by Kristy Moser
From the time my son Wyatt was born, I was in a fog. I never really got out of that fog ’til he was about a year old or so. Watching my three-week-old go through more than most people ever go through in their lifetime took its toll on me. I had anxiety attacks and I didn’t even want to think about the future—there were too many questions that I was not ready for. Normally I was the strong one, normally I was the one telling people things would be okay. The ONLY thing that helped my husband and I (and our family) get through that time was the support of our church (and of course, the Lord). The women in our church, women who were moms of kids with special needs, knew exactly what I needed at the time. If I needed to cry, they were there. If I needed to whine, they were there. If I needed to just take my mind off of things, they were there.
The first section of Leading A Special Needs Ministry: A Practical Guide to Including Children and Loving Families by Amy Fenton Lee really hit home. Our church was amazing to us. But, we have had our share of individuals that have hurt us. When I look back on it, it really was not their fault. Honestly, they just didn’t know what to do or say. That is why this book is so encouraging to me, I wish every church would have a copy of it and read it and then teach their congregation about it. This way, no one would have to be hurt by others in the church and families who have kids with special needs would feel loved and accepted.
In the first two chapters, I took away these key points:
Chapter 1 – Loving the Family through the Diagnosis: At-birth Diagnosis:
- The most valued first encounters are typically initiated by someone with whom the parents are already comfortable—please respect a family’s privacy.
- Most parents experience anxiety over whether or not the church will accept and accommodate their child with special needs, so reassure them!
- Being present and listening to the family are two of the most important things that can happen.
- Parents feel a greater connection with their faith community when they observe visible ways the church makes accommodations for their child.
Chapter 2 – Loving the Family through the Diagnosis: Neurological-Related Diagnosis in Pre-School or Elementary School Years
- If the parent is hopeful, don’t judge them for being in denial. And if they are grieving, don’t urge them to look on the bright side.
- Some parents may not reveal their child’s diagnosis to the church for fear of exclusion.
I absolutely love the part in chapter two where Amy writes about healing and how it can be seen as very controversial in the special needs world. She does an amazing job of helping parents and church leaders alike understand why that, when prayers were lifted up, complete or partial healing was not found. My favorite part of section one is this:
“In fact, God may be working in and through their circumstances, and we can’t know completely how God is working through any situation during our earthly lifetime. But if the topic of healing is overemphasized, the family of an individual with special needs may miss the opportunity to be loved and accepted for exactly who they are and where they are in life. Again, the church’s role is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment that enables families to experience the love of Jesus Christ.”
AMEN!!! Preach it, Amy!
Think on This:
What are you doing to reassure families that you will accommodate their child? Are procedures set in place that will make things easy for a parent when they are ready for their child to participate in children’s ministry at your church? What parent do you need to reach out to this week?
Kristy Moser is the early childhood pastor at Montgomery Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. She lives in Mason, Ohio, with her husband and their four kids.