Podcast #11: Autism and Your Children’s Ministry

What is Autism and what issues does it raise in real world ministry?

That’s what I wanted to talk about in this latest episode of our podcast. So I invited back Amy Fenton Lee who runs a popular blog about special needs children’s ministry. You’ll remember her from our very first podcast and her guest post about adapting curriculum for kids with special needs.

Directions: To listen to this audio recording, simply click the play button below or download the MP3 audio file.

In this conversation, we talk about some very specific situations related in autism and children’s ministry. We talked about ways that Christian ministries can help children with autism. I found her comments on parent interaction very helpful. I’d love to hear your feedback about this podcast. Just leave a comment below. You can also leave questions for Amy or suggest future episode topics.

Need More Help? Be sure to read Amy’s tips for teaching children with Autism or modifying your existing Bible lessons for special needs children. You can also listen to my other podcast with Amy. Wikipedia also has a helpful article about Autism.


  1. says

    Kurt –

    In this podcast we addressed some questions that I hear from children’s pastors. I do some writing (even on my blog) with specific pointers for working with a child affected by autism, but I am not a behavioral or educational consultant. When addressing education/behavior topics in my writing, I find credentialed specialists to quote and then review the writing before being published. For more on my background and the purpose behind my writing see the following link: http://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/the-premise-of-the-inclusive-church-blog/

    I have found a number of individuals and organizations that consult churches with behavioral and educational pointers with autism in mind. Let me know if you want me to link you with any of those consultants.

    For those looking for a more in-depth training on working one-on-one with individuals affected by autism, I highly recommend Friendship Ministries’ Autism seminar (free!). See this link with the instructions for how to download the FREE training:

    Kurt – I think you might find this link/training more in line with what you were hoping to hear in the podcast.

    Amy Fenton Lee

  2. Kurt Smock says

    I have to agree with Theresa in the respect that I was a bit disappointed. I work in the children’s church with three to four autistic kids who vary in ages but are all pretty severe cases. Some being completely nonverbal unable to process the reality the rest of us see and others just more seclusive and obsessive. And so it’s from that perspective I address the issue.

    They are definitely challenging, they are definitely different than the rest of the kids, but they are awesome too. They are just as much fun and interactive as any other kid just in different kinds of ways. I understand that for the most part only the the high functioning autistic kids integrate well into most church classrooms. But, those with severe cases and their families need even more care! I was exited to listen to the podcast then disappointed in that it didn’t discuss how specifically to understand and interact with autism. Maybe find someone who has extensive experience dealing with severe cases. Not to insult you Ms. Lee, just being honest. The heart of what you’re addressing is awesome and it’s good to keep the conversation going and I appreciate your courage and willingness to take on such a complex and intense topic.

    They are not aliens, they’re different and we should not be shocked or blown away by their behavior. We, instead of analyzing them like lab rats, should immerse ourselves in their world and let them guide us through the world as they see it. Their world is as remarkable as ours and it’s awesome to be a part of it. Instead of talking about their disorder lets talk about their exceptionalism, coming to an understanding that primitively they are the same as us, perceptionally they are vastly different. And learning their how they perceive is an awesome quest. Look at the world through these childrens eyes and not examine at them from the outside looking in.

    Love you guys, and keep the conversation going. =)

  3. says

    Theresa –

    Thanks so much for your comment and your vulnerability. I can assure you that the purpose of this podcast and all my research/writing on special needs is done with the intent of promoting better inclusion. Nothing in this podcast was meant for any purpose other than encouragement!

    As a parent, I think you would take joy in knowing that churches of every size and denomination are receiving the “calling” from God to better serve families affected by special needs. In my estimation, special needs accommodation is the fastest growing “program” addition to church ministry menus.

    I can’t envision any of the volunteers or special needs champions that I interview conveying in their voice tone or body language that any child is undesirable, difficult, or a “burden”. I hope you never experience stares or notable discomfort from the children’s ministry team inside any church.

    I am aware of only a very small handful of situations where a child with special needs could not be successfully integrated into a church setting. And in all those cases safety was the primary concern. (I do some writing on this topic on The Inclusive Church Blog – I hope you’ll check it out!) Peculiar behavior is NEVER a reason to exclude a child! Part of the reason I advocate creating policies & procedures for special needs ministries is so that when challenges arise, there is a system in place for working towards a solution. The best and longest running special needs ministries have guidelines in place and these church’s attest to their value.

    As a pastor’s daughter, I grew up with a front-row seat to the trials and deep hurts many parishioners experienced in my father’s church. Doing ministry requires discernment and balance. Part of the purpose of this podcast is to help special needs ministry teams better define their goals and prevent burnout. The vast majority of the special needs champions I interview serve as a volunteer or in a grossly underpaid capacity….and all have a deep faith and impeccable work ethic. Some of these ministry leaders have their own personal trials and so as you might imagine, they have an admirable inner pull always tugging them to do more in the special needs ministry – which may be against their doctor’s orders or take something away from their own struggling child. As a result, there is a need to continue conversations that offer best practices and promote program longevity.

    Kudos to your church for welcoming you and your child…and prayers for you as you parent an exceptional child.

    Amy Fenton Lee

  4. theresa vanpelt says

    I feel like as children’s ministry leaders and volunteers we are there especially for these special needs families. That we should be thinking of ways to help these families and make them feel comfortable, I have a son diagnosed with autism and until I started working in the ministry neither one of us got to attend church. Everything in life for families with special needs is different forom going to school to grocery shopping, and personally I believe that we should make these families feel so welcome and offer anything we can humanly provide plus prayer to show our support and love. I have to ask your forgiveness because I feel like I am a little upset over the podcast actually and dissagree with most of it. I understand wanting to be careful and not getting yourself into more than you can handle, however, I also understand being that parent that so desperatly wants to fit in and have my child loved and not always stared at with the looks of how hard this is going to be. I pray that all ministries have the heart to learn more about special need kids and families so that no family is left feeling like bringing their child to church will be a burdon to that ministry.

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