Posted on : Monday April 11, 2011

By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent

URBANA, Md.—Earl Wentzel, a special education teacher in Maryland, is planting a church that focuses on families with special needs.

After teaching children with developmental disabilities for the past 20 years and serving as pastor of churches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Wentzel recently felt God calling him to plant Crosstrek Community Church in Urbana, Md., in southern Frederick County.

At Crosstrek, Wentzel and his wife, Maria, a bilingual teacher from Costa Rica, envisions developing a “CARS in DRIVE” ministry: “Caregivers Advocating Relational Support” and “Disciples Realizing Incredible Victory Everywhere.”

Not only will his church provide support groups for families with children with special needs, because he understands the difficult lives families face, he also wants to provide respite and specialized care-giving, as well as age-appropriate discipleship classes.

Wentzel also anticipates having inclusive worship services, where people of all levels of disabilities, accepted for who they are, can unite together for genuine worship.

He sees people in wheelchairs and other assistive devices worshiping alongside those who “make noises” (inadvertently or otherwise) to those who are non-verbal or may use voice-output devices. He plans on using a lot of visuals and interaction to teach the truths of the Bible.

But he is quick to say that the Bible is powerful enough on its own.

Wentzel said he was inspired when teaching from the Bible at a chapel service at Melmark School in Berwyn, Pa., where he taught special education for seven years.

Despite their disabilities, his listeners were silent and engaged as he read the Bible. As he sensed the Spirit of God moving across the room, Wentzel also saw God working in his heart, enlarging his vision for the Church.

More than anything, Wentzel wants to provide a place for families who have been touched with disabilities to be ministered to and understood. And he wants to minister to the whole family, so that they, too, may come to understand and love Jesus.

Crosstrek will have monthly services beginning in April, with a public launch planned for October. For more information, contact Wentzel at