An Open Letter to Church Leaders and Pastors
Dear Church Leader or Pastor, This is the time of the year when our churches are planning some of the biggest outreach efforts of the entire year. Christmas performances are beginning, special invitations are being prepared, and services and programs are being planned.
Can I suggest an often overlooked group that really would appreciate your outreach?
What if I told you that there is a group that is 90% unchurched and you don't have to have a passport or drive across the country to find them?
All you have to do is walk across the cubicle at work, step across the aisle at the store, or walk across the room to find them
I'm talking about families of children and individuals with special needs.
Pastor a lot of them are hurting, despairing, and desperate to feel love, acceptance, and mercy right now. The holiday season can be especially stressful, depressing, and taxing for them.
They have more questions than you do answers. Pastor they don't expect you to have all the answers to their questions. They just want to know and feel like you understand where their questions are coming from.
They feel like God has abandoned them, or has turned his back and doesn't care. Some of them feel like he is punishing them. They feel like there is no room for their family at the King's Table.
Every time a survey is done where special needs families are asked what is the least tolerant place for their families, the number one answer is always, "the church."
And we've made them feel that way. Because their view of God is largely based on their view of his people. And we haven't done a good job in many cases of opening our doors and hearts to them.
I think, in most cases, it is not that the church doesn't care, it's just that the church doesn't recognize the problem or does not have the knowledge of how to respond.
I met with a family of an autistic son just this weekend who had visited three churches and didn't feel welcome or encouraged to return by any of them.
They want to know that you believe everyone should be entitled to worship God in the way he uniquely designed them, even if that doesn't look or sound like you are used to seeing or hearing. Pastor we are in an autism epidemic and if it hasn't affected your church yet, get ready because it will.
They want to believe that you also believe that everyone is wonderfully made, created for a plan and a purpose, and destined to glorify God.
They want to see the church love unconditionally, accept mercifully and, and simply say, "you're welcome here."
Pastor, for some of them, they are simply in a mess. And they don't know where to tun or what to do.
But you do.
You know that we are about to celebrate that God stepped out of the bounds of time, and came in the form of a baby to this world to be born in a mess.
A stinky, barnyard stable of a mess. Because he knew that's where he would find most of us.
In a mess.
Pastor I am one of you, and I am also one of them.
I am a pastor who has been blessed with a gift in my 15 year old non-verbal son with profound special needs. Pastor he has taught me more about the nature and character of God than you will ever teach me. He has made me realize and understand God's unconditional love more than you will ever be able to describe it to me.
But pastor these are my people. And my people are dying. Spiritually, mentally, and emotionally- they are dying.
As we enter the season of celebrating the One who brought Life for all, would you please reach out and extend the offer of that life to special needs families this Christmas?
Because if you don't make room for them at the King's Table at Christmas, you are missing out on some of life's greatest gifts and blessings.
"Then he(Jesus) turned to his host. “When you put on a dinner or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:12-14)