Love Thy Neighborhood Podcast: Where the Gospel Meets Special Needs

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According to Erik Carter, a special education professor at Vanderbilt University who studies religion and disability, only 45% of Americans who identify as having a severe disability say they attend a place of worship each month. That’s 12% fewer attendees in this demographic than the 57% of all Americans that attend worship each month. Carter also tells us that churchgoers with a cognitive impairment are less likely by one third to participate in congregational activities outside of worship—activities such as a small group, a Bible study, or even a church fellowship.

A study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion finds that the statistics among children are more severe. Children with autism spectrum disorders are 1.84 times more likely to never attend church activities. Children with chronic depression are 1.71 times more likely to never attend.

The truth is that many churches are ill-equipped to welcome kids with unique needs. I’ve come to see this inequity as a justice issue. Recently I had the chance to join some friends—Elaine Moore, Todd and Kim Robertson, and Kelly Stivers—in telling the story of our personal journey as well as our local church’s journey with special needs ministry.

Here’s just a bit of that story…

My wife, Megan, and I are both type A. We religiously sit down every week to plan our finances and family calendar. We plan our vacations years in advance. But when our middle daughter, Lucy, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we were stopped in our tracks. Our life was suddenly more than we could plan and manage.

Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him?
— James 2:5

For years, Megan has taken Lucy to therapy appointments, cooked meals according to a strict diet, loved her stressed-out pastor husband, ministered to our church community herself, and worked through her own grief over Lucy’s disabilities—all while being mother to two other typically developing (but still sinful) young girls. By four o’clock in the afternoon nearly every day, we’re both exhausted. One of the great graces in our life is that for six years, a group of young Christian women from our church and a local Christian college came to our home to help care for Lucy in the afternoons. These amazing ladies conducted a behavioral therapy program, potty-trained, and even taught Lucy a simple catechism. Most of the time we were able to use Medicaid funds to pay them. But one of the women, Kelly Stivers, kept showing up for us in a season when we lost our funding. She had our back even when there was seemingly nothing in it for her.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14, the evangelist relates the story of how Jesus was invited to the home of a prominent Pharisee. Jesus noticed how the guests at the table jockeyed for position—carefully picking the places with the greatest honor. Then he said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Jesus instructed religious leaders to move toward the margins and welcome even those who are sometimes the most difficult to accommodate. This is one of the ways the church can do justice and embody the life of the gospel.

Want to learn more? Give the podcast a listen and check out the list of resources below:

RESOURCES

Getting Started – Special Needs Ministry Resources from The Inclusive Church

Podcast – Special Needs Ministry Secrets to Success w/ Amy Fenton Lee

Stats on Disability and the Church

The Ministry of the Disabled – Christianity Today

3 Barriers Keeping the Disabled from Church – Lifeway Facts & Trends

Special Needs, the Church and the Justice of God – Relevant Magazine

Louisville Regional Baptist Association website

Family Friday Links 2.15.19

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Back again for another dose of links we liked, huh? Well, here you go:

Our friend, Sam Luce, had a post on recruitment. It reads, “People you ask will serve longer and more faithfully than people you beg.” Recruitment is a necessary part of the job. This will help you do it well.

Tim Elmore had a post on teen unhappiness. It lists reasons for this and how to help. This is helpful for both parents and pastors.

And because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, I thought it helpful to remind us all what true love looks like … via Paul Tripp and his post entitled, “23 Things That Love Is”. This is a great reminder for us all that love is bigger than we typically think.

What have you read online lately? Leave a link in the comment section for us to check out.

Family Friday Links 2.8.19

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Here’s what we’ve been reading online this week:

Mom Hack Monday’s had a guest post by Scott Kedersha on pursuing your spouse. This is something we often forget after the wedding day but is absolutely essential for the long term health of the marriage. This post has suggestions for making this a reality in your marriage.

Jonathan Hayashi had a post on Dead Men about anxiety. As believing parents we deal with all sorts of anxiety when it comes to raising our kids. While this post deals will anxiety in a more general way, it applies well to raising kids.

Tim Keller had a post on the Gospel Coalition on passing on faith to the next generation. The post describes the problem this way: “Commitment is replaced by complacency—and then by compromise.” Parents, this is on you, read the rest of this post and learn how pass on your faith to your kids.

What have you been benefiting from online lately? Leave a link in the comment section for us to check out.

Family Friday links 2.1.19

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Here’s what we’ve been reading online lately:

As pastor’s and leaders it’s only a matter of time before we will be faced with helping a family in crisis. Children’s Ministry Magazine had a post that help prepare you for that eventuality. It reads in part, “For children, their family is the center of their world and the source of their security. When the family is in crisis, disrupted, or in any way different from what the children desire, they have difficulty connecting …” The post goes on to give suggesting on how to connect.

Marty Machowski had a post on what brings peace to struggling parents. He says, “Nothing brings me greater peace than to entrust my parenting challenges to Jesus. Sure, I struggle with fear and anxiety from time to time, but I know that I am never alone.” Parents, do you believe that? Read this post and find out where you can start.

Fierce Marriage had a post on the common challenges newlyweds face and how to overcome them. It reads, “But in spite of its challenges, marriage, if done right, is better than you can imagine.” Read this post and begin to learn how to do it right. If you’re newly married, check this one out.

What have been reading or writing online lately? Leave a link in the comment section for us to check out.