Sitting in a hallway of our church one typical Sunday morning, holding my child in my lap as he curled into the tightest five-year old ball he could make, I pleaded with him to return to class and try again. Something about the morning had set him off, and no one was sure why. Then again, week after week, no one was ever sure why. Not able to get my child to move, he did not want to go with me and he did not want to return to class. It was quiet in the hallway, and this led to lengthy introspection.
What if it is like this forever?
What if I never get to be in an adult class again?
What if he grows up and hates church?
What if his friends and teachers begin to dread him coming to class?
(And on and on….)
Nothing about that day seemed worse than any other Sunday – not an extremely public melt-down. The teachers asked if they could help or bring me something to drink? I guess even they knew I was going to be there a while. Well into the service, this behavior was continuing. I sat with my son and let him eat ice chips in the back of the auditorium. I kept my head down. I did not want to draw any attention to myself. On the cusp of tears, a kind word would have burst the flood gates – I left early.
I spent that Sunday afternoon Google-ing things like “Christian moms autism” and “Church children autism moms”, and I think I even desperately typed in “Church with Autism is hard”. I read at least 20 blogs that day. All but one summarized that either these Christian families do not attend church at all or the parents switch off attending church without the special needs child because it is just too hard to attend. All. But. One. The one blogger who did attend church was a pastor’s wife and even she said it was nearly impossible each Sunday (and she, like me, had to make it work!). Keeping my son at home, rather than attending church (as difficult as it was) would not accomplish what I wanted for him, which is Jesus and His church is as much for him as it is for me, and I also felt that the church misses out on something God has for them by not having special needs people in it! This internet search was like looking for the needle in the haystack, and three convictions emerged for me that day:
- Special needs families are not automatically excused from being a committed part of the local church.
- Churches are responsible for doing whatever it takes to reach, disciple, and minister to special needs families.
- Special needs families are statistically an under-reached demographic, and when committed to church, will be some of the most faithfully involved members of our churches!
These three convictions push me in my writing. It is from these three ideas that I intend to:
- Encourage special needs families who read what I write to join with God’s people and to connect their children with the Lord and His church.
- Encourage all churches to consider what special needs ministry looks like in the life of their churches (It may vary with different factors but let’s not just leave that to bigger churches only)
- Show the mutual value of special needs families and the local churches – for the purpose of exalting Christ and glorifying Him in His church, serving alongside one another. What a beautiful sight!!
This is why I write! Thanks for joining with me!