All People Matter To God

October 20, 2011

Belonging

Back in 2002, when I moved to Saint Louis with my boys, one of the first things on my “to do” list was to find a place of worship.  At first glance it seems like a fairly easy process because you can open a phone book and look under the listing “Churches.” In a town the size of Saint Louis you will find hundreds of churches listed.  No problem, right?  Wrong.

The search for a church presented a big challenge for me. 

Why?  Because I have three boys who are on the autism spectrum.   Taking a child with autism to church can be a source of stress for many parents.  People often stare, make comments, or fail to understand any mishaps or behaviors that may occur. For example, out of the blue, my son Joshua will frequently kneel down and rub the carpet on the floor briskly with his fingertips.  He is seeking sensory input as a result of sensory integration difficulty which is not uncommon for someone with autism.  To a casual observer, however, the sight of a 13-year old boy kneeling on the ground and rapidly rubbing the carpet appears very strange.  As a result of similar types of experiences, families often feel uncomfortable taking their child to places where people gather together, such as church.

Feeling like they cannot socialize or relate to others due to the behaviors of their child, parents of children with autism start to experience a sense of isolation from a community of faith.

Did you know that statistics show that only about 17% of families who have a child with autism belong to a family of faith?  That means that roughly only 2 out of 10 families who have a child with autism know what it’s like to have a church that they can call “home.”  A big reason for this is that many churches do not have a ministry to meet the needs of families who have a child or adult with an intellectual disability.

For most churches the lack of special needs considerations is not intentional, it is simply a matter of not having familiarity with the intellectual disability/special need environment.  So I knew that when I started calling the list of St. Louis churches in the yellow pages one-by-one to ask, “Do you have a special needs ministry?” the majority of the answers were going to be, “No.”  And they were.  I called 37 churches that first day, no luck.  Weary, I decided to try again another day.

Some parents would give up searching for a church after awhile.

It’s easy to give up when you’ve been told “no” enough times no matter how polite the person on the other end of the phone sounds.  Feelings of rejection/isolation start to creep in.    These feelings often arise when you start to feel that you and your family have little importance or value in other people’s lives.   When parents start to feel as if their children have little value to the Body of Christ they quit seeking to belong to a community of faith.

God answers prayers.

In 2011, as my family prepared to move to Orlando, we faced the same potential challenge that we faced in St. Louis in 2002:  Finding a church that would be a “home.”  A church that would be a community of welcome and belonging for each one of my boys on the autism spectrum.  My wife and I prayed and asked God to “direct our paths” to such a community of faith.  He did…and that church is called First Baptist Orlando!

First Baptist Orlando, believes that ALL people matter to God! 

Without a doubt, if you’re reading this and you’re a parent who is in search of a church that welcomes children and adults with special needs then I’d encourage you to call and visit First Baptist Orlando.  You’ll be glad that you did!  I think you’ll agree and discover that it’s a warm and welcoming community of faith that has a special place in their hearts for ALL people.

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods

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3 Comments on “All People Matter To God”

  1. katiewetherbee Says:

    Mike…thanks for this. God is going to use you and First Baptist Orlando in mighty ways!

    Reply

  2. Troy Gladstone Says:

    Hi. Did you ever find a good one in St. Louis? We are starting the search now. Thanks for your testimony.

    Reply

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