A year of transformation and hope

30th Apr 2021

‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.’

Romans 8:28 (Accessible Edition New Testament, a project which we are collaborating in with Biblica).


2020 into 2021: Reality check in a year of transformation and hope

It seems extraordinary that it was a year ago that I was writing outlining our ambitious plans for 2020 for the Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints.

I shared a little of Malachi’s story at that time.

Those plans changed very rapidly as a result of the global pandemic, but I was able to write again in the Autumn to share how, by God’s grace, we were still able to make a big difference together for children and young people like Malachi, as well as Bethany whose story I shared a little of then.

Thank you ever so much for all of your support, it is very much appreciated!

Reality check:
“Our children are the unseen victims of the pandemic in so many ways…”
Parent quote from Disabled Children’s Partnership report

2020 was a challenging year, as has been the start of 2021, but we are thankful for all that we have learned and all that we have been able to do during the last 12 months to make a difference for children and young people with additional needs, like Malachi and Bethany.

The following is just some of what we were able to do, together with your support, bringing transformation and hope to isolated and marginalised children in a global pandemic.

Reality check:
“More than a third of parents report that their disabled child now has depression. Families also reported additional negative impacts of lockdown on their disabled child’s sleep (66%), behaviour (70%), anxiety (70%) and loneliness (65%).”
Disabled Children’s Partnership


Training and conferences:

We delivered almost 50 online training and conference events, reaching and supporting 1,800 children’s, youth and families workers, as well as parents and carers, to make a difference for the children and young people with additional needs that they journey with.

“Last night, I attended another GREAT Zoom training session on ‘All Inclusive? It was SO refreshing to meet virtually with other professionals passionate about making their work/ministry practise inclusive.
“It was EVEN BETTER to take the time out to reflect on what we do at EDGE and learn what strategies we can use to help those who struggle when it comes to our EIGHT senses (including THREE mystery ones). HIGHLY recommended training.”

Lizzy Price, Founder – Every Day God Encounters

We’ve provided training for students at Bristol Baptist College, spoken at conferences for Premier Digital, Girls’ Brigade International and the Schudio ‘Getting It Right’ education conference, as well as reaching new audiences in the USA at the ‘One Word For 2021’ conference to name just a few recent events. And while we’ve remained busy with training and conferences, there has been lots more going on too. Here’s a bit more of what we’ve been doing, with your support, over the last few months…



We’ve been on Premier Radio to reach out to their audience with the message of hope for children and young people with additional needs. We’ve also partnered with Premier Digital to create an eight-part accessible Lent video and printed resource series, which is being promoted across all Premier networks.

“Thanks so much your interview last week. I shared some of it on ‘Faith Hope and Love’ this morning and I know it was also on ‘Inspirational Breakfast’. It was a really wonderful helpful and encouraging listen.”
Rachel Matthews, Producer, Premier Radio

We took part in the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) ‘Parenting For Faith’ podcast, as well as the National Parenting Initiative podcast and the ‘Jenni Talks’ podcast with Jenni Osborn.

A new podcast series is planned for 2021 in collaboration with Naomi Graham (founder of ‘Growing Hope’ and former Head of Accessible Church Ministry at New Wine).

Reality check:
“66% of disabled children not getting the secular support they are entitled to.”
Disabled Children’s Partnership



Although the challenges of the last year have made it more difficult to help churches on their journey towards being more accessible and inclusive for all, we’ve worked with several churches to help them to provide accessible content, as well as to plan to make their in-building services and children’s/youth work more inclusive.

Content has also been provided for accessible and inclusive services through partnership with ‘Disability and Jesus’ as well as through our leadership role within ‘Churches for All’.

In addition, we’ve grown the number of accessible churches listed in the Additional Needs Alliance map and directory, up 16 in 2020 to 67 in total across the UK. See: https://additionalneedsalliance.org.uk/accessible-churches/ for more details.



During 2020, about 43,000 people visited ‘The Additional Needs Blogfather’ blog site and viewed the blogs about 59,000 times! Since it started, the blog site has reached around the world with people in 192 countries connecting to the helpful, supportive and encouraging posts they find there. Here’s some feedback from just one of them.

“Really excellent and much needed post - much needed by vicars, pastors, and any others who lead or decide how things are done in a church!”
Transition from Youth Group to Adult Church. See: https://theadditionalneedsblogfather.com for more details.

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), Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), the National Parenting Initiative (NPI) and YouBelong.


Support communities:

As co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, I have shared previously how this online learning and support community had 2,236 members at the beginning of 2020. At the end of 2020 this total had grown to 2,531 children’s and youth workers, parents, church leaders and more, connecting and learning together through this community. We aim to grow this community to over 2,750 members by the end of this year.

We also launched a new support community in 2020, for Dads of children with additional needs and disabilities, called ‘The Dads’ Fire Circle’.

‘The Dads’ Fire Circle’ includes a website, a monthly live gathering on Zoom and a Facebook group for Dads to connect with others on a similar journey. We’ve been getting good numbers at the monthly gatherings and since its launch mid-way through 2020 the blog page has seen almost 1,700 visitors and 2,900 views from 31 countries overall. See: https://thedadsfirecircle.com for more details.

Reality check:
“More than half of parents of disabled children say that lockdown is making their child’s condition worse and stopping their development.”
Disabled Children’s Partnership


2021 continues to offer a blend of challenges and opportunities:

As we give thanks for all the ways that we’ve been able to keep making a difference for children and young people with additional needs, like Malachi and Bethany, we continue to push on into 2021 with goals to inspire, support and equip even more children’s, youth and families workers, as well as parents and carers, to share the Good News of Jesus with children and young people with additional needs.

We already have 24 training and conference bookings in the diary for 2021, including the new ‘Supporting Families’ course which is proving helpful. We are getting involved in new podcast and video series and are being given opportunities to write for even more publications. The blog has got off to its strongest start to a year yet and we are breaking new ground in the education and counselling sectors. We can only do this much needed work, making a real difference for families like Malachi’s and Bethany’s, with your continued support and I am deeply grateful to everyone who faithfully journeys with us in the Additional Needs Ministry.



In 2021 the budgeted cost of the Additional Needs Ministry is around £49,000 and with your support we will be able to close the gap to meet our immediate costs for the first half of the year by raising the £7,500 needed as a response to this Spring appeal.

In spite of the impact of the pandemic, we’ve seen so many new doors opening in 2021 already; 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, both online and in-building.

A parent quoted in the recent Disabled Children’s Partnership report said, “Our children are the unseen victims of the pandemic in so many ways…” Another parent said, “My son has become mentally unwell and has been struggling to engage in anything.”

Could you equip and enable us to continue to make an even bigger difference in 2021 so that even more churches can welcome, encourage and support families with children with additional needs like Malachi and Bethany? Could you partner with us to help us reach our £7,500 Spring appeal target and play our part in changing the reality for children with additional needs and disabilities?

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

Find out more about the Additional Needs Ministry of Urban Saints by visiting the Additional Needs section of the website:

Additional Needs