church and our kids – 2

[a follow-up to yesterday’s post, by Sandra Wood Peoples]

I sat in the waiting room while James was in the back for his speech therapy. Most weeks, the other moms, siblings, and I all stay busy with the variety of electronic devices we bring. That day, however, I decided to be brave and start some discussions. We talked schools, doctors, and finally, church.

“I’ve read 90% of families with special needs kids don’t go to church. Do you guys think that’s true?” I asked.

The others moms nodded their heads. They all talked about how hard it is to go to church. One tries to have her son sit with her in the service, but he makes lots of noise and she’s afraid of disrupting others. Another mom said her church has a very loud children’s service and her girls can’t handle all that sensory input. Every one of the moms in the room had reasons not to go.

Let’s be honest—it’s not easy for families like ours to go to church. Most families have a list of excuses why they can’t make it to a worship service, but special needs families have legitimate reasons. But the New Testament talks about the importance of meeting together. The book of Acts gives stories of early churches, the Epistles are written to churches, and even the book of Revelation has praise and warnings for churches. The Christian life is to be lived in community. If we stay home, we are not only hurting ourselves and our families, but we’re also hurting the church, who needs families like ours to be complete.

When we first got James’s autism diagnosis, he was the only special needs child at our church. Because my husband is a pastor, we couldn’t just stay home each Sunday. We also couldn’t shop around for a megachurch that already had an established special needs ministry. We knew God had us at our church for a reason, and that reason included introducing them to the world of special needs.

Now, over two years after his diagnosis, we have a strong special needs ministry. Our church has an occupational therapist and a special ed teacher who stepped up to head the ministry. We offer respite nights every two months for kids with special needs and their siblings. We integrate kids with special needs into our Sunday school classes, Awana program, and Vacation Bible School. We continue to train volunteers to ask about food allergies, know the signs of a seizure, and modify lessons so every child can participate.

It hasn’t been an easy two years. It took a lot of patience on our part. It took a lot of prayer. As James grows, I know we will face more challenges. But I also know God wants us at church, so He will continue to help us find ways to make it happen.

Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and mom to three boys (one with autism and one they are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia). She is the author of Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism (available on Amazon). You can connect with her at sandrapeoples.com

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3 thoughts on “church and our kids – 2

  1. Amen to relying on God to show us ways to face the ever-changing challenge of bringing our kiddos to church. Sandra, this has been a great encouragement to many I’ve shared it with. Hugs!

  2. Pingback: Post at Not Alone Parents: Can He Still Change the World?

  3. Hi! What a blessing you are! I happened along your article on your son, your children’s church & special needs. I’m sure God never allows us to know more than the 2 steps in front of us or we might be overwhelmed; & give up before He is done with it. I’m in that boat that you were in a few years back. Well, it’s not my child that’s special needs. I’m a Pastor’s wife, I teach children’s church, and I’ve got an unordinary group of kids….nine-tenths of them are younger than your normal children’s church age….one has autism…& one is mentally disabled. God is showing me how to teach His Word & connect His Word with their minds. It is so awesome!! Thanks again!! Your article encouraged me today!!

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