Image from https://goodnessofgod.wordpress.com/
I was inspired to write this after reading this blog post from Steps, Forming a Disability Ministry http://www.citylifesandiego.org/blog/2015/8/27/dear-special-needs-parent-the-church-needs-you-and-you-need-us
“All of you are Christ’s body. And each of you is a part of that body. God has put different people in different places in his church (among his people).” 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (Easy English version)
Families with children with additional needs – your church needs you. Without your family, the church is poor. They might be challenged when your child makes noises through the services, or prefers to wander around rather than sit in one place. The Sunday school might be challenged to change what they do to include your child and try things they’ve never done before. The leaders might be challenged to find some training for their staff and volunteers.
They might change and grow and learn. They could receive a family who knows what commitment and faith looks like in the hardest desert times. They could receive a part of Christ’s body with gifts and insights they had never dreamed of, things that will help the whole body/church grow.
You might receive acceptance and support and the chance to grow in your walk with the Lord. I so pray that you do. It’s not the rest of the church that needs to be patient with you – it’s you that has to be patient with us…as we learn…as we accept the challenges to our well ordered usual way of doing things….while we accept Jesus’s prompts to let go of our religious activities and learn to love as he did.
I hope you will help us. Even in your exhaustion, keep coming.
And churches – keep listening. Don’t put routines before love. Don’t tut when a child makes a noise. Don’t judge parents when their child can’t sit still. You NEED these families in your church.
“19 A body is not a body if it has only one part. 20 But there are many parts, and there is one whole body. 21 That is why the eye cannot say to the hand: ‘I do not need you.’ And the head cannot say to the feet: ‘I do not need you.’ 22 No. Even the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are really very necessary. 23 And we are most careful about the parts of our bodies that seem not to be worth very much. And we cover carefully those parts that we do not want people to see. 24 But we do not need to cover the beautiful parts of our bodies. God has put all the parts together in one body and some parts seem not to be worth very much. But God has made those parts more important. 25 So, the parts of the body do not quarrel. All the parts work together so that they help each other. 26 Then if one part of the body hurts, every other part hurts with it. Or perhaps people say that one part is doing well. Then every part is happy.” 1 Corinthians 12:19-26 (Easy English version)
To adults with additional needs. Please forgive us. The church needs you too but we haven’t made it easy. We have so many traditions and religious activities that could exclude you. From books and leaflets you can’t read to pews and toilets you can’t access (presuming you can get into the building in the first place.). We can easily make you feel like a burden, just by not thinking about church from your point of view.
But your life and faith are needed in the church. You know Jesus, you want to learn from the Bible and use your gifts too. Whether your need is physical, sensory or a learning disability, the church needs to learn how to make you feel welcome and included, open up the Bible to you and make the effort to provide what you need.
They might be challenged to change things, to train leaders and volunteers to ask you for help to get it right. They might be challenged not to patronise you or leave you out of things. They might have to change the way things have always been done.
Churches need to be ‘WHOLE BODIED’ and people with additional needs can be and need to be part of that body. There are no excuses and far too many people with tales of being excluded and rejected by churches. Come on, we can all do better. We are and won’t be perfect, but as Jesus accepts us into his church…let us not hinder anyone from coming to him.
Please look at these great tips from DisabilityandJesus about making your Christmas services accessible. http://www.disabilityandjesus.org.uk/ewExternalFiles/top%20tips.pdf