Special Needs Children Learning the Bible

5 Important Reasons to Teach the Bible to Children with Special Needs

Just as we provide our children with physical and emotional nourishment, equally important is the spiritual nourishment that we provide to our children- regardless of ability. We will take a look at five spiritual principles that will encourage you to prioritize making a habit of teaching young people with special needs the Word of God.

1. Keeping Yourself in Obedience to God’s Commands

The first reason to teach our children God’s Word in fact has nothing to do with our children, but rather with us. From early on in the Old Testament, God impresses upon His people the importance of teaching children His Word and His ways:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV)

Nowhere in this passage does God exempt parents of children with disabilities from diligently teaching their children the Bible. Our Heavenly Father desires for all of His precious children to be taught His word and His ways, without exception.

We see this idea repeating in the Book of Psalms:

“We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His powers and His mighty wonders.” (Psalm 78:4 NLT) This passage encourages us to not only teach our children His Word, but also to share with the next generation how we have seen God work in our own lives; to bear witness to God’s faithfulness so that our children can more clearly understand our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In the New Testament, we see Jesus admonishing his disciples from preventing parents from bringing their children to Him:

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)

It is just as true today as it was back in Biblical times that children cannot come to Jesus unless those caring for them provide access to Him. When we provide the way for our children to learn from the Lord, hear His Word on their level, and reinforce those values and ideas at home, then we are staying in line with God’s will for us to raise our children in His love and His ways. 

Of course when you have a child with special needs, this command from God becomes more of a challenge. It is not as easy as simply bringing your child to church and enrolling him/her in a typical children’s ministry program or Sunday School class. Often children with special needs have difficulty being included in regular children’s programs due to their language, learning, and/or attention differences. Also, sadly many families have had the painful experience of a church asking their family not to return to Sunday School or other ministry programming due to a lack of knowledge and understanding about how to accommodate that particular child. 

It is also not as simple as opening up a children’s Bible or devotion book and reading it to children who have disabilities. Some children may not be able to attend to the language or the concepts, and without a multi-sensory/hands-on approach, the students may lose interest immediately. The entire purpose behind this website is to equip both families and churches with resources, information, and best practices in special education to ensure that every child, regardless of ability, has access to God’s Word- either in the home or in the church setting (or both). When we make the effort to teach our children the eternal Word of God, we obey God as faithful stewards of His children. And the better equipped we are at providing our children access to God’s Word on their level, the more effective and fruitful our efforts will become. 

2. Increasing Peace in Your Child’s Life

This next reason to teach your child with special needs God’s Word comes directly out of scripture. We know from Isaiah 54:13 that the inner peace of our children is in direct proportion to their instruction by the Lord:

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13 ESV)

I love the inclusiveness of the word “all” in this passage. God’s word does not say that “some” of our children shall be taught by the Lord, but rather “all” of our children shall be taught by the Lord. (It is also a great comfort to know that while we as caregivers and teachers may provide the means through which the children learn God’s word, it is ultimately the Lord who instructs them- penetrating their hearts and minds with His eternal truths. More about this later in the next section.)

Here again are more scriptures emphasizing the relationship between peace and knowledge/practical application of God’s laws: 

“Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18)

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9 ESV)

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV)

One of the final thoughts Jesus left his disciples with on the night he was to be arrested and handed over to be crucified was that he leaves us his peace:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 ESV) The more the young people in our lives know of God’s Word, the greater the odds they have for inner peace, courage, and strength from Almighty God.

3. Giving Children a Subject in Which They Are on Equal Footing with Others

Individuals with special needs are, by definition, not up to age level or grade level expectations in one or more areas: cognitive functioning, academic performance, physical ability, speech and language, behavioral and/or attention to task. As a result, all educational and therapeutic models for children with special needs are designed to intervene and support them so that these individuals can “catch up” to their same-age peers. I never thought much of this obvious concept when I was a teacher of students with disabilities, however when I became a parent of a child with a disability, this concept started to bother me to a certain extent. If you are anything like me, you may have taken a step back from all of the therapies and interventions and thought, “I just want my child to be accepted the way she is and to enjoy her childhood like every other child does.” Even though I still want to help her become all that she was created to be by Almighty God, I also want her to just be a child without any pressure. 

Herein lies the beauty of teaching a child with special needs about God. On a spiritual level, my daughter is on an equal footing with every other child. Her spirit is not disabled, and the Holy Spirit is able to draw her to Himself as much as the next child. He can also communicate with her through his Word and reach her heart and mind right on her level. Although the body in which her spirit dwells may have some limitations, her spirit is still limitless, because she is a child of God who is without limits. The spirit that she is can know the One who created her and who died to save her. We can rejoice as parents and Sunday School teachers, because this is one subject in which our children/students are not “behind”. There is no “catching up” needed; just the on-going spiritual education that God desires for all of His precious children. 

On a different note, but along the same lines, teachers and ministry leaders who desire to teach God’s word to children with disabilities, can reframe their mentality surrounding spiritual education. Having been a teacher, I was trained to set measurable, observable objectives as well as criteria for meeting those objectives. However, when I began working in special needs ministry, my frame of mind had to shift because no one can measure or observe the growth that occurs in a person’s heart or mind. My framework shifted from being a “teacher” to being a “farmer”- my job is to sow seeds, water those seeds, and then release the rate of growth to God. 

“The farmer sows the Word.” (Mark 4:14 NIV)

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” I Corinthians 3:7 (NASB)

So the pressure is off both students and teachers for “performance” and rather we rely heavily on prayer that our efforts to reach the students’ hearts and minds would open the door for the Holy Spirit to reach them with His truth and draw them close to God. 

4. Helping Children Know Their Value by the Almighty Creator

The community of individuals with disabilities has historically been marginalized by society. Although we have made progress with inclusion and accommodations in the past several decades, the fact remains that many adults with disabilities suffer with mental health problems. This can be due to many environmental factors including the educational setting, the home life, and the larger society. 

Although we cannot control every environmental influence, there is something that we as parents, caregivers, Sunday School teachers, and Christian educators can control- that is the foundational knowledge of the individual child’s worth and value by an all-loving Creator. 

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26 NIV) Every individual, regardless of ability, was created in the likeness of God and bears His image. The Source of all things had an idea in His mind that made your child necessary for His world. He purposefully designed our children exactly the way He wanted them:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) King David had a revelation of how amazingly God had designed him that he penned those words. It is also remarkable that David used the word “fearfully” to describe God’s creative mentality, and it is how God also designs each of his children. The word “fearfully” literally means (you guessed it) “full of fear.” This may be confusing for us to think that God was afraid as He was creating us, but it is the kind of fear that an artist has when creating a masterpiece. The artist knows what he has in his mind, and he is so careful and precise- to the point of being afraid- because he wants every detail to be exactly how he imagined it in his mind. This is the fearful type of creative power that God possesses when he creates his children- and we can rest assured that our children with disabilities were also fearfully and wonderfully made when they were formed in the womb. We may wonder why our children were created without certain abilities; we may even feel that they are lacking something that everyone else’s children seem to have. But it is worth noting here that God unabashedly takes credit for disability back in the Old Testament when speaking with Moses:

“Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11) 

Every detail of our child’s design came out of God’s Sovereign mind and was crafted by His Sovereign hands.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)

He is the One who formed our children for his unique purposes. 

“And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (John 9: 2-3 ESV) Somehow, God has purposed that he will work through the lives of our children with disabilities to bring about his purposes on the earth. May we as parents, caregivers, and educators know more fully the precious gift and privilege we have been given, and may we communicate to our children and students how valued they are by their Father in heaven and what a beautiful purpose He has for their lives. 

5. Giving Individuals with Special Needs a Saving Knowledge of Faith in Jesus Christ

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:13-14 NLT

Our children- regardless of age or ability- must have the Gospel communicated to them on their level. Whatever approach we take to teach our children or students must match the best way in which they learn. If they can hear but they have difficulty attending, then they may need a hands-on means to reach their heart and mind. If they can see, but not hear, then they need a visual means of comprehending the Gospel. If they cannot see or hear, then they need a tactile means for having the good news communicated to them. Whatever way in which a child can be reached with the good news – that is how we must creatively design to teach them. This will most likely require extra planning, preparation, and effort on our part, however if this is what God is calling us to do, we must do so with joy and with the attitude of a servant’s heart. The resources on this site are created with that very purpose in mind. Take advantage of the ever-growing library of downloadable/printable books and resources which can be tailored to meet the needs of children with a variety of abilities. 

God makes it clear in His word that it is not the devil who destroys us, but rather a lack of knowledge:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6a ESV) You may be surprised to learn that the Hebrew word for knowledge is light. This is where we get words like enlightened or expressions such as, “That person is very bright.” It comes from this concept that proper knowledge is light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Then later he says to us, “You are the light of the world.” When we know the truth of the good news, then we have the proper knowledge of truth to share with the world. Satan is called the prince of darkness because he wants to keep people in ignorance. When light (or knowledge of the truth) enters into the heart of a person, then Satan cannot have power over them anymore. This principle can be applied over many facets of life, but it is of primary importance when we speak of eternal salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

How blessed are we to have the privilege of sharing the Gospel with those who may not otherwise be able to receive it through regular church programming or typical ministry outreaches. We have the honor of illuminating the hearts and minds of those who will get the first seats at the banquet of God. (See Luke 14)

Some Final Thoughts

I’d like to leave you with some final thoughts regarding teaching the individuals with disabilities in your life the Word of God. First and foremost, the concepts and lessons that we plan and execute should always be done out of a motive of love for the children we serve. Our intention ought never to be for selfish gain. Having said that, I would be remiss if I did not communicate the added benefits that will come to you if you make the commitment to teach the Bible to young people. An added blessing of teaching God’s Word to the children in our life, whether they are our own children or whether they are students in Sunday School, is that we reap the blessing of being an ambassador for the Lord: 

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 NLT)

There is a beauty that comes into our life when we persevere in communicating the message God’s Word to young people. After all, we have reaped the benefits of others who have planted and watered the seeds of God’s Word in our own hearts. As Jesus said to his disciples before he sent them out on their first mission of proclaiming the good news in Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received; freely give.” (NIV)

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matt 10:42 NIV) If we receive an eternal award for giving a young believer a simple gift such as a cup of cold water, then how much more shall we receive if we impart to them knowledge and understanding of God, His love, His saving work for us through the redemptive work on the cross, and His Kingdom ways of living on Earth? 

I encourage you no matter where you are in your own spiritual journey and regardless of how comfortable you feel in teaching children with disabilities, to begin taking small steps to expose the children under your influence to the Word of God. If you do not know where to start, you can look in the Bible Basics area of our online store. We offer engaging, hands-on materials that you can print right from home to help you get started right away. The Holy Spirit is there to help you on this beautiful journey with your child and/or students. May God bless you as you to teach children God’s love, God’s Word, and God’s Ways. After all, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. 

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