Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What You Can Do for the Weary and Burdened Who Have Special Needs

I usually try not to post about the same thing on too many sites at thehandicap same time, but this week I am devoting my “ministry” posts to ONE thing and that is the Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church. This is a conference for churches and congregants to learn how they can serve the Special Needs Community.

Now, I ask you to do something for me this week. Go to your church and look for the disabled. If you can get your hands on the stats of disabled at your church and that of the surrounding community, that would be even better. My fear is that you will find your public school system serving more disabled than your church … and THAT is a SHAME. What happened to living Jesus’ words, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)? Do we not believe the disabled and/or the families of disabled are weary and burdened?

Hmmmm.

A few years ago, I went on a search for churches that could provide what my son needed when we attended. I checked out some large, almost mega-, churches and saw not one wheelchair. I entered into the children’s ministry to inform them of my son’s needs and heard words like, “Yeah, we had an autistic child here once.”

What?!!! Once?!!! This church was HUGE and it had an autistic child once? Given the rate of autism is something like 1 in every 110, this church should have seen many more than one, not to mention those with other learning disorders or disabilities.

So why aren’t the weary (these individuals AND those caring for them) showing up? Probably because, for some reason, they do not feel welcome. Churches are waiting for the individuals to darken their doorsteps BEFORE they provide the services needed, saying, “Well, we don’t have any special needs families, so why create a ministry?” when really they should be preparing the services KNOWING they are needed, then going out and finding the burdened to serve. Believe me, they are out there … alone and isolated.

We’ve spent too much time over the last weeks judging a young man with autism and a mother who raised him for the senseless deaths of young children. Let’s do more than judge. Let’s act! Could churches engaging these families have changed the outcome? Who knows, but it’s worth a look! At the very least, by engaging, we will be more aware of potential warning signs. At best, we could provide opportunities for community where none existed before—In Christ!!!

pewsOur churches should have MORE families with disabilities than the public school system, not less. Having mentioned churches with the opposite, I am compelled to tell you of one that meets this criteria—McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia. When I visited I saw parents holding hands of Downs Children, couples signing in the hallway, congregants leading blind members, and others pushing wheelchairs. It was awesome!!! The work of Christ was visible everywhere you looked. This church has made it a critical mission to serve these families, and better yet, can provide YOU with what you need to do the same at YOUR church. It’s called Accessibility Summit, a conference for churches who want to start and grow this ministry. It will be held April 19th-20th, and will feature Emily Colson, daughter of Chuck Colson and mother of Max (who has autism).

I highly recommend you either attend or request your church send a representative to attend. You won’t be sorry! This is an opportunity to grow an important ministry serving those Jesus begged you to serve: The weary and burdened. And if you do this, I KNOW you will find a myriad of giftings among your new congregants which your church so desperately needs—important “members” of the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:22 (NIV) “ … those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

So go out and find your indispensable members!!!

God Bless!

clip_image002Connie is a 2012 Genesis semi-finalist for Women’s Fiction. She was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest for her entry, Why Not to Kiss on a Park Bench (aka. Harold and Violet). Come visit her on one of her other blogs: Living the Body of Christ; InfiniteCharacters.com

3 comments:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Amen! My daughter was kicked out of a Christian school, not because she was misbehaving or we didn't pay the bill. It was because she wasn't going to pass kindergarten for the 3rd time and they didn't know how to help her. We were told we should enroll her in the public school system b/c they had the special programs to provide what she needed. I went home and cried b/c both of us worked and I wanted to her to be in a Christian environment. As I prayed and prayed about her situation, God finally gave me peace when He reminded me that even the public school system needed light and she would be the light. She attended public school until high school and now we are pulling her out to homeschool her.

It hurts. We have attended nearly 20 different churches in our area, but none of the youth ministries have a true understanding of what it is like for a teen who has Epilepsy, Asperger's Syndrome, ADD, Sensory Integration Disorder, and delayed development. Our daughter is dealing with all these issues at once. You won't know it when you first meet her and talk to her. Because her special needs aren't "apparent", it makes it difficult. She doesn't always respond in the way that is expected when she is surprised by something or she doesn't understand something or she's being exposed to something for the first time. She has trouble processing gray areas. In her mind everything is black or white, wrong or right--she will point things out to adults in a blunt way, and they might think she's being rude and snap at her. Then her feelings are hurt and she shuts down and doesn't want to have anything else to do with them. She doesn't trust them.

They think we're being over-protective or that we don't have enough "faith" to let go and trust or they worry too much about liability. There is no balance. One of the Christian schools refused to give our daughter her meds during the day when she was in grade school. They thought I should get off work and drive over and give it to her each day, as if my boss would let me do that!

It's hard enough to find balance in our lives, but we should find understanding and sanctuary in churches, and we have found very little. I'm so glad I have a real relationship with Christ and that this is not how Christ would treat my child or us.

When I try to talk to other Christians, I get that sympathy look and the "I'll pray for you" comments. I never turn down prayer, but we can pray for ourselves. We don't need platitudes. How about a little acceptance, a little thoughtfulness, a little fellowship, a little inclusion, a little friendship that is REAL?

Thanks for bringing up a good topic. I'm glad to feel like someone finally gets it.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thank you Connie and Jennifer. Please read my non-fiction book in paperback, The Overcomers: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities. To find it, just write Molly Noble Bull in the search slot at online and walk-in bookstores. The book is also available as an e-book at Amazon and other places.
I am not only one of the five authors, I am a dyslexic. In fact, all five of us suffered from learning disabilities and still do. One of the five is Margaret Daley, president of ACFW.
I would love to come to that conference you mentioned, Jennifer. I would also love to sell The Overcomers there because I believe many would be helped and encouraged by it.
Love,
Molly

Teresa Slack said...

Such a good thought, Connie. And thanks for sharing, Jennifer and Molly. We have a special needs family in our church who also fosters special needs kids. Even though our church is sympathetic to this family and have created a program called "King's Kids" to reach more mentally disabled young people, the mother gets frustrated sometimes that we aren't doing more. (In a Godly way of course.) I can't begin to imagine what she goes thru getting her family ready for church every week. And I lose it if my 7-yr-old grandson can't find his shoes quickly enuf.

Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. May we all do more across America to include and offer support and fellowship to families affected.