Special Needs Conference 2017

Created in God's Image: Christ’s Call to Love Families with Special Needs


June 14, 2017

Notes from the 2017 conference for church leaders, parents and volunteers who seek to reach families affected by disabilities.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed (Luke 14:13-14).

People with disabilities remain culturally hidden and the least evangelized population in the United States. Did you know 62 million Americans have a disabling condition, yet less than 2% of American churches have any kind of disability outreach?

And yet, Jesus had much to say specifically about ministering to people with disabilities in the Gospels. Jesus is calling you to preach the good news to them. This conference aims to equip church leaders, parents and ministry volunteers to minister to families and individuals affected by disabilities.


Amberle Brown, of Freedom Church, shares her journey toward being a missionary to the disability community during the May 6 Special Needs Conference at Cresthill Baptist Church. Note: This video appeared first on Facebook Live.

Michael Crawford, state director of missions for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and senior pastor of Freedom Church, Baltimore, shares the day his life changed–when God so pressed upon his heart to engage in special needs ministries. Note: This video appeared first on Facebook Live.


The Day My Life Changed (PowerPoint Presentation by Michael Crawford, who shares about the day his life changed–when God so pressed upon his heart to engage in special needs ministries.)

What Do Parents of Children Affected by Disabilities Need and How Can the Church Help? (PowerPoint Presentation by Tom Stolle, who shares shares particular ways churches can minister to the needs of families and children affected by disabilities.)

Theology of Disability (Breakout Session Notes by Michael Crawford and Hunter Brown, which gives a theological overview of disability from Scripture. Crawford and Brown looked at what the Old and New Testaments reveal about God’s provision, legislation and heart for those with disabilities, provided a biblical framework for understanding disability, and highlighted some of the key passages on disability that have been neglected.)

How to Recruit and Train Volunteers (PowerPoint presentation by Larry and Susan Davis, who knows recruiting for any ministry in the church can be challenging. Recruiting for a Special Needs Ministry requires a unique approach and mindset. Larry and Susan were able to launch the first special needs ministry of its kind in their area by learning from other ministries throughout the nation. Come and hear how you don’t have to be a large church to have a large impact on Special Needs.

2017 Presenters

Amberle Brown, World Relief
From the age of seven, Amberle felt called to be a missionary to an unreached people group. However, at the age of 21, a rare disease left her eyes legally blind and her hopes seemingly dashed. In a beautiful story of redemption, God called Amberle to be a missionary to the largest unreached people group in the world – people with disabilities. Amberle works full-time with World Relief, an organization committed to empowering the Church to serve the most vulnerable around the world – and also serves with the BCMD as they strive to promote disability-inclusion in the Church.

Hunter Brown, Freedom Church, Baltimore
Hunter Brown is a former North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting intern and now pursues ministry in Baltimore bi-vocationally as he works as the head golf coach at Goucher College. He is also a part-time graduate student at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute of Theology and has become passionate about the Church and disability through his own experience with his wife, Amberle, and extensive theological reflection on the subject as a part of his studies.

Lainie Browning, Special Blessings Ministry, First Baptist Church, Whitehouse, Texas
Lainie Browning is a stay-at-home mom of two boys, Nicholas, 11, and Trent, 17, who has Down Syndrome, autism and is non-verbal. He is the inspiration behind her true passion of meeting the needs of special needs families in our community. She started the Special Blessings Ministry at First Baptist Church, Whitehouse, Texas, hoping to make the church a special needs friendly church. Shortly after starting up Special Blessings, Lainie also started an Adult Day-Hab Program, Life Blessings.

Michael Crawford, State Director of Missions, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware
Michael Crawford is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist Convention of Maryland Delaware. He is also a pastor at Freedom Church in Baltimore, Md., which he planted in 2010. He is passionate about inspiring, equipping and funding churches so they can serve individuals and families with disabilities.

Larry and Susan Davis, Grace Church, Seaford, Del.
Larry is an Eastern Shore native (Sharptown) and has been married for 24 years to his high school sweetheart Susan. They have 2 children: Britney and Seth. Larry worked as an Engineer for 10 years before he committed to full-time ministry in 2003. Larry has a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Luther Rice University and a MA in Ethical Leadership from Claremont Lincoln University. He loves investing in other leaders and believes that God has placed dreams in the deep wells of all of our souls. Great leaders draw out those dreams with compassion, wisdom and understanding.

Dr. Ray Davis, D.Min., Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Whitehouse, Texas
Dr. Ray Davis, D.Min., is senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Whitehouse, Texas. Dr. Davis has served Texas churches for over 30 years. He and his wife, Becky have two sons and one “perfect” grandson, Sam. One of his favorite ministries is the Special Blessings Ministry at FBC Whitehouse. Ray believes that the church should be that “Banquet” where all of us who are special are not only welcomed and included, but celebrated. If Jesus visited First Whitehouse, says Pastor Ray, He would go straight to our Special Blessings ministry and enjoy them.

Danny Hinton, Pastor of Preaching and Vision, Gospel Community Church, Owensboro, Ky.
Before becoming a Christian, the planting pastor of Gospel Community Church spent 23 years as a certified interpreter for the Deaf for the local school system of Daviess County, Kentucky. Working in both grade schools and college, it was during his career that the Holy Spirit began to soften his heart to the acceptance of the Gospel and Danny was saved by grace. As a member of the local Deaf Community, Danny’s heart now is to reach his community with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Gospel Community Church is a driven church that seeks to reach lost people in both the hearing and Deaf communities.

Dr. Jimmy Painter, Senior Pastor, Cresthill Baptist Church, Bowie, Md.
Jimmy Painter has served as Pastor at Cresthill for 22 years, and has been in pastoral ministry for over 3 decades. Cresthill is a multicultural church radically committed to reaching the world for Christ. Cresthill has mission partnerships in Nicaragua, India, and around the world. In 2015, Cresthill began a ministry designed specifically for individuals with special needs. Most recently, Cresthill hosted “Night to Shine,” a prom for individuals with special needs, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Tom Stolle, Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware
Tom has served the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware for 12 years directing, supervising and coordinating the finance, accounting, and budgeting operations and serving the staff as Human Resource Director. He additionally spearheads BCM/D’s special needs ministries. His youngest son, Jimmy, is a child with autism, who has sparked a passion in Tom to assist our churches in the area of effective special needs ministry. He also enjoys participating in events that raise awareness for special needs causes, such as walks for autism.