When Church Doesn’t Welcome You and Your Special Needs Child

Over the past year I’ve received a handful of emails from parents that have been pushed away from their church. In some cases, it’s due to ignorance. As in the case of the family that was told that their child’s mental illness was a direct result of the parent’s sin. Other times, it’s more subtle, maybe their child is too loud during service and can’t sit still, taking away from the “holy” experience, bringing on hushed criticism or rude looks. Either way, the intolerance is felt and families leave their church when unfortunately, they need it most.

Forgive me for preaching, but isn’t God for the weak and broken hearted? Didn’t Jesus scold the disciples when they tried to keep the children away from Him? The church needs to be a place for those that seek Him, even if that means dealing with a loud, unruly child. I know in my heart that God would want it that way. A relationship with God is not perfect, it isn’t about pressed pants and perfect families. God’s family is messy in everyway and God wants us to run to Him when we are hurting, He wants to carry us when we no longer have the strength to go alone.

It breaks my heart and to be honest, makes me angry to hear of families that need God, that desire to be part of a church family, yet have stopped attending because they’ve been turned away directly or indirectly. 

I hope to encourage you that there are churches that are accepting, that have awareness or are willing to learn about our children’s needs. They’re dedicated to supporting our families and want to help us in a spiritual as well as practical way.

After over a year of searching, we’ve been very fortunate to have found such a church. Since then, 3 years later, we’ve been offered sitters, meals, one-on-one support and constant prayers. Just this past summer, our Pastor went on a sabbatical with his family for 3 months. During this time, he was suppose to leave everything behind and focus on his family and God so he could recharged himself. He had intended on leaving all prayers for his congregation with his staff, but later shared that my family kept popping into his mind so he finally decided to “pack us up” and take us on his sabbatical where he prayed for us continually. Besides these abundant prayers, our church has helped to offer solutions for our kids, especially our oldest son, who has a hard time sitting through the services. They allow him to bring his iPod or small toys when he isn’t in a mood to participate, they provide “family tables” with paper, crayons and snacks to keep the kids occupied and they offer a hug when we show up late, knowing that it must have been a difficult morning. To this day, I still get emails asking if there’s anything else they can do to help our family. Our Pastor even joked once, “Heck, I’m willing to put a couch in the back of the room for your son if it will help him feel more comfortable attending service.”

I realize how blessed we are to have found this special church where we can grow with God as a family. If you are part of a church and happen to be peeking in on this post, reach out to your staff to see what can be done to help families like myself that are needing accommodations or reach out to the family that has disappeared when it became too hard to attend service and invite them back.

And for the family that has been hurt by their church after being pushed away, keep searching and don’t give up until you find your new church family. Not all churches are the same, but God remains constant wherever you go. As difficult as it is attending church with my bundle of boys, it has been a blessing in so many ways and was worth the hard work to find it.

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I’m a mother of 3 young boys, the oldest suffering from Bipolar 1 Disorder. I write a blog to let go of my pain and to help support others by letting them know they’re not alone.