Church to host conference about leadership in special needs ministry

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Joy Moton | Staff Writer

First Woodway Baptist Church is partnering with George W. Truett Theological Seminary to host a Special Needs Ministry Leadership Conference. The conference will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on April 21 to 22 and will discuss the challenges of leadership in special needs ministries and how to be effective in spreading the Gospel.

Janice Stewart, senior lecturer in Baylor’s department of communication sciences and disorders and co-director of Helping Hands ministry at Woodway, came up with the idea for this conference after attending a similar conference at Woodway five years ago.

She said she felt like that was helpful, and there were a lot of churches in the Central Texas area that were interested in learning more about special needs ministry.

Since then, she has been to conferences in other states and wanted to bring one to the Waco community.

“If there was any way we could do it in Texas on a broader scope, maybe we could make a difference for a lot of different churches and a lot of different families,” Stewart said.

Stewart said many families who have children with special needs often sacrifice their own time and are unable to go to church because the church may not have a way to take care of the child. They might be short staffed, and Stewart said she believes families are turned often away because of those reasons.

“The spiritual walk of any person in the family can be limited because there’s not a place for them to all go to worship,” Stewart said. “So I think when you make a difference there to prepare a place and have volunteers who are trained and able to take care of the individuals, all of the other family members can attend together as a unit, and it just makes a huge impact on their lives.”

Stewart said the conference is open to any individual working in a church, as well as parents, faculty and students. She expressed a desire for students in particular to attend because they have the ability to make a change.

“I feel like if they can hear more training, get more info about special needs ministries, then as they go in their walk, they might be able to participate in starting that,” Stewart said.

Registration costs $10 for students and $50 for adults. For more information, contact Julie Covington at

“It is the first time since I have been at Truett Seminary and Baylor that I have seen so many Baylor entities-departments, schools, institutes-join in a collaboration with a congregation, and I have to credit the great ministry of First Baptist Woodway and her wonderful leaders for that,” said Dr. Ronald Cook, associate professor of Christian scriptures and director of the Center for Ministry Effectiveness. “It is a natural fit of a Baptist university and a leading church to collaborate in a significant ministry conference. I hope we see such rich collaborations continue and flourish.”