Do you teach children who have special needs? Maybe they are in your own home, or they come to your church. I think this is a branch of kidmin that is often forgotten. It is not on purpose, but I have found that unless special needs kids make their way into your home, or ministry, then you have no reason to change.
But when the child arrives…it is necessary to make appropriate changes.
Katie shares a scenario with us today that could appear in any children’s ministry. Perhaps this has happened to you. Perhaps you are the parent. Either way, God calls us to share the gospel with everyone.
It was large group time on a Sunday morning. All the kids were sitting with their classes, focused on the Bible lesson being taught by the children’s pastor.
A young man walked in, his hand held tightly by his mom. Exhaustion was clearly written on her face. She checked him in, whispered to a volunteer, “He’s autistic,” and then vanished out the door. Not only was this young man autistic, but we soon found out he was also a runner. He was a 2nd grader built like a football player.
The calm atmosphere was shaken as James began evading our efforts to have him sit and listen. He ran to each door, trying to escape. We knew that when large group ended there was no chance of connecting James with a small group, or even with a one-on-one volunteer. The children’s pastor and his assistant kept James in the worship room as the other kids went back to their small groups. James ran back and forth from door to door, nearly tackling our Kid-min leaders in the process.
By the time service ended and his mom came to pick him up, stress levels were at an all time high. The children’s pastor ran down the list of challenges that James presented. You could see the defeat on the mom’s face as she took James’ hand and left.
James’ situation isn’t unique. In fact the ‘drop and run’ is fairly common. Parents of kids with special needs deal with challenges on a daily basis. Sometimes Sunday mornings are the only time they get to recharge. Many times these parents are robbed of this. They come to the children’s pastor ahead of time and explain their child’s unique situation, only to be given one of two common responses: “I’m sorry, but we’re just not equipped to handle your child today. They’ll need to stay with you;” or “I’m sorry, we don’t have a volunteer who can help your child today. Will you stay with your child in the children’s ministry?”
The rest they need is taken away from them when we offer responses such as these. The ‘drop and run’ occurs when we give consistent excuses of why we can’t minister to their child instead of stepping up and giving the parents their own time to go before God.
Soon they decide that basic info is all that the volunteers need. The fear you see on their face is that they’ll be asked to stay or that their child won’t be accepted. They go to service knowing that they might be called out in the middle of it because their child’s needs are different than most.
James’ story didn’t end there. During the week the children’s pastor researched James’ condition. He looked up ideas and creative things we could implement that would help James. After making this list he got in touch with James’ mom. “Can we meet this week?” he asked, “I’d like to brainstorm ideas with you on how we can make James’ experience at church a great one.” After meeting with James’ mom we were able to come up with a plan. We developed unique tools to use with James. We learned techniques his teachers used with him at school and creative ways his mom used to relate to him at home.
One meeting didn’t eliminate all of the challenges we’ve faced with James, but it gave us a unique perspective on how to minister to him and his family better.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those referenced.