There are many pieces of practical advice I can give on being a buddy to an individual with special needs: Always make sure to grab your buddy bag, don’t take your eyes off your kiddo, notice how the class interacts with them, and work with the other ministry leaders through challenging behaviors. But something that is not talked about as much, is the spiritual work that is required as a buddy. A buddy is not simply a babysitter, but they are commissioned to go and make disciples. As Christians, our commission is the same, Jesus calls us to imitate him, and to make disciples. This commission shapes every other thing in our lives. We are to do our daily tasks, boring or exciting, shaped by our followership of the Messiah. In light of this, as buddies, we are called to be disciple makers. To be an effective buddy, we must do both the practical and the spiritual work.

The most important way…

to spiritually care for the individual you are buddied with, is prayer. If we believe that pray is both valuable and effective, then we should be praying often for those we are buddied with. As a buddy, and a disciple-maker, we concern ourselves with all areas of the person. Prayer is also a way to recognize your own limits as a buddy. Prayer puts us in our place as the creatures, praying to our creator. In reality, we can do very little in this world, but God is working all the time. Surrender your relationship with this person to the Lord, let God work on the challenging behaviors and the spiritual growth. Let us pray on as we invest in this individual.

Another important spiritual job of a Buddy is…

setting spiritual goals. We call these ISPs, Individual Spiritual Plans. This puts to paper accountable ways to contribute to the individual’s spiritual walk. Your disability ministry does not simply provide childcare, but it is a discipleship structure to encourage believers in their walk. Don’t forget your purpose in being a buddy.


to disciple someone else in their walk with the Lord, you must be pursuing your own relationship with Jesus. Set an example of a Christian by living in the truth. Prioritize your personal spiritual growth and allow yourself to be held accountable by other church members. Be careful to disciple people in the way of Jesus, not the way of yourself. The way to do this is to continually work to imitate Christ, and to imitate him you must know him. Be in your Bible, prioritize prayer, and lean into your community of believers. Let the Gospel dictate your life, and making disciples will come as a natural next step.

Being a Buddy is not a job for ‘really special’ people or superheroes, it is simply a job for those who love the Lord. Don’t be intimidated by your lack of knowledge or experience, commit yourself to the Lord and he will work. “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will act.” (Psalm 37:5)

Elaina Marchenko is a Senior at Wheaton College, graduating with a Bachelor’s in Biblical and Theological Studies, with a certificate in Human Needs and Global Resources. She is a sibling to two sisters with special needs, and is passionate about fostering a faith community that not only welcomes people like her siblings, but celebrates them. She is passionate about the gospel, good coffee, finding freedom through the gospel, and working towards social change.

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