Yesterday, I wrote about a childwho was banned from attending a Catholic church.  Later that day, I realized that this was a large young man whom the church could not physically control.  I still don’t know the details of this situation.  In light of the fact that I don’t know the particular charges regarding the family or the local congregation, there are several things that could be in play.

First, it could be that the parents in their love for their child with disabilities may want to protect him to the point that they have not been emotionally prepared to provide him with the disciplines needed.  Second, the child may have received good discipline but his disability may prevent him from responding appropriately. 

The third possibility is that this local congregation is not prepared to handle people with disabilities, especially if specialized care is required.  This is a broader issue that I believe needs to be addressed. 

In the past, those of us who minister within the disability community have found that the Church is a caring and giving group of people who desire to do the best for the people they serve.  However, we have also found that the Church has not done a very good in ministering to people with disabilities.  This is not because the Church does not care.  It is because they don’t know how. 

The Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We are a specialized ministry whose primary mission is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.  However, we aren’t blind to the misconceptions that are sometimes housed within local congregations. 

Our choirs that go into churches, hoping to educate the congregants to the spiritual needs of people who are mentally challenged.  The Special Gathering Weblog was formed with a desire to help inform the younger leadership of the church world with the challenges and joys of ministering to people with disabilities.  We invite youth groups and church leaders and pastors to join us in a missions outreach weekend during Memorial Day weekend at Camp Agape. 

Every church family has been faced with the uncomfortable situation of dealing with a child or adult with disabililities.  It is uncomfortable because there is no training given in our seminaries or Bible schools that teaches how to effectively minister to persons who are developmentally disabled.  Often, the leadership of a local congregation doesn’t even consider the possibility of seeking help until they are slapped in the face by a family who arrives with a need.  At that point, it’s too late.  The church has no idea what the solution should be.

I sit here today, understanding the limitations. I feel frustrated. There is too much to write for one column.  I can only skim across the surface, introducing the problem.  Yet, help is housed within the Church. 

In an overly simplistic answer, love is the key.  Love will motive local church leaders to root out an answer.  Love will force us to redeem the best for everyone, even those with disabilities.  What form will that love take?  What have been your answers?