Leading a Special Needs Ministry: A Special Guide to Including Children and Loving Families, Amy Fenton Lee.
Guest Post/Book Review by Donna Reagan*
Everyone, it seems, loves babies, especially fresh, new ones that can be held, comforted, cuddled and nurtured into good health: mind, body and spirit. Ideally, all babies would start life on an equal basis but the fact is, statistics from Cornell University show that at least 12% of all births will produce a special needs child and with all that can happen to affect the outcome of a pregnancy, it is amazing that the stats are that much in favor of a neuro-typical and physically “normal” child. Often, those 12%, can cause great discomfort in the greater community, especially the faith community. It is as though the evidence of God’s great blessing (that of a perfect life with a perfect family full of children who are perfect in every way) has been marred. And so a community of faith must decide how to respond. Amy Fenton Lee addresses the issues of faith, theology, opportunities and blessing available to a faith community in her book Leading a Special Needs Ministry: a Practical Guide to Including Children and Loving Families.
Lee directly addresses the issue of etiquette; specifically, what to say and what not to say and how to act and how not to act in every situation involving a special needs child and his/her family. Furthermore, the author details how caring individuals can respond in loving, supportive care when learning of a special needs diagnosis. She also explains what the parents are experiencing and how and why. The most important thing Lee does is educate the faith community about what they should be doing to include special needs children and their families as well as why and how to make it happen. Lee makes such a good case for a special needs ministry for all ages, that no community of faith which believes that the call to faith is a call to all, cannot allow one more day to go by without making this ministry a priority.
It may be easier for very large communities of faith, such as mega churches, to find the resources to set up a special needs ministry but the author shows that even a small church can do small things that can make a huge difference to all of God’s children. And what to do to start and how—Lee provides information and tools in straightforward lay terms; it’s all laid out.
Too many families and their special needs children have dropped out of participation in churches because they do not feel welcome; they do not feel included and the spiritual and social needs of they and their children go unmet. It is time that faith communities met those needs; they have no excuse not to do so.
*Donna Reagan is a children’s librarian at the Nashville Public Library, Bellevue Branch, with a professional background in education and Christian education. She is also a former pastor’s wife and mother of a special needs son with autism.