Additional Needs Ministry in a pandemic

29th Oct 2020

‘Tell the nations about his glory. Tell all people about the wonderful things he has done.’

Psalm 96:3 (New International readers Version, as used in the Accessible Edition Psalms, a project being released soon in collaboration with Biblica)


What does it look like to sustain Additional Needs Ministry in a pandemic? We've taken the ministry online and opened more doors to supporting families and encouraging churches and groups to do the same

Can you help us meet the financial need that still remains? Please read on for the full update from Mark Arnold (Additional Needs Ministry Director) or click the button below to give now:

Partner with Mark to reach the Autumn appeal target

Now, more than ever before, I want to thank you for your continued support of the Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints, whether by remembering us in prayer, attending online events, sending encouragement or providing the finance that allows us to continue and support more children and young people like Bethany during these challenging times.

When I wrote in the spring, in the early days of the global pandemic that we find ourselves in, I asked if you would be willing to support our appeal target of £7,500 to equip and enable an even bigger difference for families with children with additional needs. In spite of the pressures that everyone has been experiencing, by God’s grace, and your support, we achieved an amazing 80% of that target.

Over these last few months, we’ve seen many things change to online provision, including church services, youth and children’s work, prayer meetings and more. The additional needs ministry training we provide, as well as conferences relating to working with children and young people with additional needs that we have been invited to speak at, have all moved online too.

As a result, we have still been busy training and inspiring more more churches, children’s, youth and families workers across the country. We reach out to children and young people with additional needs and disabilities like Bethany, who can feel really isolated and forgotten. Here’s some feedback from a couple of the sessions we’ve been involved in, sharing how the work we’ve been doing has met real needs:

“Thank you so much for this morning, that was so incredibly valuable. I really appreciated the way you referred to siblings who are so often forgotten. The meerkat/lions analogy is brilliant, I’ve got a feeling I’m never going to forget that. Also, the focus on the people who are not yet part of our community but need somewhere they can belong. And finally, the need to make sure that we include God - oh yeah! I feel convicted! Thank you so very much for your work.”
Re: ‘All Inclusive?’ Zoom, 1st August 2020

“It met expectations because my expectations were high! I loved that fostering and adoption were included alongside additional needs, all three speakers were excellent, the atmosphere was relaxed and fun on a hot afternoon midweek. Everything ran smoothly so it was clearly very well planned in advance. The slides were informative and clear. I think it was a masterclass in how to do an online training event well.”
Re: FaithFull Generation Conference Sessions, July/August 2020

And while we’ve remained busy with training and conferences, there has been lots more going on too.

Here’s just a flavour of the last few months…

We were thrilled to be asked to take part in Spring Harvest Home, an online event that attracted over one million views over the period of the event and afterwards. We provided six ‘Unleashed for All’ accessible teaching sessions, which were a great success.

“Thank you so very much for joining with us so enthusiastically with Spring Harvest Home. We have been blown away by the response and success of this year’s event and I hope you have enjoyed it too. You’ve probably been keeping up with the stats of people who have been watching your talks and must be so encouraged – as I am, that these are blessing many families.”
Joy Townhill, Spring Harvest Operations Coordinator


We’ve also been invited to join in with lots of different podcasts, videos and other media collaborations during the last few months, including with Youthscape, National Parenting Initiative, 21st Century Dads, and more... Here’s a comment that came out of the Youthscape podcast.

“You’ve done some amazing work… You do some brilliant training, I’ve been to it, I highly recommend other people to look that up.”
Martin Saunders, Director, Satellites and Director of Innovation, Youthscape



It was also great to partner with Life Project Bath and New Wine to send out ‘fiddles boxes’ to families of children with additional needs to help children calm, focus and concentrate during online sessions. Here’s what we heard back.

“I’m not sure if you’ve ever Zoomed with flashing lights and bubbles, but we just had a lovely session with @lifeprojectbath Mini Springs families showing us their favourite bits of the fiddle boxes we sent them. Thanks so much @Mark_J_Arnold!”
Jess Thompson, Head of Accessible Church Ministry, New Wine



So far this year, about 25,000 people have visited ‘The Additional Needs Blogfather’ blog page and have viewed the blogs about 35,000 times! Since it started, the blog has reached around the world with people in 185 countries connecting to the helpful, supportive and encouraging posts they find there. Here’s some feedback from one of them.

“Sometimes when I read a post, it’s so moving that I struggle to even articulate a comment — this is that post. Spot-on and hauntingly beautiful.”
Re: ‘Special Needs Parents Are Candles, Burning Between Hope And Despair’


As well as the blog, we’ve had lots of opportunities to write articles and resources for a range of publications and ministries over the past few months, including Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine, Evangelical Focus (the online magazine for the Evangelical Alliance in Europe), Christian Blind Mission (CBM), Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), the National Parenting Initiative (NPI) and many more.


Support community

As co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, I have shared previously how this online learning and support community had 1,806 Members at the beginning of 2019. At the end of July 2020 this total has grown to 2,483, and by the end of 2020 we’re aiming for 2,750 children’s and youth workers, parents, church leaders and more to connect and learn together through this community. We are also connecting people to accessible churches through this community, and have a map and directory that includes 67 accessible churches across the UK, with this number growing every month.


New – ‘CAN-I’ online training

In June we launched the first in a series of online additional needs training courses, called CAN-I, built in collaboration with education sector online training specialist, Schudio. Progress with this project is really encouraging, and we hope to have more content ready to launch later this year. One 5-Star reviewer added this comment.

“Thank you for this. All very helpful & practical. Do hope it reaches the widest possible audience …” 
Re: CAN-I module ‘Belonging during lockdown and beyond




Give now

In 2020 the budgeted cost of the Additional Needs Ministry is around £50,000 and with your continued support we will be able to close the gap to meet our immediate costs for the second half of the year by raising the £7,500 needed as a response to this autumn appeal.

In spite of the impact of the pandemic, we’ve seen so many new doors opening in 2020; so many new opportunities to reach out and support children, young people and their families during this challenging time. More churches, groups, organisations and networks have been inspired, trained and equipped to connect with and share the Gospel with children, young people, and their families.

As churches work through how to continue to reach out into their communities online, as well as opening their doors for the first time in months, we’re helping them think about how to include children and young people with additional needs.

Could you partner with us again to help us to reach our £7,500 autumn appeal target?

Could you equip and enable us to continue to make an even bigger difference in the second half of this year, so that even more churches can welcome, encourage and support families with children with additional needs like Bethany?

We would love to hear your stories, as well as providing you with opportunities to receive prayer materials, information packs for friends and family, options to give regularly or one-off, and also to receive information about providing a future legacy.

Click here to donate now


Thank you so much for your encouragement and support, it is greatly appreciated and is making a big, big difference!

Serving Christ together,

Mark Arnold
Additional Needs Ministry Director, Urban Saints