As part of Teach One Reach One Ministries’ mission, we are constantly looking at research in a variety of fields to find those nuggets that can transform ministry. Recently, while preparing a workshop for NCYM, I ran across this little nugget of information. Approximately 18% of children under the age of 18 are currently diagnosed as having special needs. And that percentage is growing every year.
Why that number is growing is debatable, but the number itself is significant. Why? Because the vast majority of Christians believe that people with special needs are incapable of making an informed decision about becoming a Christian. So they never give them the information they will need to make that decision or talk with them about making it.
A few years ago, I came across a researcher who had used a few educational tools and extrapolated the results to apply to the needed cognitive ability to reach the age of accountability. His conclusion? At least 80% of people with special needs have the capacity to reach an informed decision about becoming a Christian at some point in their lives. It may be at age 20 or 30 instead of 12 or 13 (the average age of accountability for children without special needs), but they will reach it. Yet, most of the people in that 80% are never given that opportunity.
That’s just not acceptable. There are too many stories of people who have children with special needs being asked to not return because their kids are a “problem”. Too many stories of children with special needs being stuck in the corner of a children’s Bible class with a coloring sheet while the rest of the children are taught a lesson and engaged in a meaningful activity. Too many stories of teens with special needs sitting on the sidelines totally ignored by the youth minister, volunteers and peers. Too many stories of rejection and isolation caused by Christians who are supposed to be reflecting God’s love to them. This has to stop now!
We realize that perhaps you and your volunteers aren’t sure what to do. That’s why we have developed tools to help you train your volunteers. We have several chapters in our latest book, Ministering to Marginalized Children dedicated to helping you train volunteers and prepare your church family to effectively welcome and minister to children and teens with special needs and their families. We beg you to read those chapters. (The book is a free ebook on our website.) Search our blog for past posts filled with lots of tips, ideas and tools. Please don’t ignore 18% of our population. Help them learn what God wants them to know. Give them the opportunities to be obedient to God in becoming a Christian and living the Christian life. You may just be surprised at how quickly your church grows!