I was in a meeting this past week for one purpose and found that quite a different thought consumed my mind. As we were beginning, a man stopped at our table to say a quick hello and I was introduced. We were there to talk about youth ministry and one of my colleagues knew of my interest in ministry with teens with special needs. He mentioned this in front of the father noting that he had a son with Down’s. I asked how he was doing and how he was connecting with youth ministry. His response shouldn’t have taken me by surprise, I’ve heard it hundreds of times before but…
He said “he’s not involved youth ministry. We understand that there is no place for him there.” He was upbeat, jovial, and honestly a little too understanding for my taste. He didn’t want to put any pressure on the church or youth pastor to “figure out” how to include a child like his.
Quite frankly, he shouldn’t have to put pressure on. While I want to be careful as I know there are many who have never even had people with special needs cross their minds, many others have. And for those who haven’t, I am going to keep saying this. God has called us to minister to all teens, to all people. And if it is inconvenient, it’s just too bad. Last time I checked ministry wasn’t about convenience. My more typical MO is to be more gentle, to offer a biblical and theological account of why we should be inclusive, to consider sociological as well as communal reasons why inclusion is good and of God. But today I am tired. I am tired of watching those who are already struggling feel the need to protect others feelings from guilt when they, as parents of teens with special needs, walk this difficult ground every day.
There is a great blog from the perspective of parents with children with special needs called Not Alone. Today’s post is about 10 needs of the parents of children with special needs. Many of their needs overlap those of any parent. But there is something different. There is a sense that they have already cashed in all of their chips in asking for help on any of their needs. Read it. Think of a family or pray about meeting someone and keep these requests in mind.