Ever since my first post about Autism in the Church, I have continued to get questions from leaders in churches as to how a church can minister to special needs families. I often hear things like, “our church just doesn’t have the volunteers for that. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the resources. We don’t know how.” I get it. I really do. I am not only a special needs mom. I am a pastor’s wife. I know how tight finances can be. I know how limited volunteers are. I know not every church is equipped to develop and implement a grand special needs program. Here is the thing. That’s NOT an excuse for not MINISTERING TO special needs families.
Ministering to special needs families is something EVERY church can do. What I am about to tell you is important…. You don’t have to have a specific special needs ”ministry” to “minister to” special needs individuals and their families. Did you hear what I am saying? Let me say it again. YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A SPECIFIC SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY TO MINISTER TO SPECIAL NEEDS INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR FAMILIES. Too many churches are confusing specific ministries with ministering to. When I think of a ministry, I think of programming. I think of a special needs ministry being a specific program that reaches out specifically to special needs. Perhaps there is a special class during worship. Maybe a church implements a buddy system where a trained adult is paired with a special needs individual to allow them to participate in children’s church. Perhaps a church has once a month caregivers night out where they plan activities for special needs individuals and provide caregiving services. These are all great things. I wish each and every church could do that, but, the reality is, not all churches can.
That is still not an excuse to not minister to special needs families, and here’s why. The things mentioned above are specific “ministries.” They are not essential to “ministering to” special needs families. When I think of “ministering to,” I think of attracting, inviting, welcoming, encouraging, loving, supporting, sharing God’s Love, praying for, offering friendship, compassion, and understanding. That is ministering to. That is something every church can and should be doing.
There is no reason why any church cannot do that. If your church isn’t, then its time to ask why? A special needs family should feel comfortable and accepted in your church. They should feel like they matter. They should feel loved.
The Bible tells us that each and every one of us are a part of the body of Christ and if we exclude any one person or group of people from that, especially for something like special needs, we are saying to God, that part of the body doesn’t matter. That is a dangerous position for any church to take.
I encourage you if you are a special needs family, find a church that will minister to you. Make that a priority far higher than any special programs they may or may not have. If you are a church leader, I encourage you to take a look at your church. Are their special needs families in attendance? If so, great continue to include, love, and support them. If there are not special needs families in church, you better stop and ask why. It might be you need to take a hard look at who is welcome in your church.