Tyler Tooley and Blake Dorchester are extraordinary in countless ways. Both born with Down syndrome, the boys do not let that seeming obstacle prevent them from serving the Lord wholeheartedly.
In March, Tooley and Dorchester traveled across the globe with their church, Alsbury Baptist Church in Burleson, to help develop a special needs ministry at City Church, an Alsbury Baptist church plant, in Germany.
Alsbury Baptist is known for its thriving ministry to children and adults with special needs. On any given Sunday, about 10% of the people in the congregation have some special need, and that is something Pastor Scott Sharman is honored to say.
“Every person deserves to know God’s love,” Sharman said. “Every person deserves the opportunity to grow in relationship with God, and that includes people with special needs.”
When City Church began noticing people with special needs in their German community, they felt an urgency to develop a ministry much like their Texas sister church had done.
“City Church is trying to connect families who feel like they don’t have a place in the church,” Sharman said.
Sharman, Tooley, Dorchester and 21 other Alsbury Baptist members traveled to Germany to help City Church begin developing the ministry. While there, they conducted vision casting and training events, delivered insight on teaching children with special needs, did recreation with local children with Down syndrome and helped with a soccer event that included children with special needs.
At the beginning of the week, people were reluctant to connect with Tooley and Dorchester, Sharman said, but that quickly changed.
“As the week progressed, you could see the people’s connections with those two boys change,” he said. “By the end of the week, it was like they were saying goodbye to their best friends.”
Tooley and Dorchester’s presence was undoubtedly the best part of the trip, Sharman inferred.
“No one did a better job than Tyler and Blake,” he explained. “God just used them mightily.”
Special needs ministry does not come easy, Sharman admitted. It can be tiring and demanding, which is likely why few churches have one, even in the U.S. It is not uncommon for someone to make a sporadic outburst during a Sunday morning service, and that can cause distraction.
But Alsbury Baptist members know the Gospel is for everyone, therefore they strive to make it so their church “has a place for every member of the family.”
“If we don’t intentionally provide an avenue for families with children with special needs then we just cut those people out of the family,” Sharman said. “Parents aren’t going to go if their kids aren’t welcomed. If you don’t do some sort of modification based on need for children then you leave those kids out.”
God can and will use anyone, as is evident through Tooley and Dorchester’s extraordinary witness. Their willingness to serve and defy all odds will help German families with children with special needs feel right at home in City Church.
Is your church interested in developing a ministry for children and adults with special needs? Contact Diane Lane, Texas Baptists Childhood Discipleship Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 214.828.5287 to learn how to get started.