Sheri Dacon has a message for anyone who is afraid of special needs inclusion. If her call to action doesn't rouse you, perhaps nothing will.

Guest blogger Sheri Dacon has a message for anyone who is afraid of special needs inclusion. If her call to action doesn’t rouse you, perhaps nothing will. So take courage and read on.

Why You Must Say Yes to Inclusion
{Even When You’re Afraid}

If you’ve ever parented a toddler, you know the drill. Your days are filled with the word “no.”

Parenting experts say toddlers are learning independence. They’re discovering their ability to separate from their parents and make their own choices. Toddlers say “no” a lot. So do their parents.

And the days end up sounding like a broken record of negativity.

Sometimes our churches are too much like a strong-willed toddler. Because far too many of us have become a broken record of negativity when it comes to special needs.

It’s time we quit saying “no” to inclusion.

Let me tell you what it’s like when a church looks at a disabled child and his family — with all their strengths and challenges — and says no.

  • It is devastating and soul-shattering.
  • It’s traumatic and intensely painful.
  • It’s like having the faith rug pulled completely out from under you.
  • It knocks you down and leaves you breathless.

It’s not an exaggeration. This is how too many families experience church.

They are told no.

And they are left shell-shocked.

Many are shaken so turbulently by their experience that they never return.

Others want to try, but are timid and riddled with anxiety about the possibilities of being rejected again.

Some become embittered and turn from faith entirely. Why trust in the Lord of the church when the church can dish out more meanness and apathy than the secular world?

There are plenty of reasons congregations say “no” to special needs families.

  • It costs too much.
  • We don’t know how.
  • We’re just volunteers.
  • We don’t have room.
  • There aren’t any special needs families in our congregation.

But these reasons are simply excuses.

They are shallow copouts that ignore truth and choose the easier path of exclusion instead because. . . well, it’s easier.

It’s easier to close doors and hearts than it is to open them wide and not only accommodate, but welcome, anyone who walks in.

It’s easier to stay complacent and “do church” the way it’s always been done.

It’s easier to ignore people who make us feel uncomfortable.

But is it the gospel way?

Is this the kind of ministry we see played out in the Bible, in the ways of Jesus himself?

Not at all.

Why We Must Say Yes

What we see in the gospel message is an overarching message of yes.

Yes to the broken, yes to the poor, yes to the marginalized, yes to any and all who are willing to come. All are welcome at the Lord’s table.

And so it’s imperative that we — as communities of faith — learn to say yes. We simply must say yes first, then trust that God will show us the way.

  • It’s what Abraham did when God called him to leave his home and go to a new place. He said yes, and became a sojourner.
  • It’s what Noah did when God told him to build an ark. He said yes, and waited for instructions.
  • It’s what David did when God anointed him king. He said yes, then fought for his life, years before receiving the crown.
  • It’s what Mary did when an angel told her she would bear the son of God. She said yes, though she didn’t understand and she faced certain scorn.
  • It’s what Jesus did in the garden as he prayed for another way, and yet chose obedience even unto death. He said yes.

Time and again in scripture, we encounter people who had every reason to say no. Saying no would’ve been the more practical, economic, and logical choice.

And yet, each of these–and so many more–chose to say yes instead. And it made all the difference.

I challenge you today to examine your place of worship, and examine yourself as well. Where do you need to say yes?

Because saying yes might just change everything.

Will You Say Yes to Special Needs Inclusion?

Are you ready to say yes to special needs inclusion? If so, Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs at Church can help you. Whether you’re in a big church with many resources or a small one with only a few volunteers, Every Child Welcome can equip you and other volunteers to say yes with confidence.

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Sheri Dacon has a message for anyone who is afraid of special needs inclusion. If her call to action doesn't rouse you, perhaps nothing will.