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Disability Ministries

Expressing extravagant love and unleashing God-given ability within the special needs community

Celebrating Ability within Disability

Individuals and families affected by disability are a vital part of Willow Creek Community Church! Through sensory-friendly environments and supported settings, Willow’s Special Friends ministry helps individuals with special needs fully engage in the life of the church in a way that accommodates their unique abilities.

Hardest/Best Special Friends at Willow Creek from New Branch Films on Vimeo.

How does Special Friends make an impact?

Whether helping a child engage fully in their age-appropriate program, supporting a parent whose child has a special need, or serving alongside an adult with disability, our Special Friends staff and volunteers help everyone to experience God’s love and learn more about Him and His story, regardless of physical or developmental challenges. Check out the many opportunities designed with our Special Friends community in mind.

  • Children (infants-grade 5)

    Special Friends for Kids

    11:15 a.m. • Sundays

    Children with special needs can worship, experience community, and learn truths from God’s Word in an environment specifically designed to meet their individual abilities in all areas (physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and sensory).

    Promiseland Support

    5:30 p.m., Saturdays • 9:00 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays

    Trained, supervised buddies provide support to children with special needs as they participate in free time/activity stations, large group and small group experiences. Support can come in a variety of forms including small group leader training, adapted curriculum, a personal buddy and other types of assistance.

    Midweek for Kids Support (infant-age 5) & Awana Support (grades K-5)

    7:00 p.m. • Wednesdays

    Trained, supervised volunteers provide support to children with special needs as they participate in free time/activity stations, large group and small group experiences. Support can come in a variety of forms, including small group leader training, adapted curriculum, a personal buddy and other types of assistance.

  • Students (grades 6-12)

    Special Friends Club

    5:30 p.m. • Saturdays

    A place for students with special needs to worship, experience community, and learn truths from God’s Word in an environment specifically designed to meet their individual abilities in all areas (physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, communicative, and sensory).

    Elevate Support (grades 6-8)

    5:30 p.m., Saturdays • 9:00 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays

    Trained, supervised buddies provide support to junior high students with special needs as they participate in fun activities, worship service and small group experiences. Support can come in a variety of forms, including small group leader training, a personal buddy and other types of assistance.

    Impact Support (grades 9-12)

    11:15 p.m. • Sundays

    Trained, supervised buddies accompany high school students with special needs to Student Impact’s time of in-depth worship and Bible teaching. Through this relationship, the buddy helps the student participate to the best of their ability.

  • Adults (age 18 and over)

    Special Friends for Teens & Adults

    5:30 p.m. • Saturdays

    Students and adults with development disabilities can worship, experience community, and learn truth from God’s Word in an environment in a supportive environment that uses an age-appropriate, multi-sensory approach.

    Special Friends Midweek for Adults

    6:00−8:30 p.m. • Wednesdays • Meets September—May

    Independent adults with developmental disabilities spend time in prayer, fellowship, and Bible study in this weekly small group.

    6 p.m. Dinner Gathering (Atrium)
    7 p.m. Worship (Lakeside Auditorium, Rows D20−D21)
    7:30 p.m. Bible Study (Room C140)

  • Family Support

    Special Needs Section Communities

    Section: 9 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays • Section 106B

    Do you have a family member or friend with special needs – or a heart to love and support these remarkable individuals and their families? Join Section 106B of our Main Auditorium where the Special Friends community can sit together during 9 & 11:15 a.m. Sunday services. Connect over coffee after the service and join us for sensory-friendly section gatherings and events throughout the year. We look forward to loving and supporting your child with special needs so that you can be part of these communities!

    Parent Support Groups

    3:30−5:00 p.m. • Every other Saturday • September-May

    Parents and/or caregivers of individuals with special needs meet for a time of small group Bible study and mutual support. Childcare provided.

    Respite Care

    3:30−5:00 p.m. • Every other Saturday • September-May

    Parents are given a break during Parent Support Groups, Section Activities, Christmas and Easter services, and other special events. Their children with special needs participate in a variety of activities with trained, supervised volunteers. Sibling may participate in a group designed for them.

Contacts

Paul Von Tobel
Special Friends Director
(224) 512-1233
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Get Connected to Special Friends

In order to serve you best, we ask that you contact us before your first visit so that we can welcome you and get you connected.

Please fill out our Registration Form to ensure our staff and volunteers are equipped to provide a safe environment for your child. We will contact you once this form is received to learn more about your family and share about Willow’s Special Friends ministries. We look forward to meeting you and your child!

Register

Serve with Special Friends

Are you interested in learning more about volunteering in Special Friends? To help you better understand the ministry, the first step is to attend a vision tour that will allow you to observe it in action. Please click the link below to sign up for one of our upcoming vision tours. Vision Tour

Build a Disability Ministry