It’s a typical Sunday morning and the routine begins. Kids to get up, showers to take, shoes, quarterlies and Bibles to be located — the morning is in full swing. Breakfast? Maybe in the car or just coffee at church.
It’s an effort to get a family to church on time and ready to worship. In the parking lot, a calm starts to settle in as everyone heads to Sunday School. Afterward, reuniting at the worship service provides the feeling that the morning rush was worth it.
As the music starts and surrounded by family, friends, and others who share a love of Jesus, beautiful feelings of belonging, community and peace fill one’s head, mind and heart.
We’ve all been there, right? Well, there are thousands of families who would give anything to experience that typical Sunday.
In the shadow of our own church steeples are families aching to go to church. There are husbands and wives who have never sat together as a couple in a single service. Children, whose families have no place to attend together, are dropped off by one parent while the other parent remains at home. Single parents with no hope of ever attending a service or taking their children to church.
Why, you may ask? The answer is simple. They have a child with special needs. Let that sink in for a moment. A child with special needs who wants to come to church, maybe your church.
Creating a plan and developing a ministry to meet the needs of people with special needs can be such a blessing to you and your church.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 94-142, and the Free and Appropriate Public Education Act ensure that people with special needs have access to facilities and educational services, but churches are exempt from these provisions.
In Matthew 19:14 “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” That verse has no qualifiers. It doesn’t ask if your IQ is above 80 or is your gait straight.
Psalm 139:13-14 reminds us, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” What beautiful thoughts on which your church can build a program to meet the needs of this unreached people group in your community.
This foundational truth is where vision and excitement can build. Creating a plan and developing a ministry to meet the needs of people with special needs can be such a blessing to you and your church. But even more, these families’ lives will be enhanced in magnificent ways.
For some it will be the first time ever they can worship freely as a family. When our program started at Salem Baptist Church in Apex, N.C., tears streamed down a mom’s face as she clutched her husband’s hand when they picked up their 6-year-old son from our ministry for children with special needs for the first time. The mom said, “We’ve never been to Sunday School together as a couple until today.”
Most importantly, is knowing that you can provide a loving, caring and appropriate environment for these children while teaching them about the love of Jesus. The need is there. The fields are ripe for the harvest. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get your ministry started!
The upcoming TELL Conference for children’s ministry teachers and leaders will include sessions on developing a ministry to children and families impacted by special needs. To learn more about the conference, visit ncbaptist.org/tell.