You see special needs at Walmart. You see special needs at the grocery store. You see the buses with the wheel chair lifts going through your neighborhood carrying special needs students to school or to their programs.
The one place you don’t see them very often is at church. Have you ever thought about why?
Maybe you haven’t quite connected with who these people are. Special needs people may be physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged. They may be classified as Down Syndrome, autistic, or Aspergers Syndrome.
Special needs children are all around us. Sometimes we just do not notice them. But they are in our neighborhood. You can see them in stores, but not too often. You can see them at school, hidden away in a special education classroom. You can see them in doctor’s offices and mental health centers. They are often at the children’s hospital in your city. This question should be answered, “Why don’t we see many special needs children at church?”
When a church does reach out to children with special needs it is often the result of a family already involved in the church having this type of child becoming part of the family. This then presents a church with a problem. A complete analysis of the situation often results before a resolution is determined.
One church was faced with what they considered a dilemma. A young man began attending their church with his mother. He had a severe case of Aspergers Syndrome. Aspergers symptoms are often uncontrollable utterances. That was the situation with this young man. The mother was always with her son and when he became a distraction she would remove him from the class or the auditorium. The church was not satisfied with her response and one Sunday the young man and his mother were met at the door of the church by a policeman. The church had obtained a restraining order restricting the young man from entering the church.
In an online magazine Linda Washington relates a moving story about a boy named Joe. Joe is a young man in her son’s class at school. His actions illustrate the need to get to know the special needs children around us. Joe has Aspergers Syndrome. He is mature in his body and very tall but his social behavior is not “normal.” He is often thought of as a “bad” kid because he is different.
Linda relates in the story about seeing Joe care gently and compassionately for a small girl who had fallen on the ice on the walk home from school. Joe took off his coat and gave it to her. He gathered her belongings which had scattered over the sidewalk. This special needs boy did everything he could to assist the little girl. Then he helped her up, took her hand and walked her home.
Joe is not a “bad” kid. He is different and if we get to know the “different” kids around us, in our communities, our schools and our churches, we will find some special children. They need our encouragement, our guidance, and our spiritual instruction.
Why reach out to special needs children? First of all we must realize they, like any child, are a soul. That child will live somewhere forever. The Biblical truths of hope, salvation, trust, and assurance are for him as well as any child. Jesus did not put limitations or perimeters on His direct statement to the disciples, “Suffer the little children to come to me.” No, it was an all inclusive command. Jesus was telling the disciples that all the children, whether they are Down Syndrome, have hearing loss, suffer from FASD, or other special needs, should be allowed to come to Him. He is their hope. He is the hope of every individual both for this life and the next.
Written by Tim Tutton, Director of Child Evangelism, Baptist Youth Mission
Tim has written a whole book about the church reaching special needs children, titled, “What About Me?” You can find this resource in our shopping area at ReachKeep.com.
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