By Robin Pennington.
Too many of us know what it is to pick up our child from their Sunday School class and be met by the lead teacher. You know it’s bad when the lead teacher comes to greet you! And you might know that sinking feeling when you hear what your child was up to while you were away for an hour.
If we had a contest for “Epic Parenting Embarrassments” I might win. How about a 5th-grade son who was headed to Children’s Church with his class and decided the electrical breaker box looked interesting, pulling the switch that shut off the lights to the entire sanctuary during the middle of the worship service and leaving a couple thousand folks sitting in the dark?
I know how parenting just pulls the pride out of us. I guess that’s one of the reasons I was blessed with six kids! There was a lot of pride that needed to be addressed. I’m sure others that knew me well would have told you I needed some major humbling. At one point, I thought I knew all about how to parent well. Just writing those words makes me cringe! All I know now is that I really know nothing! God blessed me with some amazing kids who have fared pretty well in spite of my failures. Thankfully He met me in my mess and all glory belongs to Jesus.
Parenting is hard and humbling, and we all need a church community to help us and point us to God. But sometimes the parents who most need their church’s care feel unwelcome at church.
How does it feel to be that parent who has a biological, adopted, or foster child with special needs who is not easy to care for day in and day out? Many families with a child who is not typical have never known the luxury of being able to go to church as a family because there is an inability for their church to meets the needs of their child.
How does your church respond to families who have children with differences? By differences, I mean children who have unique needs due to physical differences, mental delays, learning issues, fetal alcohol, Autism Spectrum, sensory issues, congenital differences, a history of abuse or neglect, and the multitude of chronic health problems that plague so many sweet kiddos. Does your church embrace these families or do they feel ill prepared to deal with the unique needs involved in showing these children the love and acceptance of Jesus through the local church body?
Even more important than special programs, will that family feel judged because their child may not have normal responses or fit in the normal child channel of planning? Fortunately there are churches that are planning intentionally for how to meet the needs of families with kids with special needs. They are getting gospel driven training for how to love kids from neglect, abuse and physical challenges. The impact on the family when the church embraces these families and their children is profound.
I would challenge you to take steps to make your church the kind of safe church that will draw hurting and exhausted families into the fold of grace and acceptance.