Writer’s Note: What I wrote below is not focused on my home church or any ONE church. It’s based on the fact that Christian communities/churches at large have trouble meeting the needs of special needs families evidenced by the reality that only 10 percent of special needs families attend church.
Jesus said church is for the sick. Not for those glowing with good health but for those whose pallor is grey and washed out. In need of life! His life! Those who are sick with sin and sick at heart and oh so sick and tired. And that means all of us. We are all in need of life—HIS life! This includes (inclusion!)those with disabilities or the differently -abled or the person with special needs.
Shouldn’t the church, Jesus’ church, be the perfect place for anyone with special needs? And how about the families that care for them 24/7 with no ending point on the horizon? Those of us who God has given these special kiddos love them so much, definitely YES, but we can’t say like with our typical children, “Oh, he is a little guy now but he’ll grow up and get more self sufficient. The care giving will stop being so intensive and someday he will take care of us!” God can do EVERYTHING including healing any of our ailments but it might not be until heaven. So that leaves us—parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.–to continue helping. We help put clothes on, —(in my 8 year olds case—over pull ups since we are still working on potty training), feed, supervise, keep safe, clean up messes and more messes, do extra laundry from all the times nakedness is preferred and clothing is tossed in the mud (literally!), and oh yes, put clean clothes back on!
JESUS went to those who were on the margins when He was on earth, those society wrote off and didn’t care about and HE had compassion on them. HE touched them. He said, “Let the children come to me” and rebuked His disciples when they didn’t think the children were worth His time, attention and affection. And I have to believe HE would say the same thing for adults with special needs who are so often tossed aside.
Isn’t THE CHURCH supposed to be where we are ALL welcomed in and encouraged to take a seat (imagine!) and worship our King? If so, then how come it seems that we leave our wounded to struggle all by themselves? Why, at times, do we make it IMPOSSIBLE for them to stay in the fellowship and join in on Sunday mornings and beyond. Some churches are getting much better at caring for the little ones with special needs thus making it possible for the whole special needs family to attend church together. To give the parents a one hour break to be in church and know their child is being cared for and loved. TO SIT DOWN, take a load off and hopefully connect with the Lord and with the body of Christ.
But as these cute kiddos grow up often (not always!) churches don’t know what to do with them. No room at the inn…haven’t we heard that somewhere before? So these families must go somewhere else that DOES know how to care for them. Or the other option is to just wear out, stop trying and quit going to church all together.
Thank the Lord for the individual churches that do model how to care for those with special needs and their families. We need more of them. Who care about the sick with sin, the heart sick, the oh so sick and tired and the differently- abled.
–By Deb Abbs