by Heather DeBoer
Dear Youth Ministry Leader,
I’ll bet that when you started your job at your church, you didn’t give special needs issues very much thought. You were just excited about sharing Jesus with the church’s young people!
You were passionate about youth ministry and ready to face its challenges. And all was going well, until one day a child with physical or intellectual disability joined your youth group. Suddenly, things got a lot harder.
Perhaps you are finding a child with special needs very difficult. Perhaps that child’s parents are difficult (Mama Bear syndrome, anyone?). Or perhaps it’s the kids without special needs who are proving to be difficult around the individual with special needs.
We want to tell you that you are not alone. We want to tell you thank you for being concerned and wanting to find a resolution. We want to tell you that grace abounds for difficult situations like this.
And we also want to plead with you – please don’t ask the child with special needs to leave!
We understand the challenge. For very young children, we see that integration works well. Inclusion is effective, and the kids are mostly kind and patient with one another. But as children grow and mature, the transition is often turbulent.
There are tools, however, that can help! We have seen young people and adults thrive on accessible curriculum that is designed to engage people of all abilities. We recommend using the inclusive small group model to make your youth ministry more welcoming to children with disability. Read more next week in Part 2!