I put the car in park, loosened my grip on the steering wheel and allowed a few tears of exhaustion to fall. Due to a change in our morning routine, it had been a morning full of communication difficulty and meltdowns. I quickly wiped the tears away and began walking with my children toward the church building. About 10 steps into the parking lot, my child with special needs dropped to his knees and refused to walk another step.
Frustrated, I sent my older children ahead to their classes and pondered whether I should pick up my child and move toward the church building or go back to the car. Based on the morning we’d had, the car seemed to be the more logical choice. At that moment, my child’s teacher walked out to the parking lot and with a cheery voice, invited my son to grab his hand to walk to class. This simple, helpful act was just what we needed to help both of us get to worship.
On that Sunday morning, I needed to be in church for encouragement — not just from the Scripture teaching but also from this children’s volunteer who extended God’s love to our family. The volunteer afforded me the opportunity to sense the much-needed support that a church family has to offer parents who are raising children with special needs.
A recent census reported that one in 26 American families is raising a child with special needs. Some of these families could be considered a new mission field because they do not know Christ, and other families once attended church but have stopped because they do not think the church is equipped to understand and handle their child’s actions.
Nevertheless, every week families of children with special needs pull into church parking lots. With the growing number of children with special needs, chances are good that one of these families has parked in your church parking lot, walked through your church doors and participated in your children’s ministry.
If we as children’s ministry leaders and volunteers are not prepared to serve children with special needs and their families when they attend, then we can be almost certain that they will not return to our church — or to any church at all. As a church, there are things we can do to reach out to these families and use the opportunities we are given to demonstrate the love of Christ to these children and families in need of encouragement.
Two breakout sessions at the Tell 2020 Children’s Ministry Conference will equip leaders and volunteers to:
- Learn how to communicate more effectively with families of children with special needs.
- Understand why children with special needs may react differently to certain situations and stimuli than other children in your ministry.
- Develop specific strategies to manage behaviors of children with special needs so they can engage in learning more about Christ.
When we improve our ministry to children with special needs and their families, we are not only providing them with a place of encouragement, we are also being obedient to Jesus who said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
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