As a family with a teenager who has autism, we can’t visit just any church. We have to look specifically for churches that offer accommodations for our son James. The first place I look to see if a church would be a good fit is the church website. Your church website is the new front door to your church, and if special-needs families can’t find the information they need on the website, they may never make it into your church building.
In my role as special-needs ministry consultant for the SBTC, I’m looking at church websites across the state to see what they provide. After looking at websites of dozens of churches that offer accommodations for people with special-needs, I recommend making sure your website includes these five details:
- Information about where to go when they come. Parents want to know where to park and what door to come through, especially if they need handicap parking or your church has spots reserved for special-needs families. If your church is large, they don’t want to walk in a door on the opposite side of the church from where they need to go.
- Contact information for a real person who can answer their questions. No matter how much info you have on the website, families may want to talk to someone who can answer their questions, whether that’s the special-needs ministry coordinator or the church receptionist who can answer some questions and then contact the appropriate Sunday school teacher or youth minister to help even more.
- What accommodations you make during your services. Every church has different families who attend and can meet different needs. Potential visitors may want to know if you have buddies during Sunday school or a sensory-friendly class. Is there a sign language interpreter during one of your services? Do you offer large-print bulletins? If the accommodation is a regular part of your Sunday morning, share it on the site so families know your church could be a good fit.
- Activities beyond Sunday morning services. Church doesn’t happen just on Sunday mornings. You probably also have small groups that meet in homes, a youth group on Wednesday nights or an awesome sports camp each summer. Families like mine would love to know what else we’ll be able to participate in if we join your church.
- Real pictures of the kids and the spaces they are in. Make sure you have the permission of the families featured in the photos, but having pictures of the room and the people visitors will see when they come to your church will help them feel much more comfortable, especially if they want to create a social story for their child so he/she knows what to expect.
These simple additions to your website can help reach special-needs families before they visit your church. Make it as easy as possible for them to know if your church is a good fit. Every family deserves to have access to the gospel and a church home.