A very worried woman approached me towards the end of a workshop at a recent conference. I had been teaching on how to be an agent of healing and hope to people that have been excluded from the Church because of special needs in their families. Clearly not wanting to add to this culture of hurt and marginalization, she asked, “What about our cry room? Would offering it to families with special needs that make noise during the service be offensive or a blessing? We don’t mind the outbursts, but we also want families to feel completely comfortable.”
In talking through the circumstances further, I discovered she is a pastor’s wife at a growing church. The leadership greatly desires to reach the local community, and certainly does not want to leave out the special needs population. My new friend was looking for where to start and how to not add insult to injury from the very beginning.
I believe many churches are in this exact position – correctly desiring to meet the needs presented in their communities by families with special needs, but fearful of doing more harm than good. So, how do we step confidently into this situation without mis-stepping?
Simply put, we ask.
We approach families with humility and genuine care and concern for their well-being within the Body of Christ. From this honest position of saying, “I’m not really sure what we are supposed to do, but I’m willing to learn and do it what it takes,” comes the start of a candid and enlightening conversation. We ask open-ended questions to hear the heart of each family, and we ask specific questions to hone in on the practical ministry opportunities at hand. We offer available resources as food for thought and discussion, but not as set prescriptions for solving a problem. We become willing participants in creating an environment of inclusion and belonging through welcoming the very people we want to serve from the beginning.
I must also give you a word of caution with the advice to “just ask.” Asking launches you on a journey that many churches choose not to undertake. Asking will open your eyes to needs you never knew existed, as well as joys and opportunities no one mentioned in seminary or your mid-week Bible study. For many congregations, sincerely asking, “What would you prefer?” of families with special needs will challenge traditions, program structures, islands of isolation and comfort zones.
If asking seems to make sense, common sense even, then I invite you to begin a journey that many other church bodies have found to be the best thing that ever happened to them. Please download Start with Hello which will help you along the way to becoming an Irresistible Church by launching an effective special needs ministry. In this new resource, we walk with you through five practical steps to starting this life-changing adventure.
To request your free copy, visit www.irresistiblechurch.org and, well, just ask for it!