The member of a large church in a mid-western state asked me.  “What can we do about a couple of mentally challenged young women who are kissing during the worship services?”  She reported that  another church leader had seen the behavior and this was a continuing pattern for these two ladies in their early twenties.  “The lady who told me about the issue is going to the senior pastor because someone needs to do something about this.”

 “May I suggest that instead of going to the pastor, it would be better for this lady to go to the women herself?”  I told her that if the leader would tell the women that this was “inappropriate behavior,” the young ladies will understand what she means; and they will probably stop doing the concerned misconduct.  Additionally,  by using the code words, “inappropriate behavior,”  these women with special needs will assume that this church leader understands them because she is using their “language.” 

Up to this point, our luncheon discussion had been that the church-at-large does not always know how to effectively disciple people with disabilities.  Either church members ignore misbehavior or they ask the misbehaving person to leave the church.  I had said that the church is not indifferent to the spiritual needs of the mentally challenged community.  They simply do not know how to handle behaviors. 

After about 15 minutes of discussion, she asked me about the two women who were kissing during the worship services.  Once again it appears to me, the two women with disabilities are being ignored by a person in a leadership position until she reports them to the senior pastor. 

I asked the visitor from the Midwest, “How would a non-disabled member be treated by this leader?” 

“Oh, that’s easy,”  the lady said with a broad smile.  “The leader would have the responsibility to give her correction with love.” 

Our executive director sometimes says, “Just because a person has a disability, it doesn’t mean he or she isn’t a jerk.”  In other words, people with disabilities aren’t naturally born, super-spiritual saints.  They are people in need of redemption and consistent discipleship.   Rather than being dismissive by ignoring or asking people to leave, mentally challenged people deserve the dignity of being treated like other church members.

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