Special Friends South Barrington

Expressing God's extravagant love and unleashing the God-given abilities of those with special needs

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Special Friends at Willow Creek

Moving from Presence to Belonging

In recent years, the world has made significant strides in accepting people with intellectual disabilities. We see this in schools with inclusion strategies, in buildings with equal-access accommodations, and in churches with an increase in disability ministries.

But at Willow South Barrington, we hope to go one step further. We seek to step beyond merely accepting that our friends with intellectual disabilities are present. We want each one to belong. And to fully belong at Willow means you’re connected with a Christ-centered community; you’re learning and growing spiritually; and you’re using your gifts to serve others.

As you browse this website and engage with our ministry, we pray you’ll feel a connection with one or more of our ministries—and join us in helping our Special Friends move from merely being present to fully belonging. Thank you for being part of our journey!

Watch our Special Friends share about the best and hardest things about being them:

Our Special Friends Space

In Special Friends, we have created an intentional environment for our friends with intellectual disabilities—a welcoming space in our church designed specifically for their unique needs, making it more conducive to learning about God and making friends. We even have therapy dogs in our space to provide a loving comfort for our friends during each of our services!

Watch a video about our Special Friends Space:

Kids (Ages 4–12)

Weekend Worship Services

5:30 p.m., Saturdays • 9 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays
In Special Friends, we have created an intentional environment for our young friends with intellectual disabilities—a welcoming space in our church designed specifically for their unique needs, making it more conducive to learning about God and making friends. Among other things, this space includes calming sensory nooks, an equal-access treehouse, and trampolines to help children regulate their bodies. Our uniquely designed environment provides the opportunity for every child to experience belonging as they learn through interactive, repetitive, and experiential teaching.

This group is designed for a 1:2 ratio of volunteer to participant. Support workers are welcome to come with those who do well with a higher ratio.

 

Teens (Ages 13–21) & Adults (Ages 23+)

Sunday Worship Services

9 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays

On any given weekend, you can find a group of Special Friends teens and adults of all abilities worshipping together, learning about Jesus through experiential teaching, and deepening their friendships with each other and with God.

This group is designed for a 1:2 ratio of volunteers to participants. Support workers are welcome to come with those who do well with a higher ratio.

 

Saturday Worship Service

5:30 p.m., Saturdays

On Saturday nights, the Special Friends teens and adults join the main service for worship followed by small group Bible study in the Special Friends space.

This group is designed for a 1:5 ratio of volunteer to participant. Support workers are welcome to come with those who do well with a higher ratio.

 

Midweek Teen Group

6–9 p.m., Wednesdays, 1st and 3rd Wednesdays | September 19–December 12 

 Our teens and young adults long for meaningful relationships, and they are able to find these kinds of connections through a variety of opportunities available on Wednesday nights—including worship, social nights, service projects, and small group Bible study.

This group is geared towards those who do well with 1:5 volunteer to participant ratio. Support workers are welcome to come with those who do well with a higher ratio.

 

Midweek Adult Group

6–9 p.m., Wednesdays | September 19–December 12

Teens and adults with intellectual disabilities take their faith one step further on Wednesday nights, where they build community, worship together and learn how to use their God-given abilities to serve in our church. Small group Bible study, socials and choir are just a few of the opportunities offered for our teens and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Special Friends Productions (Ages 10–18)

Each year, our Special Friends perform a music theatre production as part of Willow Creek’s weekend services. In partnership with the Penguin Project, more than 50 actors with special needs display their remarkable gifts on stage for all to see. Each artist is paired with a mentor, who spends months practicing lines, songs, and dances with them. Rehearsals begin in January 2019.

New to Special Friends

Are you looking to get connected with Special Friends? We look forward to meeting you and your loved one to help you choose the right programs and level of involvement for your family. In order that we may serve you best, each individual with special needs must have a current Special Friends Registration Form on file. We require this so that our staff and ministry workers are equipped to provide a safe environment for your child.

REGISTER

Questions? Please contact Special Friends Director Jenni Von Tobel or call her at (224) 512-1340.

Volunteer with Special Friends

The volunteers in Special Friends are the heart of the entire ministry! You bring a willing heart, we provide the training and together, we can serve all the kids, teens, and adults with special needs in our church as well as their families.

Interested in volunteering with Special Friends? Please complete our Special Friends Volunteer Form below.

SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER

Questions? Please contact Special Friends Director Jenni Von Tobel or call her at (224) 512-1340.

Upcoming Events

 

Mary Poppins Jr.

5:30 p.m., July 21 · 9 & 11:15 a.m., July 22 | Main Auditorium

Willow Creek's Special Friends ministry will perform Mary Poppins Jr. as part of the weekend services. Special Friends helps kids, teens, and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities unleash their God-given abilities. In partnership with the Penguin Project, more than 50 actors with special needs perform a musical production in front of thousands at Willow Creek. Each actor is paired with a mentor, who spends months practicing lines, songs, and dances with them. Come and experience the remarkable gifts of our actors!

Special Needs Trust Workshop

7:30 p.m., August 15 in Blue Sky 2 
Learn important next steps in creating a trust for your child with special needs.

REGISTER HERE

 

Enraptured: Women’s Retreat

September 14–16 at Camp Silver Birch, Wisconsin

Retreat. Reflect. Revive. Sunday Section 106B invites all female caregivers of individuals with special needs to enjoy a time of solitude, worship and fellowship while deepening your spiritual journey.

For more details or to register, visit Silver Birch Ranch “Section 106B Group” or email Shellise Janus, Section retreat contact.

 

Special Needs Parent/Caregiver Group

7:30 p.m., 1st and 3rd Wednesdays | September 19-December 12
Be encouraged, equipped and supported as you share life's journey with others. Through large-group teaching, a prayer and connection time, and small-group discussion, participants can experience joy, hope, and healing in this caring, Christ-centered community.

REGISTER FOR PARENT/CAREGIVER GROUP

Watch the Brock’s share their story of finding support through Special Friends ministry:

Section 106B: South Barrington weekend service for families

9 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays | Main Auditorium
Section 106B is a diverse community with a heart for individuals with special needs and the family, friends, and fans who support them.

Questions?Contact Sunday Section 106B Leader Michele Pilafas or call her at (847) 404-7452.

Special Friends Staff Contacts

Service Times

Sundays
9 & 11:15 a.m.

(224) 512-1233
[email protected]
67 Algonquin Rd
South Barrington, IL 60010
 Open Campus Map 

Upcoming Events

  • Special Needs Trust Workshop

    August 15 @ 7:30 PM

  • Special Needs Parent/Caregiver Group

    September 19 @ 7:30 PM

  • Special Needs Parent/Caregiver Group

    October 3 @ 7:30 PM

See All Upcoming Events 

Expressing God's extravagant love and unleashing the God-given abilities of those with special needs.