The secret to launching a missional special needs ministry

Think SmallYesterday I came across something that caught my eye:  Think small.  “Think small” according to Advertising Age, was the No. 1 advertising campaign of the 20th century.   Of course, no discussion of the greatest ad campaign is complete without mention of some truly great ones throughout the past 10 decades.  There’s Nike’s “Just do it,” the U.S. Army’s “Be all that you can be,” Campbell Soup’s “Mmm mmm good.” The list goes on and on.

However, no other ad campaign did more to boost sales and build a lifetime of brand loyalty than “Think small.”  It was the 1960s ad campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle.  Unless you’re old enough to remember you probably don’t know much about the advertising campaign for the first Volkswagen Beetle.

What made the first Volkswagen Beetle ad campaign so radical that it still stands as the number one ad campaign in the history of advertising?  Well, back in the last 50’s/early 60’s, competing American automakers were building ever bigger cars for growing families with baby boomer children. The Beetle, on the other hand, was tiny and, well, ugly. Who would buy it?  So, at a time when the US consumers were being urged, cajoled and ‘persuaded’ to “think big” along comes this one ad suggesting the opposite:

Think Small.

The thing that struck me about the slogan “Think small” was the realization that I have a tendency to think BIG.  I try to come up with BIG ideas as we implement the 4 phases of a missional special needs ministry. I make all kinds of plans to grow and our presence in the Orlando community. I want Special Friends to be the biggest and the best special needs ministry in all of Orlando…okay, why not just say it: I want it to be the biggest and best in all of Florida!

But BIG is not always better…or most effective for creating a missional movement into the disability community.  

The SecretThe challenge with my inclination to think BIG is that when I read the Gospels I find a Savior who had a tendency to think small.  Jesus launched His missional movement with a small group of followers. He used the parable of leaven to show how small things can make a big impact. He also referred to the smallest of seeds as having massive potential for earthshaking results. Jesus is the original creator of “Think Small.”

In Church 3.0, Neil Cole champions the power of small things:

“Why is small so big? Small does not cost a lot. Small is easy to reproduce. Small is more easily changed and exchanged. Small is mobile. Small is harder to stop. Small is intimate. Small is simple. Small infiltrates easier. Small is something people think they can do. Big doesn’t do any of these things. We can change the world more quickly by becoming much smaller.”

Let me leave you with a quote from someone who started a ministry that is now operating 600 missions, schools, and shelters in 120 countries around the world.  She accomplished some very big things for the Kingdom because she made it a point to “Think small” on a daily basis:

“In the West we have a tendency to be outcome-oriented, where everything is measured according to results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate bigger results.  I do not agree with the BIG way of doing things–love needs to start small, with an individual.  To love a person, to make a difference, you must start with one person at a time…” Mother Teresa

I’ve been spending a lot of time these last several weeks contemplating this statement and reflecting on the small but deliberate strategy of Jesus as He set about changing the world. I’m convinced that I need to refocus my attention back to Jesus and shape our missional engagement on His ways…not mine. In order to do that, I need to “Think Small.”

How might the concept of “think small” change your approach to missional special needs ministry? How might “Think Small” help a church to get involved in their special needs community?

Michael Woods

Mike WoodsIn addition to serving as a Key Ministry consultant, Mike Woods currently works as the Director for the Special Friends Ministry at First Baptist Orlando.

Prior to joining First Baptist Orlando, Mike worked for nine years as the Autism and Inclusion Specialist for a large St. Louis school district. Mike has also worked as a Parent Training Specialist for the nationally known Easter Seals agency: LifeSkills. He’s a Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst (BCABA) and senior-level certified Crisis Prevention Instructor. Mike has conducted workshops for a variety of churches, several national level autism conferences, and various annual state conferences on topics pertaining to autism.

Christ-follower, husband, dad, choco-holic, and peanut-butter lover! Mike is passionate about faith and special needs. Mike is happily married to his lovely wife Linda and is the father of three wonderful boys, all three of whom are on the autism spectrum (yes, all three!).


Front Door LogoThe Front Door is a pilot project of Key Ministry to provide church online for families of kids with disabilities who are not currently able to “do church.” We seek to promote relationships between families and local churches for the purpose of working toward families being able to worship in the physical presence of other Christ followers as full participants in a local church. Beginning this coming week, we’ll have online church services available on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Join us this coming week!

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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2 Responses to The secret to launching a missional special needs ministry

  1. Ann Holmes says:

    Thanks, Mike, for the encouragement! God doesn’t call us all to big, but He does call us all the faithfully and obediently follow Him, and He puts us where He can use us to build the Kingdom for the King!


  2. matt says:

    Great words. We work with passionate leaders who usually think big…. we always encourage them to re-consider why bigger is perceived as better. Starting small allows much in the way of wisdom. Thanks.


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