Welcome to our Special Needs Ministry!

Our special needs ministry (Barnabas) exists to glorify God by sharing the love of Jesus Christ and the truths of His Word with children and adults with special needs while supporting and encouraging their families through participation in the church body.


 

A Letter from Pastor Troy Dobbs

Dear Families with Special Needs Individuals,

The pastors and staff of Grace Church welcome you!

Knowing that families with special needs face unique difficulties and challenges with church involvement, we want you to know we value your presence here. Our goal is to provide the support you need to worship and grow in your own faith journey.

Our special needs ministry has trained volunteers to help you navigate Sunday mornings and settle your child into an appropriate Sunday school class. They can also answer any questions you have about our church ministries and small group connections. We are glad you are at Grace!

God’s Blessings,

Troy Dobbs
Senior Pastor, Grace Church

A Letter from Karen Anderson

Dear Families with Special Needs,

I'm Karen Anderson, the Director of the Special Needs Ministry at Grace Church. Thanks for checking out our ministry. You will see various options for Sunday school, parent groups, Respite Nights, Prayer Team support, and several other activities that we want to make available to you.

A big church can be an overwhelming experience for a family – much less one that deals with the challenges of special needs! It's important to us that you, as parents and siblings, get into the Sunday service every week so you can sit under the teaching of God's Word and experience the fellowship of other believers. But just as important is providing a safe and appropriate setting for your special needs child or young person so that they, too, can hear about Jesus, know His love and experience loving relationships with God's people.

Look over the ministry and when you're ready, give me a call. I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Anderson
612-869-8803

Sunday School

Sunday mornings are the center of the specials needs ministry. We offer classroom opportunities to children birth through adults at our Eden Prairie location. We serve a variety of students with a disability diagnosis, medical diagnosis, cognitive delays, behavioral disability, and more. The first step in joining our Sunday morning class is to fill out a registration form. This will help us get to know you a little before you come for the first time. We will help you determine the best placement for your child and any support needed while they are with us during Sunday School.

We hope to partner with you to ensure the best care for your child during Sunday mornings at Grace Church Chaska. We will be providing one-on-one care or our “buddy system” for each child on a needed basis. For questions, feel free to contact Bailey Meyer at .

Inclusion Sunday School

Inclusion provides children with special needs the opportunity to attend Sunday School with their peers. This could happen in a few different ways.

  • Teachers are equipped to support your child with special needs
  • One-on-one buddy in the classroom
  • Spending the whole hour in Sunday school, or popping in and out as needed with a buddy

There is an inclusion coordinator available to talk with you to meet your child’s needs and support him/her in being involved with their peers.

Questions? Contact Rachel Schmitt at

Register

Kids Class

Some students are unable to be successful in a regular Sunday school classroom, often due to behavior issues, low cognitive ability or limited ability to communicate. This classroom functions similar to a special education classroom with greater structure, more assistance, and more attention to sensory issues. Each Sunday morning consists of a lesson, music time, activities with related crafts, and snack time.

Questions? Contact Tom Kopacek at

Register

Teen/Young Adult Class

As our children grow to be teens and young adults, they continue in their walk of faith and in their relationships with one another each Sunday. Many of our students have formed lasting friendships and love being together in this class. Each Sunday their time together begins with a snack and connecting with each other. They worship together, have a lesson, share prayer requests, and pray together. One Sunday a month is “Movie Day” with snacks.

Questions? Contact Deb Anderson at

Register

Adult Class

Typically, this class engages adults that have graduated from a transition program. Adults are either living at home, living in a semi-independent place, or living in a group home. Many of the adults in this class have grown up at Grace and enjoy the long term friendships they have with one another. They are comfortable learning, praying, and sharing their concerns, yet love to welcome new friends into the group.

Register

Testimonies

Here are a few testimonies of people who are a part of our special needs ministry. Prayerfully consider joining us!

John Doyle, Adult Class Member

"I like coming to class. I can see my friends and sing songs with Pastor Bill. My favorite song is "God Loves Me." Dale is a good teacher, and I learn a lot about Jesus. We write in our journals each week about things that make us happy and things we want to pray about. And best of all, we celebrate our birthdays with a nice treat!"

Tyler McMunn, Teen/Young Adult Class Volunteer

"The Holy Spirit flows in Barnabas from student to student. During worship time, our students lift up their voices loudly or show their love for the Lord through enthusiastic dance! Pure joy emanates from each kid. The smiles and laughs are absolutely contagious! It is also an amazing experience watching our kids have deep theological discussions every Sunday. Good questions are asked, great answers are given. Barnabas is an amazing environment where anyone is welcome to worship, learn, and be loved on."

Russ Adamson, Kids Class Volunteer

God tugged on my heartstrings to stretch my faith. The ministry was Barnabas, and I was skeptical. "Really Lord?" I thought. "Volunteering with disabled children?" I had zero experience, but God showed me "You don’t need experience, only love!" In obedience, I walked through the door into the ministry, and it has impacted my life and faith in ways I never knew possible. I have been immeasurably blessed in a ministry where no experience is necessary — just a love for God’s precious children.

John Cooper

"For more than 12 years, my wife Kathy and I have enjoyed our part in the special needs ministry. While she helps with the little kids, I help out with the adults, whom I have seen grow and mature — not only physically, but also in their individual spiritual lives as well. I can site a number of examples of individuals who have grown from superficial Sunday attendance to a deeper and meaningful relationship with the Lord. It is evident in the prayer time we share where we hear firsthand their prayers and petitions to the Lord Jesus. Truly a blessing."

Serve

There are many ways to engage and make a difference through our Barnabas Special Needs Ministry:

Inclusion Sunday School Support

Our inclusion program gives kids with special needs (birth through elementary school) the opportunity to attend Sunday School with their peers. Sometimes extra support or breaks are needed to be successful. Most volunteers work with just one student, supporting as needed and being available for breaks the child needs. Training is available, and an Inclusion Coordinator is available for support during the 9a and 11a Eden Prairie services. To connect with the Inclusion Coordinator, email Rachel Schmitt at

Apply to Volunteer

Kids Sunday School Class

Our Special Needs Sunday school class gives children who cannot be successful in a typical classroom an opportunity to learn more about the love of Jesus and the Gospel in a specialized setting during the 11a service only. We have an amazing space to welcome children of all abilities to gather together to learn at their own ability level and participate as they are able. Volunteers are needed for teaching, leading worship, supporting students one-on-one, or being available for different needs that arise. To connect with the Kids Classroom Coordinator, email Tom Kopacek at

Apply to Volunteer

Teen and Young Adults Sunday School Class

Our teen and young adult class is an amazing group of students who have gained independence, communication skills, and relationship skills. This group enjoys learning more about Jesus and each other. Volunteers are needed to build relationships, teach mini-lessons, help lead worship, and pray with the students. To connect with the Teen and Young Adult Classroom Coordinator, email Deb Hoef at

Apply to Volunteer

Adult Sunday School Class

Typically, this class engages adults that have graduated from a transition program. Adults are either living at home, in a semi-independent place, or in a group home. Many adults in this class have grown up at Grace and enjoy the long-term friendships they have with one another. They are comfortable learning, praying, and sharing their concerns, yet love to welcome new friends int the group. To connect with Adult Classroom Coordinator, email Dale Anderson at

Apply to Volunteer

Contact Us About Volunteering

Volunteer Support

Caring for our special needs community takes a lot of love and support from many angles. It also takes knowledge and skill to handle a wide variety of needs. Throughout the year we offer trainings and resources to support our volunteers as much as possible.

Most of our volunteers come to us with no background in disability, but sense God’s calling to serve Him in this unique area. Our volunteers have many different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. Whether you are in high school, college, single, married, young, or young-at-heart, we have a place for you. A willing heart to learn and a commitment to this ministry is all you need. You will fall in love with our kids and realize what a privilege it is to be a part of the spiritual growth and encouragement of the kids and their families. Often, the volunteers mention that they are the ones being blessed the most!

Day-Long Training

All our volunteers participate in a day-long training in the fall. This training includes:

  • Testimony and devotions reminding us of Christ’s call on our lives
  • General disability information
  • Training including local speakers, DVDs, and other disability resources
  • Overview of the Heimlich maneuver, CPR, use of Epi-Pen, and recognizing asthma attacks and seizures led by a registered nurse
  • Plans for the year, including curriculum selection and division of tasks
  • Getting to know the individuals being served in each department of the ministry and how to best help them succeed in their time at church

Volunteers Activities Throughout the Year

Continuing education will be provided throughout the year in the format of a couple of informational speakers as well as resources handed out either on Sunday mornings or through email.

Our Vision for our Volunteers

  • Attend worship services weekly, maintaining a growing personal relationship with Christ. Our students and their families are often needy, requiring us to give what only the Holy Spirit can do through us.
  • Make your role in Barnabas a high personal priority. As we conscientiously prepare, then offer our best to our students, the Holy Spirit will bless our preparation and do His work in their hearts.
  • Be a dependable member of the Barnabas Special Needs Team. We lean on one another regularly in this ministry and our students and their families need to be able to count on us for them to attend.
  • Pray regularly for each of your students, their families, and our ministry. Call on the Barnabas Prayer Team with your prayer requests and praises.
  • Participate in the various training opportunities and Barnabas activities when possible.
  • Communicate with the director and/or leadership regarding ministry concerns.

Parent Support

Stay Connected

At the beginning of each month, we send an e-newsletter to families, volunteers, and those interested in keeping in touch with what is going in our ministry. Each newsletter contains a devotional, upcoming events, and general interest articles. New families are automatically added to the mailing list. Contact us if you are not receiving our newsletter and would like to.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Prayer Team

It is a blessing to pray for you! Nothing is too small or too big for God to handle. Coming to Him for all that we need is what this group does. About 65 prayer warriors regularly lifts up the prayer requests of our ministry, our families, and our volunteers. They genuinely care for our families and this ministry.

If you have a prayer request Contact Sue Kabala, our prayer coordinator at You may also request that it be confidential with no names.

Pastoral Care Support

We want to reach out and support parents during difficult times. Special needs parents often feel alone and isolated. We have a team of representatives in the special needs ministry who are willing to walk alongside parents during hard times. If this is you or know of a need please let us know. We would love to:

  • Visit and pray with parents
  • Refer parents to professional help when needed
  • Visit in hospitals during hospitalizations of a child or parent

In John 13:34, Jesus speaks of loving one another. Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ."

Contact Karen Anderson at to reach out to our team.

Parent Support Groups

Raising a child with special needs has many additional challenges. Support from other moms and dads experiencing similar situations can be a great support. Check out opportunities for parents to get connected at Grace.

Mom’s Group

A life full of unknowns is the standard with special needs. Current events in our world have compounded this unease of living with the unknown. In this study, we will answer the question of how to find peace when living with uncertainty. We will find answers to this question by developing a habit of personal time in God's Word and studying Paul's prison letters. In our monthly group time, we will discuss and share answers that we find from our individual reading of The Word. These answers coupled with the practice of personal time in Scripture will equip you to face the unknowns.

Second Monday of Each Month, 6:30p-8:30p

Questions? Contact Lanae Doiron at

Register

Dad’s Group

We are a group of dads (or guardians) with children who have special needs. During our time together we have the opportunity to share our stories and address our challenges from a biblical perspective. We support each other in community and in prayer. Our study each month typically will be based from Pastor Troy’s message from the previous Sunday.

First Tuesday of Each Month, 6:30p-8:30p

Questions? Contact Thomas O’Connor at

Community Events

Community is especially important for families impacted by special needs. Throughout the year we gather together to support and care for one another.

Parents' Evenings

Occasionally we offer a parent evening at the same time as a respite night in another part of the church. Along with pizza and dessert, we have a theme for the evening. Some topics we have tackled are “Baptism and your Special Needs Child,” “Future Living Arrangements,” or “Financial Considerations with a Special Needs Child” with a parent panel, speaker, or DVD.

Mom’s Day Away

Each spring we hold a day at Grace set aside for moms of special needs children. Moms come from all over the Twin Cities and surrounding states. Our retreat is a Christ-centered event designed to encourage, support, and bless each mom through worship, teaching, sharing, and fellowship. We bring in speakers who bring hope and life through God’s Word while enjoying a beautiful luncheon.

Questions? Contact Sue Hume at

Summer Picnic

Join us for a picnic at Lake Riley once each summer to celebrate all the God has done through our special needs ministry. It is an afternoon to linger over great food, fun, boat rides, and lots of connecting.

Respite Nights

We offer respite nights to families who have a child with special needs. We come alongside these families by caring for their children a few hours on occasional Friday nights. This night is open to all families in the community who have children with special needs.

What Respite Nights Look Like

  • Parents drop off their kids for three hours while volunteers hang out with the children. Parents and caregivers can enjoy an evening off.
  • There are many activities for kids at our respite nights. A nursery is available for children ages 0-3, and older children (ages 4+) can play in the gym or explore a variety of rooms with extra activities.
  • A licensed nurse is always available if any medical need may arise.

What does volunteering at a respite night involve?

  • Volunteers hang out with kids while parents and caregivers enjoy an evening off.
  • There is a place for every volunteer! We welcome all comfort levels of volunteering. When you submit a volunteer registration, we ask how you would like to be involved during the evening and how comfortable you are in working with special needs children.
  • Training is available at every respite night. Training begins at 5:25p and available for everyone.
  • A lot goes on at a respite night. Volunteers are needed to play, help supervise, and lead activity rooms like the creative room, toy room for boys, gym area, movie room, and more.
  • It’s a great opportunity to volunteer with your friends or your family.
  • We have a nursery available for children 0-3 years old. Younger children of volunteers can also hang out here while parents volunteer.
  • A licensed nurse is always available if any medical needs may arise.

Upcoming Respite Nights

Questions? Contact DeAnn Hopper, Respite Ministry Coordinator, at or (612)432-1388.

Contact Us

Karen Anderson

My name is Karen Anderson. I serve as the director of the Barnabas Ministry. My husband Dale and I have four children, and our third child has Down syndrome. About 25 years ago when we first came to Grace, we met other families with children who had special needs, who recognized the need for a strong supportive program that would minister to the needs of families challenged by disability. As I took the reins of the ministry I had the opportunity to study disability through Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Joni and Friends International. This, together with our own family's experience, has helped prepare me to serve the many beautiful families and volunteers that worship at Grace.

Please contact me with any questions you have about our special needs ministry.

(612)869-8803

DeAnn Hopper

My name is DeAnn Hopper. I serve as the Special Needs Respite Night Coordinator. I have a child with Down syndrome, and we have been involved in the special needs ministry for the last 16 years. When my children were small, they attended respites so my husband and I could get a much-needed break every so often. Now that they are older, we serve together with a team of people to provide respites for other families in our church and community.

Please contact me with any questions you have about our respite ministry.

(612)432-1388

Rachel Schmitt

My name is Rachel Schmitt. My husband Matt and I live in Jordan with our 4 kids. I am the inclusion coordinator for the Barnabas ministry. I have a Bachelor's degree in Ministry Leadership with a concentration in Disability Ministry from Moody Bible Institute, and I also have a sister with special needs. I am excited to serve your family so that everyone can have an opportunity to connect with the Lord on Sundays with the Grace community!

Please contact me with any questions you have about our inclusion ministry.

(616)490-0582

 

Online Resources

Arise My Soul Arise

I Saw the Light

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

God Made Only One You

Christ Arose! (Music)

Christ Arose! (Actions)

This Is the Day

Psalm 61 (Music)

Psalm 61 (Actions)

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Music)

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Actions)

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