Work of Love: Special Needs Ministry at Saline’s Keystone Church

Elisa Browning, member of the Special Needs Ministry at Keystone Church, and her Volunteer Buddy, Karen Kle.
Elisa Browning, member of the Special Needs Ministry at Keystone Church, and her Volunteer Buddy, Karen Kle.

For many families it is important to find a church that not only welcomes families with children of all abilities, but also provides one on one services to support their child’s needs. Keystone Church in Saline is unique as the church has a ministry that focuses on supporting families and children with special needs. Pastor Ken Gilmore and his wife Diane summed up the Keystone Church ministry as a “work of love”.

Serving a need

The creation of the special needs ministry has been a slow process that began twelve years ago. Diane Gilmore, one of the lead teachers in the program, explains the history behind the ministry, “There were two or three of us within the church that saw a need. There was one family in particular whose child had special needs and one of the parents always had to miss church. We just felt the church needed to do something to serve the needs of these families.” Over the years, the program has continued to expand with the hope to provide even more for the special needs community in the future.

God’s love in action

Pat Browning, her husband Marc, and their three girls, Gabriella, Elisa, and Meraiah have been attending Keystone since 2003. The Browning’s middle daughter Elisa, now 21 years old, has been in the Keystone program since its inception. Elisa has multiple special needs including cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, speech and language delays, and developmental delays.

Browning explained how the experience at Keystone has been so different from other churches because the church has taken on the responsibility to provide services for her daughter as opposed to it being the family’s responsibility. “Elisa loves the leaders, the teens, and the other kids in the program. And she is learning about God on her own level. The kids pray and share prayer requests. But overall, the acceptance we feel from the whole Keystone community, and being accepted for who we are, is what makes this place so special.”

Special needs addressed

Browning and the Gilmore’s pointed out that the special needs ministry is unique because it is designed to fit the needs of individual children. Before a child starts in the program information is obtained from the family to determine their child’s specific needs and interests. Volunteers from the congregation, ranging from high school students to retired paraprofessionals, are matched with a child to create a satisfying relationship. With the participation of so many church members, it truly does become a work of love for the entire congregation.

To learn more about the Special Needs Ministry, go to the website at or contact the church office at (734) 944-5397.