OASIS-Special Needs/Inclusion Ministry at Immanuel Church

It’s official! 
Our doors and hearts are open and ready to include children and love families touched by disability at Immanuel Church!

I am so thrilled to see another dream become a reality.  It really is a dual blessing-our children, and the story God is writing through us, has forever changed our church family, and they have forever changed us. 

So, it is my honor, to invite families touched by disability to Immanuel.  We have already welcomed two families even before we officially opened. Join with me in prayer that more families will hear about us and come. Our first outreach step is focused on children with special needs, birth-5th grade. Once we get going, we will reach out into other age groups.  {Of course anyone is welcome at any time, we just may not be able to accommodate their needs as well}

Please share this information with everyone you know. Cut and paste our blog link onto your Facebook, Twitter, etc. Tell all your teachers and special education staff. Tell your church leaders. Who knows who will see it and be forever changed. 


All our love, 
the boyce crew

save the dates

OASIS: special needs open house 
@Immanuel Church 2300 Dilleys Rd Gurnee, IL 60031
Sunday, January 26 
12-3 PM

This is open to the public. It is an opportunity for the community and our church members to tour the special needs room, OASIS, and find out more about how to include children and love families touched by disability. We are beginning efforts are with birth through fifth grade.
Learn more about icKids here

Buddy Training

@Immanuel Church 2300 Dilleys Rd Gurnee, IL 60031
Thursday, February 06 
12-3 PM

This training provides a great overview and theology of disability ministry, some practical do’s and dont’s, tips, and  best practices for volunteer buddies. This is primarily for Immanuel Church attenders interested in building a relationship with a child with special needs.

Through the Roof with 
Joni & Friends
@Immanuel Church 2300 Dilleys Rd Gurnee, IL 60031
Saturday, March 15 

time and cost: TBA

Through The Roof

The vision of Through the Roof is to see the story in Mark 2:3-5 carried out all over the world – that Christ’s church would reach out, break down barriers, build bridges, and bring people affected by disability to Jesus. The Through the Roof program provides disability ministry toolstraining, and resources for churches as they develop, maintain, or expand their disability program. 
learn more about Joni and Friends here


The Special needs/Inclusion ministry is a new component to our current icKids ministry that includes children and loves on families touched by disability. Our mission at Immanuel is to help people know Christ and grow to be more like Him. Started in 2013, we are brand new to this proactive approach, although we have informally been welcoming and including families with special needs for decades. We want every child to experience the love of Jesus, learning at their own pace, in a safe environment, while loved ones attend church. We know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ministry, so we sit down with each family to design a plan that works for everyone involved. When needed, we have 1:1 volunteer buddies in place ready to be with your child all service. 
For the purpose of the special needs ministry, the terms “additional needs,” “special needs,” and “disability encompasses a broad range of unique needs, including but not limited to: learning differences, intellectual disability, neurological disorders, developmental delays, communication disorders, social skills deficits, physical disabilities, sensory needs, and medical conditions. A child experiencing a significant life-change (death of a family member, injury, divorce, etc.) may also benefit from the services of the ministry for a period of time (i.e, placed with an assigned buddy or in an alternate learning environment). 
Understanding why a particular individual requires the services of the ministry is often unimportant. What is important is that the ministry is able to assist identified individuals to help them experience success in the church setting. 



We may not know everything, but we want to learn. We know families experience barriers when it comes to church, and we want to do our best to remove them for people who want to come. We are starting 2014 with accommodations for families at Sunday services, and are hoping to expand to a support group and special family community events.

first-time guests

Whether your child attends the nursery, kids world, surf city, or discovery kids it is up to you, the parent/guardian, whether or not you would like to stay with your child on the first visit. We encourage parents to participate in the main worship service, but want to be flexible to your preference. We do ask that you fill out a First Time Families Card so that we have your basic information. We have buddies on call in both services to accommodate first time guests. At the end of the service, the coordinator will touch base with you to see if you plan on visiting again.  


After your second or third visit, if you plan on regularly attending, the coordinator will set up a time to meet with you and complete an intake interview to help us best serve your child. After the intake form is complete, we will get a better idea of what a Sunday may look like for your child. 


The information disclosed in all of these documents may only be shared with the ministry leaders, the individual’s 1- on-1 Buddy, and classroom teacher. 


At Immanuel, we practice the hybrid approach. This is where a church sets up a buddy system while simultaneously providing a self-contained special needs setting. We call our Special Needs room, OASIS.  By offering both options, students participate in the environment best suited to their abilities and needs. Some students may actually participate in both settings (the typical ministry environment and the special needs class) in the same day. For other kids, their accommodation plan may vary from week to week, depending on many factors such as a new medication regimen, the previous night’s sleep, home-life changes and so forth. 


Generally speaking, this is the preferred method of accommodation, partially because it closely mirrors the approach utilized by many schools. Most typical children today are used to learning next to a child with special needs. Further, it is a “win-win” for everyone. We help all children learn healthy ways of relating when we create environments that reflect real life. We should offer every child at Immanuel the opportunity to practice compassion, patience, and love for one another, regardless of ability.  When this is modeled by adults, typically developing peers are taught what it looks like to value and love everyone, to create friendships with children with special needs, and see them like Christ sees all children.  Many times, friendships among this two groups are fostered in the church setting but pour into friendships at school and outside of church.

One thought on “OASIS-Special Needs/Inclusion Ministry at Immanuel Church

  1. Oh Stefanie! I know from following your blog how heavily this issue has weighed on your heart. I am so very happy to hear this wonderful news! With you, I hope that other churches will hear of Immanuel's program and begin to institute programs of their own. What a truly loving mission! I hope you will keep us updated in your posts about how the program is going!


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