Sunday School for Special Needs in Short Supply?

Study shows Sunday school programs lacking for children with special needs.


WFM Staff  ·  November 6, 2013

According to a recent study, parents and caregivers of children with special needs say they rely more heavily on the church to teach their children about matters of faith, but that a high percentage of those family’s churches do not provide classes designed with special needs children in mind.

The study by the Barna Group was commissioned by the Cincinati-based publishers of HeartShaper Sunday School Curriculum and surveyed adults who have attended a Christian church service in the past six months.

The OmniPoll included 1,000 online surveys conducted among a representative sample of adults, ages 18 and older in the United States. The survey was conducted from July 29, 2013 through August 1, 2013.

Among adults who had attended a Christian church service in the past six months, approximately two out of five (42%) say they attend a church that offers a Sunday school class specifically designed for children with special needs. One-third (36%) say their church does not offer this type of Sunday school class. One out of five (18%) represents a somewhat large proportion of parents who do not know if the church they attend offers a Sunday school class for children with special needs.

While three out of five caregivers say they attend a church that offers this type of Sunday school class for their child (60%), one-third of caregivers to children with special needs say the church they attend does not offer a Sunday school program for their children. This proportion is very similar to that of all parents and represents approximately 9.6 million caregivers who say their child does not have a Sunday school program to attend which is designed specifically with their needs in mind. (See graphs in Related Images below right.)

Parents Are Relying on the Church

Nearly half (47%) of all parents who have attended church in the past six months say they are relying on the church either completely or mostly to teach their children about matters of faith and religion. Slightly fewer (42%) rely on the church somewhat in this area and one out of nine (11%) churchgoing parents do not rely on the church at all when it comes to teaching their children about faith.

Among caregivers of children with special needs, 60% say they rely on the church either completely or mostly to teach their children about matters of faith and religion. Furthermore, caregivers are much more likely than parents who do not have children with special needs to say they completely rely on the church to teach their children about faith (33% compared to 9%).

Jennifer Ranville of HeartShaper Curriculum, which sponsored the study says, “The church in America is failing special needs children. Nearly 10 million families and caregivers lack the support they need from their local church (About the population of Michigan.)”

In addition to Sunday school curriculums for classes of exclusively special needs children, some curriculum companies include directions on how to modify standard lessons for various special needs children in the class. HeartShaper Bible-Centered Sunday School Curriculum for Toddlers Through Preteens, includes resources to train teachers to adapt activities to include special needs children with Autism, Down Syndrome, sensory disorders and more.

The company also provides access to a free 15-page quarterly newsletter designed to boost confidence of teachers to welcome children who have special needs into church and includes helps for families and volunteers.

For more information, visit.

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