It was Easter Sunday, and there were hundreds of little feet and big feet strolling through the halls of our kids’ area. Some of the faces were familiar ones while many were appearing in our doorways for the first time. Energy was high, and our Children’s Director zipped from room to room, checking on volunteers, adjusting staffing, and soothing unsure children.
After worship started and things began to settle in for the hour, I glanced down the hallway to see the Children’s Director sitting on the floor, all of her attention on the little boy in front of her. The orange sticker on his back revealed that he was a first-time guest, and as I walked toward them to ask if I could help in any way, I could see that God had blessed this precious little one with some special needs.
We were at 180% capacity in our kids’ area that day. As this family wound their way down the hall, they asked the kids’ check-in volunteer escorting them whether their little boy would be welcomed into a classroom here. The answer so easily could have been, “I’m so sorry, but we don’t have the resources to care for him.” We didn’t have a special needs ministry. We didn’t even have a quiet room to step into with this little boy if the stimulation in the classroom became too much.
What would your response be if a family wanted to bring their child with special needs to your ministry?
Our response was that we would love him the best way we could.
What did we have?
A love for all of God’s precious children. We also had a system in place anticipating that God may send us families who have children with special needs. It was a simple system. We had identified a handful of volunteers who had a heart for children with special needs. Some had experience – in school systems or in healthcare. Others simply wanted to love at a higher level.
These volunteers were on call to be a “buddy” should the need arise. When parents came with their child, they would be assured that we would love to care for their child that day. We explained our buddy system to them and introduced the buddy to the child. We asked the parents all about their child – likes and dislikes, things that upset them, and ways to soothe them. We showed them the age-appropriate classroom where their child would be included, and then gently reassured them that if their child needed time away from that environment, we would take them into the hallway (a safe and secure area that was closed off from the rest of the church.)
That’s where I found our Children’s Director that Easter Sunday. Loving on a little boy with all her heart.
Is the system perfect? Nope.
But we didn’t let the desire for perfection or lack of specialized training or equipment keep us from taking the first step. We chose to start where we are.
Don’t let the desire for perfection keep you from taking the first step in caring for children with special needs.
Do you know what happened?
That little boy’s family began a relationship with Christ that day. I still see his perfect smiling face most Sundays, when he’s well enough to come with his family. Countless other families since then have come and experienced our love for their child who happens to have some special needs and is made in the image of God.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the opening of our new kids’ expansion at our church.
Guess what we have now?
A whole room dedicated to kids with special needs and sensory issues, mostly due to the passion our Children’s Director has for loving every child.
Start where you are.
And watch what God does in your ministry.
Matthew 25:21 – The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’