This is the second in a series of posts written by a mother of a son with autism, reflecting on her experience with her church community. Some of her observations serve as challenges to the way we do church, while others should be encouraging to the people who have made a difference in the lives of her and her family. The names in this story are fictional, but their experiences are not.
We loosely belong to a support group – I say ‘loosely’ because they go bowling a lot and Michael does not do well at bowling lanes. Often my husband is too sick on the days they get together which means would mean only one of us being there to provide care for our son. This group meets monthly for an activity and lunch. It may be McDonalds before bowling, a picnic before a visit to the Agricultural Museum or lunch and activity at the church. Activities at the church are Michael’s favourite because he loves running in the church and throughout the sanctuary.
Annually this group hosts a pool party at one of the organizer’s houses, a BBQ at someone else’s house and an annual Christmas get-together. There is a pastor who supports the group and is frequently in attendance and the church finances the group. The group is for families with children with disabilities regardless of their age. These families might not even attend church or may attend a different church.
Everyone is welcome, which is amazing!
There tends to be many people on their contact list but there is a small core group that attends regularly. Apparently more people have been going recently. The challenge is that not all activities are suitable for everyone. For many, like us, unless we are able to bring two adults to provide support attendance poses too much of a challenge and is no longer enjoyable.
I love the people there. We have something in common and we understand and sympathize with each other’s struggles.
Although the regular attendees have adult children they’ve been extremely encouraging to us. They are often older, come from different walk of lives and are not all Christians, but we have this disability journey in common and we can be completely open with each other… When I have time to sit down and talk, that is!
The main organizer of this group has a real heart for this mission. She calls me regularly, prays daily for us and buys the kids gifts at Christmas (they dote on the siblings).
I think for anything to be successful in fostering ‘belonging’ in a church setting, someone who has a child with a disability needs to be involved. They have ‘been there’ and really understand the needs of the family with a child with a disability. I haven’t heard of any other support group quite like this one.