Last summer Relevant Magazine published an article entitled “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church.” The article was helpful and I agreed with most of it.
As a faithful, committed church-goer, I’ve always frowned on “church-hoppers.” You know, people who up and leave a church the minute something happens that they don’t like, whether it’s a change in worship style or a comment made from the pulpit.
The problem is, all too often in church, there’s this underlying idea that if we DO choose to leave, it must be because something’s wrong with US.
At least that’s how it was for me.
I felt guilty for even considering the possibility of leaving the church I’d served for 16 years.
And those of us who deal with special needs in our families may have an even harder time.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that church is a completely different experience for us than for families without disability. There are issues and nuances and conversations we must have that “regular” families never have to consider.
Church attendance becomes a completely different ball game.
The last thing special needs parents need is more guilt heaped upon their already burdened shoulders.
- You don’t need to be reprimanded and told you aren’t doing enough, serving enough, giving enough.
- You don’t need to be scolded for being upset when your child’s needs aren’t met.
- You don’t need to feel guilty when you realize that there are core issues at stake, and that you disagree with how they’re being handled.
My family found ourselves in a situation almost two years ago in which we chose to leave one church and move to another. It was heartbreaking but necessary. And I’m hoping that what I learned will be helpful to you.
There will be a total of five posts in this series, each with a different reason why it might be time to think about moving on.
Special Needs Families, Is It Time to Leave Your Church?
Reason #1: You experience a pattern of not being accepted or wanted
We were members of our former church for a long time. We were active and faithful and it was home.
We never even remotely considered leaving.
But slowly, incidents and situations started to arise with my autistic son. People began to look at us differently.
Not ALL the people. Just a few. But the wheels were set in motion.
Fast forward a few years and it was clear: the attitude toward kids like mine was not as positive as we had hoped.
There were exceptions, of course. But the unspoken expectation was that children be seen and not heard.
For a long time I felt guilty because I was experiencing this shame of being looked at funny, of being talked to constantly about the “problem” that was my child, even of being pitied.
I thought something was wrong with me. That I needed to work on my relationship with God, pray more, serve more, read my Bible more, forgive more, try harder.
And so I did those things.
To no avail.
No matter how hard I tried, the attitudes of some of the people didn’t changed. Unfortunately, they were people in positions of authority and their attitudes trickled down. There was no importance placed on ministering to children with special needs.
And because we were so obviously a family with special needs, we felt unwanted and unwelcome.
It started out small, with just a few incidents and comments here and there, but over the course of several years, a pattern emerged.
And the tendency of a pattern is to continue. To stick with the status quo.
Special needs families, you deserve better.
If you find that the church you’re attending is consistently causing you to feel unwanted or unwelcome, don’t be ashamed. It is not your fault.
And it may be time to think about trying something new.
I’ll be continuing this series tomorrow with another reason for you to consider. I hope you’ll come back!
Thanks as always for reading,
Read the rest of the series: