At times there are important worship events such as weddings and funerals that involve or effect your members.   You–as the leader of your ministry within the mentally challenged community–may not be asked to participate in the occasion.  Another pastor from across town who barely knows the member could be charged with the task of officiating at the worship service.  

Yes, this has happened repeatedly to the pastoral staff at Special Gathering.  This oversight strikes us, bringing us back to the reality of  how we, as ministers, may be perceived within the church world.  This slight never seems to lose its sting.

First, let me say most parents and churches value our place in the lives of our members.  Yet, when tragedy, such as a death occurs, the minister within the special needs community may be the last person to be considered to conduct or even participate at the funeral.  After a funeral service  for one of our extremely faithful members, one agency person explained to me, “The family delegated to us the responsibility of arranging the funeral.  We didn’t know what we were doing.  There was only one pastor we knew.  He had been on our agency staff about 10 years ago.  He knew Charles and that seemed to be a natural connection,” she shrugged, frowned and walked away.  No one from Special Gathering had been asked to participate.  The people who participated were members of a church where he had never attended.  Other than the pastor, the participants were people he had never met.

Understand, after the funeral and once the oversight was realized, there were no apologies given. A  few people said, “Oh, well,” as an explanation. 

So we weren’t asked, what will be our response?

  1. Our commitment and our loyalty THE COMMUNITY we serve will not change.  Our ministry is within the mentally challenged community.
  2. I cry when I need to.  However, when I cry I try to let it be with people who aren’t grieving or by myself. 
  3. Getting angry is not a sin.   But long-lasting anger leads to bitterness which is a sin. 
  4. As quickly as possible, get over the hurt and don’t let resentment begin to reside in your spirit.
  5. Make home visits to your members who were friends of the person who died.  Short “I love you” visits are always welcomed and appreciated. 
  6. If people aren’t home, leave a note.  These short expressions of love will be cherished.  I know, I’ve received a few of them.
  7. If possible, visit the family and allow them to vent and express their grief.
  8. Remember to include the professional community in our grief visits.  They are also hurting.

In short, God hasn’t called us to a ministry that is wonderfully complicated.  The rewards are many.  The slights are many.  However, the rewards do massively outweigh the slights.  We can rejoice in the calling of God in our lives.  He is a good God.