When special needs families go to church they do not always have positive experiences. While there are families who have found churches who are supportive, encouraging, and inclusive, this unfortunately is the exception.
In today’s podcast Erin and I talk about the challenges we face at church as special needs families, things that are helpful for our families attending church, and churches that are doing things right.
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From the show:
Many families impacted by disability find it difficult to attend church. There are several reasons for this, but some of the most common reasons why families do not attend church are:
- Feeling invisible. If a family is not able to attend church for a while, nobody calls, as if nobody noticed they were gone.
- Churches focus on the healing, rather than in loving and embracing all people.
- A theology that teaches that disability is a result of sin.
- The family has been asked to leave because they do not know how to help their child and sometimes are not willing or able to come up with solutions.
- Sensory overload for the children (or adults) with disabilities.
- Things were okay when the kids were young, but as their children become older, there was little the church had to offer or was willing to do in order to include their kids.
- Families are unable to attend as a family.
- Parents end up sitting in the lobby by themselves and walk away having had no meaningful interactions or time in worship.
There is a large number of adults with disabilities who are choosing not to attend church. Tonia, from ToniaSays wrote a series of blog posts on faith. At the end of the series she says:
And while there have been glimpses of acceptance and opportunities to be a part of things, it has mostly been painful. Nearly a decade after setting foot in a church, speaking about Christianity feels a bit like ripping a band-aid off a gaping wound. I feel vulnerable and judged. I feel unsafe and out of place. While I understand that not all churches are places where we, with disabilities are singled out, that has been my experience. – Tonia
You can read the series HERE.
Disability ministry requires churches to change and find different ways to do things. It might feel overwhelming and challenging, and a church might feel they are not called to do disability ministry. However, is this thought Biblical? Can we really claim that we get to choose who we love and who we do not?
“My dear brother and sisters how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over other people. If we chose not to love specific neighbors, then who are we as the church?” James 2:1
What can churches do?
- We have to be willing to love. The way we love is that we are willing to change.
- Be willing to what parents have to say.
- There is no one size fits all, having different options and being willing to be flexible in how to include every child or adult who walks through our church doors.
- Brian-storm solutions. The first idea might not be the best solution. Try again, don’t give up.
- Ask questions, “What can we do to make sure your child can be included.”
- Recognize that special needs families might need compassion and in some instances, extra help.
- Invite special needs families and disabled adults to be a part of your small group.
- Be intentional about asking special needs families to participate in different church events, let them know you want to get to know them.
- Communicate your value their life experiences and what they have to contribute to your faith community.
Churches doing it right:
Find a list of churches doing it right HERE.
Resources mentioned in the show:
Find a church that is disability friendly through Joni and Friends.
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