Simply the right thing to do…

shutterstock_124637110Editor’s note: Shannon Dingle did her first guest blog for us over four years ago. Her message from that day (sadly) is no less timely today.

I just watched The Blind Side with my husband this weekend, but I already knew about one scene. I had heard about it from a sermon or two and read about it in at least one book. In it, Big Mike looks around his new room and tells Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mom of the family who welcomes him into their home, “I’ve never had one before.” She says, “What, a room to yourself?” And he says, “No, a bed.” As she walks away, tears in her eyes, it’s obvious that she has been faced with a reality that is starkly different from her own.

If I want to go to Sunday school or a worship service, I do. If I want to serve in a ministry on Sunday morning or go to our church’s monthly leadership training, it’s not a problem. I have a two-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter, and if I want to do those things, I just take my kids to their class or childcare. If we need a babysitter, we call the girls across the street, even occasionally allowing the eleven-year-old to watch them for short stretches.

Like Leigh Anne in The Blind Side, I don’t regularly think about what life is like for kids without beds as I place my son in his bright blue racecar bed each night. And I don’t think twice about bringing my children to church or calling a trustworthy young sitter to come over so my husband and I can have a short date.

For many families, this isn’t an option. Due to their child’s special needs, they don’t know what to expect from church. Or maybe they’ve tried and been turned away. When my friend Amanda’s son – who loves cars and has autism – was having a tough time in a church’s children’s ministry, she spoke with the ministry leader. At the end of the call, the leader commented, “”I still can’t promise you it’s going to work.”

I’ve never had the children’s ministry pastor tell me that it might not work out for my kids to come to church. And, if your child doesn’t have special needs, you probably haven’t either.

I don’t know what it would take to make all church leaders have a “no, a bed” sort of realization about the need to welcome families with special needs, but work like what Key Ministry does is a start. Churches who turn away families with special needs don’t typically do so because they’re malicious or mean-spirited. In my experience, they’re either (a) ignorant, in that they don’t know there is a need, or (b) ill-equipped, meaning that they’ve realized the need but have no idea where to begin.

At the beginning of The Blind Side, the coach is advocating for Mike to be admitted to the private school. In doing so, he argues that it isn’t about athletics; it’s simply the right thing to do. He says that they ought to paint over the word Christian on their school name if they aren’t going to act like it.

Can we still call ourselves churches if we don’t care enough about others to consider their lives and their needs? Or would it be more accurate to paint over “church” and replace it with “country club” or “social group” instead?

In addition to serving as a Key Ministry Church Consultant, Shannon Dingle is a co-founder of the Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.

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shutterstock_24510829Key Ministry is pleased to make available our FREE consultation service to pastors, church leaders and ministry volunteers. Got questions about launching a ministry that you can’t answer…here we are! Have a kid you’re struggling to serve? Contact us! Want to kick around a problem with someone who’s “been there and done that?” Click here to submit a request!

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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One Response to Simply the right thing to do…

  1. NickyB. says:

    I didn’t go to church when my son was three all the way until he was 9 years old. At 3, he would turn the lights of the children’s church off and on and they called me out of service because they couldn’t handle it. The kicker is that the teacher who called me has a special needs son as well. I never went back to that church. I stayed home and went to church online. We finally started going back 2 years ago. We still don’t go every Sunday but we go about every 2 weeks. My son is able to sit through a church service and participate in it. I wish more churches would accommodate special needs families.

    Like

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