Okay, I don't know what % of American children attend church. So I don't know exactly how significant the following statistic is: Only 10% of families with children with special needs attend church. Why?
There could be many explanations for this statistic. In some cases, it's probably the family's choice (not "religious," or whatever). But I'm inclined to believe that the number would be higher if it weren't so hard.
Exactly what's "hard" about going to church? Have YOU tried to lug your child's wheelchair in and out of the car all day long? Have YOU had to check the levels in your child's O2 tank to make sure you can make it a few more hours before changing it out? Have YOU had to mix formula (only available by prescription via mail order) on the road? Have YOU had to get a child out the door who doesn't want to go somewhere because he's going to be ridiculed for the way he walks/talks/eats (or doesn't)? Have YOU had to worry about how a nursery worker is going to deal with a feeding pump attached to your child?
Enter Sunday. A day of rest. A day to refuel. And if you're a Christian, a day to worship. Is it any wonder that families with kids who are differently-abled don't want the hassle of hauling everyone out of the house to go to church? Especially if it is even more of a hassle when they GET to church.
We are blessed!!! We attend a church that has a very strong ministry to individuals with disabilities. When we moved to MN last fall, we had been encouraged to head to two churches, both within 10 minutes of our house. The first one we visited is where we had enrolled Nathan in preschool. We headed for visitor parking. Someone directed our car to a parking spot. She used a walkie talkie to have someone come to the door to meet us and walk us to the childcare area. The director of early childhood called in the director of the disability ministry and conversed with the pod leader for toddlers to determine the appropriate room for Micah. It would have been really easy to just put him in the infants room with Matthew because they were both not walking at that time.
But I appreciate that they weren't interested in "easy." They were interested in Micah.
So Micah was put in a toddler room (granted, with mostly new walkers so none of them could run over him). But he stayed there all year as those children became runners. And he can crawl about as fast as they run now. :-)
But my point is that they had Micah's growth in mind. And so it is this fall as well. As we approached "move up Sunday" (when the children move up a grade in Sunday school), I spent some time talking with the directors of early childhood and disability ministries again about how best to teach Micah this year. There is a super sweet woman who had volunteered in Micah's toddler room last year who asked if she could move up with Micah. She has now been trained by the disability ministry and she is Micah's Sunday school helper. She is with him in the 2-year-old classroom during second service every week. It's much more structured than the toddler room and it's very good for him to be with his peers.
We made the decision to have Micah go to a toddler classroom during third service (when we're in Sunday school) because I just didn't think he could handle two services without down time. I was planning on picking him up between services and moving him to the other classroom. But the sweet directors decided it would be a better transition for Micah if he didn't see us between services so Suzy is moving him to the other classroom for us.
All of this is possible because of people who have a heart to serve. Sadly, not every church is like ours. So to my friends out there who attend churches who don't have a disability ministry, my question is, "Why not?" And what can you do to serve the body of Christ through serving families who might find attending church to be more of a burden than a joy? Take a look at Jill's blog to read some other stories, not as pleasant as ours.