Wonderfully Made: Welcoming All Families

From Lauren Knips, Director of Children’s Ministry

// It was several months back when the Moody family walked up to our Children’s Ministry Sunday morning check-in. They had moved into the area, and were looking for a church home. The Moody family has an amazing son, Austin, who was born with down syndrome. Unfortunately, for many families who have children with different physical or development needs, being welcome at church isn’t a given. Many churches aren’t prepared to welcome them, and that is why 90 percent of families with children who have special needs do not attend church. God is calling us to change that by being prepared to welcome all families and every child.

PARENTS’ PERSPECTIVE  | From Caleb and Kameron Moody

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ ”

This scripture from Matthew 19:14 seems pretty straight forward, but when you add children with special needs into that equation, some churches become less welcoming. Our family has experienced this first hand. Our son Austin has Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome as it’s more commonly known. When he was a baby, our former church had no problem taking him into the nursery, and he was treated the same as any other child there. But once he got older and was of age to start attending Sunday school, we were told he would need to remain in the nursery. It was more of a contained environment, and they weren’t sure how to accommodate him in the larger classroom. He had issues with elopement, or running away, and also needed a lot of redirection. While we understood their concerns, we felt with a little extra supervision he could be included with his peers. We wanted him to learn about Jesus, and to hear the stories that would shape his relationship with our Savior.

My husband and I both came to know the Lord in Sunday school. I will never forget asking Jesus to come into my heart sitting on the rug in my kindergarten class. We knew Austin wouldn’t get this chance if he stayed in the nursery. We wanted him to be given the same opportunity, despite his disability. We searched and searched for a church home that would be welcoming of Austin. What we were typically met with was uncomfortable resistance. This reaction is a symptom of the lack of education in our churches for how to effectively minister to and include people with disabilities, specifically children. We are not the only parents who have faced this reality, as we learned from sharing our experience with our friends who have children with special needs. Many of these parents feel the same way, that there isn’t a place for their child in Sunday school.

Fortunately, here at Shepard’s Grove/IPC we have found a church who wants to take action. We are passionate about making Sunday school an inclusive environment where the teachings of Jesus can be shared with children of all abilities.

We are prayerfully seeking God’s wisdom on how to create this change. If you have a heart for people with disabilities and feel called in some way to be a part of this effort, join us on January 20 at our interest meeting to learn more!

HOW YOU CAN HELP  | We need willing hands and hearts to join us as we launch our new ministry, Wonderfully Made, to families with children who have special needs. It is our hope that you will pray about how God is calling you to make our church a place that’s radically hospitable to all families.

Here are some ways you can be a part of our new ministry:

  • Pray for our launch team as they plan and engage new leaders.
  • Pray for families with children who have special needs, that they would find a welcoming church home either here or with another worshiping community.
  • Attend the interest meeting January 20 at 10:45 am to find out more about being actively involved with the ministry either as a volunteer or in a supporting role. Meets in the Fellowship Hall.

Every child is made in the image of our heavenly Father, and the mission of Wonderfully Made is to make sure every child has the opportunity to know this and be known as a child of God. We need you to join us to make it possible for us to follow God’s leading to welcome all families!

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14