The 'no' list.
A list of restaurants, shops, parks etc that they can not go to. This is a reality for some families with children who have an intellectual disability.
Sadly, church is often on that 'no' list.
It is hard enough for any child to sit through church, sitting quietly, sitting in rows, in a big building with very limited interaction. For some children this can be an incredibly stressful undertaking and so parents are left weighing up the embarrassment and/or judgement and conclude church is just not worth it.
I sometimes think our churches have the best intentions, trying to be as welcoming as possible sending out invites all over the place. However, sometimes we are like brightly coloured brick walls, that look so appealing only to find it was an invite to not come in. Simply because our services, our structures, our buildings and sometimes our Theology do not accommodate for those who are intellectually disabled.
The thought should hurt us to the point of action. Let's be prepared to make changes for the sake of what really matters and get excited about it.
Here are three things you could start doing this week.
Get to know the families. Every child, teenager and adult is different. Find out what it is that makes church such a challenge and seek to alleviate those stresses. Simply put, be a friend.
Get involved in your local support groups for families who have family members with intellectual disabilities. Most special schools and some charities run support or respite groups. Remember, you aim is not to get them to church, start by helping them get their shopping, their ironing or maybe babysit. This is loving in deed and truth.
Find those in your church who are passionate about this ministry. Meet together, pray together and seek out those in your community who are often so forgotten about.