Sunday, July 31, 2011

Humans are Human even at Church

I expected to feel safe (or at least safe for us) at a church. I expected people to be at their best and I assumed their best would look how I thought it should look.  It didn't.   At 9 he was too big for little kids church and we were not so welcome anymore. At 11 he started to be too big for kids church. People became less tolerate of his behaviors and they wanted him to move on to tween church, where they thought it would be a better fit.  I don’t’ think they were considering what was best for Nick. They complained if he was late, they complained that he didn't’ seem to be involved in the lesson and enjoying “share” time and he didn't embrace “quite or meditation” time up to their expectation.  I was told “ Nick just doesn’t seem to fit here”. Gee, really? A kid with ASD isn’t sharing up to par or embracing prayer and meditation and your interpretation is "he doesn't fit". Ouch! I don’t want my kiddo where he is not wanted.

I tried tween church. I’d been introduced to the man who facilitated the program and he has a child with ADS. Maybe it is a better place, maybe the problem is protective mom holding on too long. I put Nicky in. He was quiet, he just sat and observed, he didn’t participate. He didn’t tantrum or disrupt the group with noise or run for the door.  He just watched, I thought it was a good day. 

As I walked to the car I was stopped by the program leader. He frankly said “I don’t think this is the program for Nicky. I don't think he fits in”.  I was blow away. In short I asked why, and how could he say that after just one day? His answers were vague.   I’m thinking been there, done that, but why here?.

Seems humans are humans even at church, and rejection feels like rejection no matter where it happens. 


  1. That story left my stomach churning. I want to say, "What's wrong with people?" but I know. Different is unacceptable.

  2. Wow, this post was powerful. I coordinate special needs ministry for my church, and I'm passionate about what I do because of stories like yours.

    Would you be willing to let me repost this as a guest post on my blog ( in a couple weeks? (I will, of course, provide a link back to here and credit you as the writer.) I think it would be helpful for church leaders to read it to help break through some of the ignorance in the church. You can email me at or just comment back here to let me know if I can share this with my readers. Thanks!

  3. My heart ached when I read this. Why do our children have to "fit in" to be accepted by the church community. Of all the places one would expect acceptance without being judged, church would be the place. My church does have a special needs program, but what about the parent who prefers their child to be in the mainstream? Does this kind of accommodation exist in the church community?

  4. keyabewina, from what I've found, special needs ministry programs vary from church to church. At our church, all of our kids and teens with special needs are mainstreamed and about 1/4 of them have a one-on-one support volunteer to help them in the class with their same age/grade peers. In some other classes, we intentionally offer more volunteers than usual for extra support for kids who don't quite need a one-on-one but who do need a little more support occasionally. We might be adding a separate class during one service because the children's ministry default setting is overstimulating for many kids, but we also have a quiet sensory room that our one-on-one volunteers can bring the child to so that they can have their own sensory diet fed in a good way before they melt down in the typical environment. Even once we have a separate class, though, we'll offer one-on-ones too, so parents can choose which setting would be best.

    Sadly, I've found that many churches with special needs ministries stop at middle school or, at best, go through high school and then provide nothing for adults. We have a separate class for many of our adults, but we also have adults with disabilities as active participants in other adult classes too.

    Feel free to check out my special needs ministry blog or pass along the link to your church's special needs ministry leaders. I have had conversations with ministry leaders around the country because I get fired up about why this is so important. Here's the link to it: The Works of God Displayed.