It’s been a while since I have shared anything about my family’s experience with church.
It’s been a while because we are still in a season of trying to figure it all out. Right now, we do what we can. We go when and where we can. We do the best we can.
I know we are not alone.
Because I have written about how difficult church has been for my children in the past, I receive many messages each month from moms who have had difficult church experiences, because of their children’s differences.
All of them ask essentially the same thing.
Why does it have to be so hard? Shouldn’t church be the place where my family can actually be included?
Their stories echo my own.
Meltdowns in the church foyer with cold stares from other church goers. Discussions with Sunday school teachers about their child’s inability to sit still, or inability to read, or inability to be quiet. The overwhelming sense of being alone. Worse, the message that good parents, the ones who really follow Jesus, don’t have children who behave this way.
My family was incredibly lucky. We left a church that was not healthy for us or our children. We have close friends who started a church right around the same time. Although the church is too far for us to actually attend regularly, they love us well. They see my kids and celebrate them. They welcome my messy, busted up family in whatever state we are in, and just knowing they are out there gives us a sense of acceptance and hope.
It’s so simple and yet, it’s exactly what most of us need.
What Special Needs Families Need Most At Church
Acceptance and Hope.
That’s it. It’s everything to a family like mine.
Accepted just as we are, even if we derail your service or children’s program with our outbursts. (One time, my youngest son kept asking the leader questions in the middle of a performance on stage as part of a children’s program. While I tensed up in the parent section behind the kids, the leader smiled and rolled with it. My son still talks about that day with a grin.)
Accepted, even if we only make it twice a year and look like we had to fight a rabid animal to get there.
Please know for us, with acceptance, hope follows.
Hope that our family is going to be OK.
Hope that Jesus can and does welcome His children, just as they are.
Hope that we don’t have to do it alone.
Please, hear me.
There are so many things that do make a difference – sensory rooms, special services, better trained and supported Sunday School leaders – all of these are helpful.
But at the end of the day, we are looking for exactly what every other person in the congregation craves. We are looking for what Jesus gives freely. Special needs or not, the human heart is the human heart.
We need the gospel. We need the good news. We need the love that God shows us through others and the powerful change it makes in our lives.
We need acceptance and hope.
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