Throughout the last few weeks, several conversations have occurred in my circles regarding special needs families and church attendance. Much of this is due to the MPS family gathering our family hosted on Saturday and my daughter, Taylor. One of my favorite statements I heard on Saturday was:
I don’t know what we would have done without our church.
Doesn’t it just make your heart happy when the body of Christ is cared for?
While church should be a place that anyone is welcome, sometimes the medical, physical, or behavioral needs of children make it a challenge for church to be a welcoming place for children with extra needs. Perhaps the church doesn’t have the number of volunteers needed or more training is indicated for the volunteers. Maybe the child is simply not comfortable and that nervousness contributes to parental worries during the service.
Whatever the individual situation, I believe there are ways that every church can love on children with special needs. Every church will not be able to accommodate every child in every single situation, but to use the old cliche, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
In no particular order, below you will find 7 ways churches can love on children with special needs.
1. Offer an individual class designed specifically for special needs children during at least one service per week.
While this requires dedication and commitment to this ministry by the church and volunteers, many metropolitan churches have well-established classes of this nature. Obviously for smaller churches, this may not be a valid option.
2. Offer a “special needs assistant” volunteer service to afford special needs children the opportunity to enjoy the mainstream classrooms or services.
This option requires planning and commitment for all team members- including the program director, volunteers and parents, but it can be a viable option, no matter the size of the church.
3. Greet families and simply ask if there is anything you might do to assist them.
Something as simple as carrying bags or items while they push a wheelchair, or for first-time visitors, giving them directions to a handicapped-accessible or family restroom, can be a beautiful gesture.
4. Offer a family worship setting outside of the main auditorium.
Many churches have monitors in the foyers or halls, which is nice, but offering a small dedicated room with video and audio accommodations can be just the setting for parents of special needs children to enjoy the service alongside their children. Families of all types can have occasions that can make this room very useful.
5. Hold a parents-night-out to give parents a much-needed break.
The continual demand of caring for a child with medical or special needs is overwhelming. Giving parents the gift of an hour or two away while their child enjoys fun activities is a beautiful way that a church can bless the hearts of special needs parents.
6. Be sure that the parking, entryways, aisles and seating of the church accommodates wheelchairs.
Handicapped accessibility buttons could be located at every entrance, especially those near the handicapped parking.
7. Have a meal program for families who have special needs children.
Whether it is one night a month or quarter, drop-off or pick-up, offering a meal to a family on a day that has been full of doctors’ appointments or therapy can be a huge blessing.
What does your church do to bless families who have children with special needs? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments below!