Saturday, September 12, 2015
"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume LXV: The Ignorant Church Edition
I have said it time and again -- If I had a dollar for every time a parent has been asked to leave a church because of their child with unique challenges, I would be a VERY rich woman. It turns my stomach even typing that truth because it is the antithesis of what Jesus would do or say.
Most often, the stories I hear relate to a child on the autism spectrum or with behavioral issues that a church does not know how to handle in their Sunday school. However, I also hear stories about many parents whose children are minding their own business, worshiping the Savior, but who may look or act differently, or even dare to make some guttural noises, being asked to leave a Sunday service in progress. I often wonder if these people who dare to treat these remarkable families in such a way are the same ones singing during the service, "Break my hear for what breaks Yours." It just makes me SICK.
This weeks "winner" is even MORE personal to me than some others because it involves a child with hemophilia, the very diagnosis that launched this ministry. A mother contacted me recently, discouraged and upset because of how a local church was responding to her toddler with hemophilia. Fighting isolation and looking for some normalcy in her life, this mom had approached the church to see if they would be willing to include her son in their child care while she attended their MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The church quickly responded that her son's diagnosis wasn't even an issue. As a result, she registered and paid for the MOPS group for both herself and her toddler. Within a month of the start date, she began contacting the church to make certain things were still agreeable to them and in place for the fall session. Unfortunately, the church engaged in a horrible, dysfunctional behavior that I see too many churches engaging in when they are feeling backed into a corner, unsure of what to do -- They ignored and failed to respond to her e-mails.
It wasn't the fact that this church hadn't received the mother's e-mails that kept her from getting a response. Inside friends on the leadership team had confirmed that her inquiries had been received. Instead, she is now being told 1 week before the group begins that the church has reservations because, "it's a discussion of the safety of everyone involved." The church had no problem quickly taking her money, but they certainly have trouble now finding a way to include this woman's child.
Are You SERIOUS?!
Given the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has become a matter of course for an entire generation in this nation, this mother inquired of me as to whether or not this exclusion by the church was legal. I shared an article with her from eHow on ADA Regulations for Churches revealing the unfortunate truth that churches are exempt from much of the ADA. Nevertheless, I stressed to her that churches should actually be leading the way with disability inclusion like they once were. After all, it was the Church that led the way with establishing hospitals and other means of serving those considered marginalized by the secular world.
Situations like this always "get my Irish up." Who did Jesus spend his time with when he was walking the earth? People just like OUR kids! Church leaders give Christ a bad name as well as appear extremely unprofessional themselves when they deny families like ours inclusion into weekend worship and church programming.
Sadly, most churches are not as welcoming as the church in which we have raised our son. Our ministry staff never turned us away. We always made ourselves available and approachable for any questions or concerns that might arise. While the church knew little, they never considered us or our son "a liability." Hopefully, they recognized that our son presented no more risk to the church than any other child in their nursery, vacation Bible school, or children's church. While we had a couple of accidents with our son during church activities over the years, they merely got in touch with us as they would with any other parent in the same situation.
Given my experience in both the bleeding disorders and special needs ministry worlds, I encouraged this excluded mother to have her church get in touch with me. It would be an easy fix to put these church leaders' fears to rest and make simple adjustments. As of the date of publication, I have not been contacted.
Another simple help for a church like this would also be the new book EVERY CHILD WELCOME by my friends and colleagues, Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo. Watch Monday for my more in-depth review of this helpful tool.
* For more information on hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, visit the Hemophilia Federation of America website