I recently spoke with a mother who told me that she stopped going to church years ago, shortly after her twin boys became toddlers. One of the boys was typically developing – an active, healthy toddler. Everyone found him charming and delightful. He was met with lots of approving smiles. The other boy was different. His behavior was disruptive. His language and cognitive skills were delayed. He was prone to sudden loud outbursts and he refused to sit quietly in the pew with her during worship services.
She didn’t feel comfortable taking him to the nursery. She felt that he would be a burden to the volunteers who worked there and she wasn’t confident that they would know what to do if he had a meltdown. Although she longed to participate in worship services, she finally left the church altogether because she did not feel that her child was accepted, supported or welcome.
This was such a sad story – and one that didn’t have to happen. I don’t know anything about the church she attended all those years ago or the way the situation was handled. I do know that most churches welcome all of God’s children with open hearts and open arms.
We at First Baptist Rockport have been blessed recently by opportunities to teach and care for several young children with various disabilities. I am thankful to the families for entrusting us with the care of their precious children. And I want to encourage other parents to take that leap of faith and bring their disabled young children to church. God loves each and every one of us. He tells us to let the little children come to Him and to not keep them away. Every child is fearfully and wonderfully made by the hand of our Creator. Your child is included!
So, if you are the parent of a child with disabilities and not sure what to do about bringing him to church, here are a few tips that might help.
- Talk with the pastor, children’s ministries director and early childhood staff about your child’s special needs so that they can be prepared to properly care for her. Does she require a special diet? Or special equipment? Does she need medication? Is there anything else that we need to know in order to meet her needs? The more we know, the more effective we can be.
- Feel free to stay for a while and make sure that you and your child both feel comfortable. Then, when it’s time to leave, say “goodbye” with a calm voice and confident smile. We will make sure your little one is safe, respected and loved while he’s with us.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about policies and procedures. Feel free to inquire about the early childhood staff’s qualifications and skills. Ask if they are certified in First Aid and CPR. Ask if they would know what to do in an emergency. Ask any questions that are on your heart. The more you know, the more confidence you will have in your choice to bring your child to the program.
- Leave your cell phone number and keep your phone accessible. If a serious situation should arise, it is important that the staff be able to reach you right away.
- Most of all, trust God. Come to church! Come to Bible Study! Join a Life Group class. Meet the staff, volunteers, teachers and fellow worshipers. Join in the amazingly rich and full life of your church as everyone learns and grows together in faith.
If there is anything that I can do to help you and your child or if you have any questions about the programs that we provide for children here at FBC Rockport, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you..