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

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 Willow Friends move from merely being present to fully belonging. Thank you for being part of our journey!


Our Willow Friends Space

In Willow 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!

For Kids
Ages 4–13

We offer a unique weekend church service for our young friends with intellectual disabilities. We pray this service gives your kids an opportunity to engage and learn about the God who loves them!

Sundays, 9 & 11 a.m. in the Willow Friends space (down the stairs by the waterfall)

For Teens & Young Adults
Ages 14–21 & Ages 22+

We offer a church service so our teens and adults of all abilities can worship together, learn about Jesus through experiential teaching, and deepen their friendships with each other and with God.

Sundays, 9 & 11 a.m. in the Willow Friends space (down the stairs by the waterfall)

We also offer the following virtual options so our teens/adults can remain connected in a variety of ways during the week.

Talk/Prayer Time: Tuesday, 10–11 a.m.Meeting Link (Meeting ID: 846 6358 8793, Password: TALK)

Bible Study: Wednesday, 6:30-9 p.m.Meeting Link (Meeting ID: 894 0699 6703, Password: GROUP)

Talk/Prayer Time: Wednesday, 3-4 p.m.Meeting Link (Meeting ID: 834 8511 4917, Password: TALK)

Saturday Service LIVE!: Saturday, 5:15 p.m.Meeting Link (Meeting ID: 834 8511 4191, Password: CHURCH)

Midweek Teens/Young Adults Group
Ages 14–21

6:30–8 p.m., Wednesdays | Fall, Winter, & Spring

Our teens and young adults long for meaningful relationships with each other and with God. They are able to find these kinds of connections through a variety of opportunities 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 persons are welcome to come with those who do well with a higher ratio.

Midweek Adults
Ages 22+

6:30–8 p.m., Wednesdays | Fall,  Winter, & Spring

Adults with intellectual disabilities take their faith one step further during midweek services 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.

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

Wednesday Night Bible Study

We are meeting in person on Wednesdays but we wanted to keep a virtual option open for our teens/adults.

When: Wednesday nights, 6:30–8 p.m.
Who: Teens and adults with intellectual disabilities
Where: Virtual Room or Waterfall 2

In-person registration here.
Virtual Room: Meeting Link (Meeting ID: 894 0699 6703, Password: GROUP)
Willow Friends Production
Each year, rehearsals start in January for Willow Friends as they get ready to put on a full musical starring our Artists (kids with intellectual disabilities) and their Peer Mentors. It has become a Willow favorite and we are in our 12th year of performing for our community!
For the 2024 season, we will be performing Finding Nemo Jr.


The volunteers in Willow 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 Willow Friends? Please complete our Willow Friends Volunteer Form below.

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

Sunday Section 106B

South Barrington weekend service for families

9 & 11:15 a.m., Sundays | Main Auditorium

The Sunday Section 106B is a diverse community with a heart for individuals with special needs and the family, friends, and fans who support them.

Wherever you sit, Willow Friends families are always welcome to connect with the Section 106B community. We would love for you to attend our “Quick Connects” (between the 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. service), men’s and women’s small groups, and section outings.

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

Annual productions

Each summer, Willow Friends actors and peer mentors spend months preparing for an annual musical production. This production puts God-given abilities on display, as kids and teens take the stage to perform for thousands.

Whether you’re involved on stage, behind the scenes, or simply enjoying the production, you’re sure to be inspired and moved!

Contact Us!

Jenni Von Tobel, Willow Friends Director (224) 512-1340

Paul Von Tobel, Willow Friends Pastor (224) 512-1233

Brenda Kuntz, Willow Friends Operations/Volunteer Coordinator (224) 512-1569

Willow Friends General Email, checked daily

The Hardest and Best

Finding Support through Willow Friends

Greetings from Tesla