An Interview with Shannon Dingle about the Treasuring Christ Curriculum and Ministering to Those with Disabilities

by Derek Brown – Jun 20

Shannon Dingle is passionate about sharing the Gospel with everyone, including those with disabilities, and equipping churches to do so at www.theworksofgoddisplayed.com and @specialneedsmin.  Shannon coordinates special needs ministry for Providence Baptist Church and is one of the primary contributors to the Treasuring Christ Curriculum.

1) Tell us a little about your unique passion for ministering to people with disabilities. How has your relationship with Christ shaped your desire to serve those with mild to severe handicaps?

When we talk about sharing the gospel with all nations, this also is a call to share Christ with every corner of our own nation. As a former special education teacher I looked around our church and, frankly, we weren’t doing the greatest job of welcoming or involving kids with special needs. Just as Christ in John 9:3 described a man’s blindness as an opportunity for the works of God to be displayed, our faithfulness in this area demonstrates to those outside the church that Christ’s love motivates us to love others. That’s a powerful testimony. I am humbled beyond words by what Christ did for me. Because he knew that I would be unable to defeat sin and death, he lived a sinless life and took my penalty of death on himself and defeated it by rising from the dead. I did absolutely nothing to deserve it. Without him, I would be more than simply disabled by my sin; I would be dead in it. If God, in his mercy, can look at me and see Christ’s righteousness rather than my sin, why can’t I look at someone with different abilities than mine and see God’s image instead of a disability?


2) How has your interaction with God’s Word along with your experience serving those with disabilities formed your insights for the Treasuring Christ Curriculum?

My husband’s and my chief desire for our children (Robbie, age 2, and Jocelyn, age 4) is that they would treasure Christ. We still plan to adopt three or four children, so we may end up with a family of six kids. It would never occur to us to choose one child to ignore while we focus on the other five to disciple in God’s word and encourage in using their gifts. That would be absurd and abusive, and it would send a negative message to all six of our kids. However, that’s exactly what many churches do when they fail to welcome individuals with special needs. A study released in late May 2011 shows that 1 in 6 children in the US has a developmental disability. In 1 Corinthians 12:24-25 we learn that “…God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” When Christ invited the children to come to him, he didn’t stipulate that only the children with the correct number of chromosomes or with church-appropriate behavior should come. Our desire is that every child treasures Christ, and we’re not comfortable picking and choosing which children and youth have that opportunity at our church.


3) How can the Treasuring Christ Curriculum help the church better serve those with mild to severe disabilities?

The special needs ministry at our church is not a stand-alone ministry. Instead of being a separate program with a unique vision, our aim is to provide access to all our ministries for people with disabilities. While there are a handful of solid special needs curricula available, we prefer to modify general curriculum to meet the needs of children and youth who learn differently. This ensures that we’re not changing the goal for kids with special needs, nor are we completely separating one group of kids from what we’re doing with the rest. It also allows us to teach kids with and without disabilities together whenever possible because we’re all studying the same things, albeit at different, developmentally appropriate levels.

Because the Treasuring Christ Curriculum is scaffolded with different variations of the same lesson for different age levels every week, this provides us with levels of curriculum that we can use for kids with special needs. For example, a seven-year-old girl with Down syndrome might benefit from the content from the early childhood lesson, and a twelve-year-old boy with autism may connect better with some of the sensory activities designed for another group. We have the flexibility to borrow elements from other ages’ lessons, or even drop down a level or two, to meet the individual needs of each child and student.

As we make specific modifications and accommodations to the curriculum for use with individual children in our ministry and as we get input from other churches who are doing so, we will be providing more guidance in that area on www.treasuringchristonline.com. Additionally resources for special needs ministry in general can be found at my other site, www.theworksofgoddisplayed.com.