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“I don’t want my child to be in a class with that child; they are scared of him.”
“I will help, but only if I don’t have kids with special needs in my group.”
“What’s the point of helping kids like that? Do they even have hope?”
Now, I’m sure you are thinking, “Surely no one in the church ever says these things!” Unfortunately, my time working in Special Needs Ministry has shown me that statements like these are not as uncommon as you might think. While the church has made massive and beautiful strides in welcoming individuals with disabilities and their families – I have had many people tell me how much they love having children who have special needs in their classrooms and small groups – we still have a long way to go.
All too often, children with special needs are treated as burdens rather than blessings.
It’s easy to love the idea of these children being a part of our church family… at least until they disrupt our “normal.” Then it’s a lot harder for us to understand how to love them well. We don’t always know how to have a conversation with a child who does not have verbal language, nor do we always understand how to worship alongside a child who yells out for no reason or can’t sit still for more than a few seconds. Situations like these can make us uncomfortable because we don’t know how to approach it correctly. As a result, we just ask them to go elsewhere – still a part of this church, just not around us.
Now here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to interact with or approach these children. It’s okay to not know what to say, or how to have a conversation with a child who has limited verbal language. What matters is how we love them.
In Luke 5:17-26, there were four men with a friend who was paralyzed, and they brought him to be healed by Jesus. When we hear this story, the most obvious thing that grabs our attention is the fact that Jesus healed this paralyzed man; but what about the four friends? What valuable lesson can they teach us?
You see, in biblical times being paralyzed was looked down on; most people believed that it happened to a person because of their sins or their parents’ sins. A person with a condition such as this would usually be shunned back then, but here are four men who didn’t turn away from this man just because they didn’t know how to act around him. Instead, they befriended him and offered to help him find relief and acceptance in Jesus!
This story is a beautiful picture of what we have the opportunity to do every day! Teach your children how to befriend kids who are different than them; invite someone in your child’s class who has a disability to your son or daughter’s birthday party; welcome a mom who has a child with a disability over for coffee. Seize the opportunity to get to know these children and their families. The individuals with special needs who God places in our lives are beautiful, fun, kind, loving children whom he created in his image, and you may be surprised at the joy and blessing that comes with loving them.
So, the next time you are interacting with a child who has special needs and you aren’t sure what to do, instead of ignoring them or walking away, just ask someone what to do instead! Talk to the parent and find out how you can best interact with their child, because that’s who they are – a child who just needs a little extra love and patience.
We are always in need of volunteers at all of our campuses to help with our Special Needs Ministry. If God has put it on your heart to serve in this way, please contact us at . No prior experience is necessary; we provide all training, and we would love to have you!