The Need for Special Needs Ministries

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According to the National Organization on Disability, there are
fifty-four million people in the United States with disabilities.
That means one in five Americans have a disability of some sort.
One in five! And a significant number of those people with
disabilities are children like Jessica.

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I’d love to tell you the church at large is doing a wonderful
job responding to these children, but I can’t. Too many parents
have disappointing stories to share…

• Belinda called several churches in town when her daughter,
Ellen, turned two years old. Cognitive and seizure disorders had
kept Ellen at home since birth, and Belinda felt it was important
for Ellen to have social contact with other children.

Belinda was shocked to discover that two churches wouldn’t allow
Ellen to be in Sunday school at all. A third church accepted Ellen,
but put her in the baby nursery. When Belinda picked Ellen up, she
discovered that the volunteer had left her daughter sitting in a
swing the entire time.

• Kevin’s experience with his son, Sammy, didn’t turn out even
that well.

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Sammy, an active seven-year-old, was mildly autistic. About half
the time Sammy was in Sunday school, Kevin and his wife were called
out of church to pick Sammy up. The teachers simply couldn’t handle
Sammy’s behavior.

Most Sundays Kevin and his wife felt like staying home and
watching the service on television.

• And imagine Pam’s response when she was told her
three-year-old son, Jacob, was “a little spoiled.” Jacob had many
sensory issues, including a strong gag reflex. This caused him to
vomit frequently, especially when crying or coughing. The teacher
suggested that Jacob may have vomited on purpose, just to get the
class’s attention. Children with disabilities too often find that
the church doesn’t truly welcome or truly value them. There simply
isn’t a place for these children when kids scamper off to Sunday
school classes on Sunday morning.

And the children aren’t the only ones who suffer.

According to Dr. Jim Pierson, president of the Christian Church
Foundation for the Handicapped, families that have children with
disabilities can quickly find themselves in crisis.

There’s a high rate of divorce and desertion in these families.
Extra costs associated with caring for children with disabilities
can severely impact family finances and create tremendous stress.
The siblings of children with special needs often find it difficult
to adjust.

The challenges of raising children with special needs are
overwhelming, and many families face those challenges without the
church’s intentional, active involvement.

The help these families and children need begins with Sunday
school classes that welcome the children. That alone would be a
tremendous blessing. This book will help you accomplish that task
by providing practical steps you can follow and introducing you to
Christian education leaders like you who have made the journey.

And along the way you’ll also be challenged to consider what you
might do beyond Sunday morning. What can you do to provide a
listening, understanding ear to a mother whose life revolves around
the treatment and care of a child with special needs? How can you
help the sister of that child deal with her parents’ preoccupation?
How can you surround that family with the love of Christ?

Maybe you’re thinking that other churches in your community are
already caring for special needs children and their families and
there’s no need for you to get involved.

Sadly, you’d be wrong.

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