers or youth leaders who have a need to know in order to provide appropriate help and accommodations.

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