Monday, September 14, 2015

Every Child Welcome

 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
~ Matthew 19:14, NIV ~

Churches have A LOT to learn about children.  While we live in an era of thriving ministry to youngsters, with more bells, whistles, tools and programs than the mind can fathom, there is still a HUGE gaping hole in one area -- special needs.  Most KidMin staff would give anything to increase their influence to children by 16%, yet that number represents the grossly neglected population identified in 2011 by experts including the Centers for Disease Control of kids with some sort of developmental disability ranging from ADHD to cerebral palsy.  To this day, too few churches are doing a thing to reach this segment or their parents with the hope that Christ alone offers.

On Saturday, I wrote about a mother who was in the throws of being excluded from a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group because of her son's severe hemophilia.  Why?  Why would those called by Jesus to serve the least and the lost further marginalize the already marginalized?

I would propose two main reasons why churches are not including all kids in their children's programming:

  1. Total ignorance - Most pastors and staff receive little-to-no training on how to include kids beyond your average group of typical children.  This means that there are fears about liability, expense, and unreasonable demands, most of which can easily be managed, if only explored.
  2. Overwhelm at the notion of ANOTHER program - Most churches are hard pressed for regular, reliable volunteers.  The idea of having to create an additional program that will include high-needs children would easily put many executive pastors off a cliff.  The demands just seem too great while the resources seem too small.
It is exactly for these two reasons that I am IN LOVE with the recently published book by my dear friends, Jolene Philo and Katie Wetherbee, EVERY CHILD WELCOME.  These two beloved colleagues represent decades of experience and wisdom.  Both as teachers and living within the arena of disabling challenges, Jolene and Katie have become leaders in creating simple adaptations and loving inclusion.

EVERY CHILD WELCOME smashes the bondage of total ignorance for pastors and church staff by opening their eyes to the fact that a child with a diagnosis is like every other child in most ways.  The authors take the fear out of the unknown by laying out clear strategies for churches on everything from safety to sharing God's truth in easy-to-understand ways.  All of this is done using the clever, engaging analogy of preparing for dinner guests.

The book also eliminates the overwhelm of additional programming by showing current staff how to make many SIMPLE adaptations for kids.  This is not only powerful in cutting down on the need for many more volunteers or employees.  It is also critical because our kids are learning the ways of inclusion in public schools and the rest of the secular world.  It gives typical peers the opportunity to put into practice in a very real way the concepts they are being taught in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

If you are getting nowhere with trying to get your church to include your challenged child OR if you are serving at a church and just don't know where to start with ministering to complex kids, I HIGHLY recommend you pick up this easy, practical, delightful read.  It could be God's sharpening steel to make your congregation a transformative tool in His hands.

PRAY:  Jesus, you told us,“[L And] Whoever ·accepts [welcomes; receives] a child ·in my name [C as a representative or follower of Jesus] ·accepts [welcomes; receives] me [C indicates concern for the lowly; children had low social status]." (Matthew 18:5, EXB)  Multiply Your work by the reading of this book!  Use Katie and Jolene's wisdom to open up the eyes of Your Church, making small changes that have a big impact.  Let us not rest until we have truly reached the least and lost in our midst rather than retreating into our "holy country clubs."

~ Barb Dittrich

EVERY CHILD WELCOME is available at all major book sellers.

2 comments:

  1. Barb, thanks for the wonderful review. You stated our vision for this book perfectly. Katie and I want to get rid of the overwhelm churches and church volunteers experience when considering special needs ministry. And we want to equip believers to reach every child, whatever their strengths and weaknesses, with the gospel of Christ.

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  2. Great book...should be in every church in America.

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