Church: 5 reasons why you must minister to families affected by special needs
This last weekend, I got to speak to a church about special needs ministry. It was such a valuable time for them and for me, I thought I’d share some key thoughts.
Here are 5 reasons why you must minister to families affected by special needs…
1. It’s in the Bible
- 2 Samuel 9: David and Mephibosheth. David took in his friend Jonathan’s son who had special needs and brought him to eat at the King’s table.
- Mark 2:4: A man who was a paralytic wanted to get to Jesus for healing but couldn’t, so his friends lowered him through the rough to meet Jesus.
- Luke 14: 12-14: Jesus commands us to interact with the special needs community
12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
2. It’s missional
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Some disability statistics:
-600 mil people world-wide are affected by disabilities.
-About 50 mil people in the US are affected by disabilities.
-Almost 13% of children in America have a developmental disability.
-1 out of 68 are diagnosed with Autism
-1 out of 691 live births result in Down syndrome.
So, we are talking about a large community of people and a huge mission field right here in our back yard.
Also, a lot of families affected by disability don’t/can’t attend church.
*I asked people who have kids with special needs on my Facebook page if they attend church. Here’s what some of them said:
-My son was 4 and not yet fully toilet trained. A church volunteer who was unfamiliar with my son told me he couldn’t be checked in to Sunday School because he wasn’t toilet trained. It was Easter weekend so the line to check in was long and other parents were waiting behind me. I felt so embarrassed and hurt that we left the building and haven’t been back. That was two years ago. Just thinking about going to church makes me panic.
Another parent said:
-I worry he will disturb people, and to be honest I don’t like the looks I get from people. I have gotten the angry look, shhh’ed, and the pity look. The last one is the one that hurts the most – my son is a gift, not one to be pitied.
-Our church rallied around us when we were pregnant with our child with Down syndrome but since we had him, its been one saddening experience after the next, mainly because the volunteers are spread thin and uneducated in acceptance and inclusion… One time our child was put in a plastic bin in the corner for children’s church while the rest of the kids learned about Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, this should not be.
3. It’s good for the church
Diversity is essential for the heath of the local church.
Paul talks about the church being one body with many members in 1 Corinthians 12:21-23:
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23
The so-called ‘weak’ members are necessary for the health of the body. Also, if we are honest, aren’t we all weak at some point? Jurgen Moltmann said “Congregations without disabled members are – to put it bluntly – disabled congregations.”
Including people with disabilities makes a church healthier. Gifts like compassion and service are exercised. A theology of suffering develops. Our church in Chicago discovered that by serving those with special needs we learn to serve everyone better.
4. It’s good for individuals
It gets you out of your comfort zone. Francis Chan, in his book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God said “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”
If the idea of ministering to and becoming friends with people who are different from you; say, people who have disabilities, scares you or makes you uncomfortable, than you should absolutely do it.
5. And lastly, It glorifies Jesus
The glory of the Gospel is revealed through ministry to and with individuals with special needs. It’s not just that God commands this, or because the church functions better with it, or because individuals are sanctified through it, but because this ministry glorifies and honors Jesus Christ.
Think about the gospel. Jesus accomplished the work of redemption not by strength but by weakness. Poverty, loneliness, pain, suffering, death, rejection, homelessness – all were part of the Savior’s life. Should the church try to be what Christ wasn’t? Of course, there is also power and glory of Christ. But they are revealed in our weakness lest we boast in ourselves.
1 Corinthians 1:27
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.
God is glorified in our weaknesses, because then he is strong. The works of God are displayed in our brokenness. And we all are broken, every single one of us, outside of Jesus.
I care about special needs ministry…
It’s personal. My family needs help/respite/spiritual care. My children deserve to be valued, loved, and served by the church. My children should also serve, just like any other person who is part of a community. Individuals with special needs are important to the church.