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Special Needs: is the church forgetting an entire segment of the population?

 

Recently my wife and two daughters (8 and 7 years old respectively) began volunteering in the Special Needs Ministry at Sun Valley Community Church. Every week my girls come home beaming; excited to tell me stories about their “buddy” that they helped at church that week. They’re 8 and 7 so it’s pretty simple stuff to be honest with you. They help with crafts, with snack time, and for those who are able to they go with them to a large group worship time. Mostly they’re just spending time with these children, playing with them, and being a friend.¬† At first I was proud of them for serving and learning to put others first.

But after hearing stories of families who were never able to come to church before due to the unique needs of their children, my heart has moved from feeling “nice” to feeling “right.” As I grow in my understanding of special needs children and their families I am increasingly proud that my daughters are unknowingly fighting against a great injustice in the world. Caring for the children and families from a segment of the population that the church has seemingly forgotten about. I can’t help but wonder how many families, aren’t exposed to the gospel, don’t come to church, and never benefit from being a part of a community of believers because churches simply aren’t thinking of them and preparing for them. I can’t help but wonder why so many churches seem to be content to sit back and do nothing to address the needs of these families. Am I the only one?


Posted in Spiritual Formation, Volunteers

6 Responses to “Special Needs: is the church forgetting an entire segment of the population?”

  1. Alexandra Evjen June 13, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Glad to hear that your church is making this a priority and that you have had a great experience helping with this ministry. =) It’s definitely on the forefront of my mind because I have a niece with special needs. I do know that Mission Community Church has an awesome special needs ministry. Unfortunately, it seems that only large churches with many volunteers and more resources offer these programs.

    • Paul Alexander June 13, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      Alex: While it does seem that larger churches are more frequently involved in Special Needs Ministry, a church doesn’t have to be “large” to meet the needs of people and jump in on Special Needs Ministry. It doesn’t take a staff person or even a big budget to pull it off! BTW Mission is a great church! Great friends over there!

  2. Phil Zentz June 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    As a parent of a special needs child, I know that many families of special needs children feel isolated and alone. The Church could make a world of difference for these families if we could find a way to meet the needs of their child and set them free for an hour and a half for a service. Our family is blessed that we have a buddy assigned to our son, Ben, each week to provide care for him so we can attend and serve at our church (www.experienceheritage.org). A step further would be to reach into their lives to provide support, encouragement, company, and friendship to minimize the isolation. Thank you for raising attention to these issues. You’re spot on – it is right that we reach into the worlds of special needs families and bring Jesus to them and be Jesus for them. Phil

  3. Paul Alexander June 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Phil, it sounds like you guys are at a great church! Thank you so much for weighing in on the conversation, as a parent of a special needs child your input is incredibly valuable to this conversation!

  4. Barb Shanahan July 9, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    Paul:

    I love your heart for God and His people!

    As a family through our life experience have ideas that can help the church, local and government services meet the corporate needs of families living with what Emily’s calls, “differently enabledness”.

    It is a team approach rooted in God’s loving leadership and prayer.

    A good place to start is creating an Achievement Council for the family member that is “differently enabled”. The Achievement Council – filled by folks from the local community will help guide the family in the areas of life that have been touched by the disability: Spiritual, Emotional, Financial, Social, Educational, Transportation and Medical.

    So much to share but you are onto something BIG and God is all over it for HIS glory alone!

    Praying for you every Wednesday morning,

    Barb

    • Paul Alexander July 9, 2012 at 7:10 am #

      Barb, your family & little girl have been incredibly influential in my life regarding the approach & role the church should play in lives of children with special needs! God used you guys in my life incredibly! Thank you! And thanks for the prayers!

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