Autism and the Church, Part III

I was very amazed at the outpouring of responses I received to my first “Autism and the Church” post.  I cannot thank you enough for the amazing feedback.  It strengthened my resolve to explore this issue further, not just for my son’s sake, but for the sake of all of our children.  This is, obviously, an issue that is close to many of our hearts, and it is an issue where, in many cases, action needs to be taken.

First, let me say, that although I didn’t take an official count, I would guess that for every horrifying story I was told about a child with autism who was not welcomed in church, I heard at least 3 more stories about how wonderful some churches are in assisting families affected by autism.  That is GREAT news. Some churches really have it together.  They have seen the new autism epidemic and they have stepped up to the challenge, implementing great programs to ensure that everyone feels welcome.  However, even if there is only one church that is unwilling or unable to accommodate a child with autism, ANY child with autism, well, that is one church too many. Some of the stories I heard were shocking.  As a Christian, I was ashamed and deeply hurt at the lack of compassion and caring that seem to surround some of these churches.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45).  If one of these experiences was yours, let me assure you, that church was not acting in Christ-like love, and they WILL be held accountable for that one day.  I promise you that.

I heard from a few people that there are organizations set up tohelp churches begin inclusion programs for special needs.  That is amazing news!  There is a WEALTH of information available online, for free.  The most exciting thing that happened for me after that first blog was that I was invited by Amy Fenton Lee to attend The Orange Conference Special Needs Track in Atlanta last week.  I was given a free press pass and was able to attend several of the workshops geared to educating churches on setting up a special needs program.

First, let me say, Amy Fenton Lee ROCKS!  Her blog,, is full of SO MUCH information to help your church get started in their special needs ministry.  Amy was the speaker at two of the workshops I was able to attend.  She is a lady “in the know.”  She is not a special needs mom. She is not an accredited special needs professional. She is a church volunteer who has been given a heart for special needs ministries.  She knows the legalities and the administrative issues involved in setting up a special needs program, and she also knows some amazing techniques to use in the classroom setting that will help not only special needs kids, but all kids.

She gave me a copy of her DVD, “Surviving to Thriving,” which is a valuable tool that any church can use on creative ways of reaching and helping children with special needs.  I wouldn’t hesitate to send any church in Amy’s direction for assistance about inclusion programs.  If she doesn’t know the answer to a question or dilemma, chances are, she can find someone who does, or point you in the right direction.

Besides being blessed by the amazing workshops I attended at the conference, I was also blessed by the amazing special needs ministry workers I met at the conference.  Many of the people that I met were parents of special needs children who got into the ministry that way; however, quite a few were not.  Some of them just seemed to sort of fall into the special needs ministry unintentionally. Those are my favorites!  Those are the people that I truly believe are a God-send.  Some had no idea that they would ever be doing something like this, but they fell in love with kids like mine and realized that is where their ministry is. That warms my heart.  As an autism mom, I know that our kids can be really difficult for other people to get to know and love.  To meet people who choose to love and help our kids is an amazing blessing.

One theme that I heard from several people at the conference was most interesting to me.  I heard several people mention that churches are struggling with these inclusion programs because it is unfamiliar.  It is not something that they had to deal with very often in the past; now, all of a sudden, they have this huge influx of children on the autism spectrum that they have to minister to. That sentiment made me think of the media’s whole “it’s just better diagnosing” slant.  All you have to do is talk to the people on the front end of working with children to know that is an outright lie.  Teachers who have worked in the schools for a number of years, and anyone who has worked with children, like children’s ministry workers, can tell you that children have changed.  These issues that we are seeing now are not something that was seen 20 years ago.  Inclusion ministries are largely brand-new.  Some of them may have existed ten years ago, but on a much smaller scale.  I applaud the churches that are standing up to the challenge and beginning inclusion ministries, but, at the same time, I wonder: Where is the outrage?  If churches see these differences, and are aware that this is a new issue, why aren’t we seeing more churches taking a stand on stopping this epidemic?  The way I see it, we are witnessing God’s children becoming sicker and sicker.  I believe the church has an obligation to try to figure out why. We need to stop being afraid of what the answer might be.  Some of us already know.  It’s time to stop being afraid to “go against the grain” and to take a stand to protect our children.

For now, though, we do need to make sure that more of our children have a place in society’s congregations. Like I mentioned, there are a number of agencies and individuals out there that want to help churches with their special needs inclusion programs.  However, it is not an easy task, and each church will have to make the decision to start such a program.  It will take time, money, space, and volunteers to make sure that all kids are included and will benefit.  The best advice I heard last week is that each church should start slowly, with the existing members that you already have in your church.  If you have a child with autism in your church that isn’t included at the moment, make that your first priority.  Then, once you have all of those children included, you can move on to recruiting more people into your program.  As Amy said in one of her workshops, “Only do what you can do WELL.”   Then continue moving toward long-term outreach goals. Special needs programs will not only bring people into your church, but they will keep them in your church.

Lastly, I decided to create a “Plan of Action” to try to get my church to minister to my son.  I thought I would share it with you.  I welcome any feedback you may have for me! 

B.K.’s “Operation No-Child-Not-Included” Plan of Action:

1. While waiting for my home church to develop a plan of care for my son, find another local church that can meet my son’s needs for the time being, so that my family can be spiritually fed together.  (This is partially complete; I have found such a church and we are working on a transition plan to get him involved.)

2.  Make sure my son is more visible to church members and staff, so that he is not forgotten.  (Since we may be somewhere else on Sunday mornings, I think Sunday night and Wednesday night appearances will suffice.)

3.  Begin flooding my Children’s Ministry Director and Pastor of Education’s email inboxes with helpful websites, tips, articles, etc., about special needs in the church.  Send off for Special Needs equipment/sensory toy catalogs to put in their hands.  That’s much more difficult to ignore than emails!

4. If that doesn’t work, start flooding my Senior Pastor’s email inbox.  Bring my son to the lobby at the end of worship services to shake the pastor’s hand.

5. Remember, DON’T GET MY FEELINGS HURT.  Stay strong and focused.  I truly believe that most churches don’t have inclusion programs because the leaders are scared.  It is not an easy task and it won’t be without difficulties and conflicts.  However, it won’t be without blessings, either.

Please join me on this National Day of Prayer to pray for our churches to wake up and help our kids. And let’s also pray for this epidemic to come to an end as soon as possible.  God bless!



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6 Responses to Autism and the Church, Part III

  1. Beach says:


    After struggling for years to get our big church to finally allow the “undesirables” to sit in their pews, they have finally done Inclusive Church in a big way. Very proud of themselves too. And seemingly proud of the fact that they have attracted SO MANY of these kids. Not wondering for a single minute WHY there are so many or WHAT can be done about it. Nope, no outrage. Just happily patting themselves on the back for being so big and open minded to let them inside. “We love them just the way they are!”….. and more than happy to leave them like that.

    And quick to shut me up when I try to talk to anyone about how to help recover these children and they just about lock the doors when I mention vaccines. Nope, no outrage.

    These are the same people who prayed for my sick son, but upon his recovery, became indignant to learn that we had used bio-medical therapies, and then declared, “He must not have had autism, he must not have been as sick as we thought.” Perhaps they don’t believe in prayer or a God that heals.

    But Jesus healed everyone He ever met. He never loved a person, and then left them in their sickness or sin. He didn’t say, “I love you just the way you are.” No, He loved them, forgave them their sins, healed their infirmities, and sent them on a new life!

    So this current church mindset is NOT the way of Jesus.

    In a town invested in big healthcare (insurance companies, hospitals, institutes, etc) you know the church leadership is populated by these same business-social-political leaders, and thats where the money hits the road. Big churches are pretty much big corporations that answer to the stock-holders, in this case, the wealthy, connected members and community leaders.

    So if they want to look good doing “ministry” to kids with autism, that’s great PR. But no way no how are they going to stand up for the children that have been injured by their corporations, ignored by their politicians, or dropped by their insurance goliaths. These men are the elders and deacons and session leaders. They have been blinded by the same cloak of darkness that allowed the epidemic to begin. Or they bought the much-publicized propaganda that autism is genetic or a psychological disorder. Its much easier and more profitable to run off the warrior moms and DAN doctors and keep the status quo.

    No, do not expect outrage or support from the church in the war on this epidemic.

    • B.K. says:

      Oh, Beach. I SO understand everything that you just said and I feel those very same frustrations. I myself came across an anti-biomed, pro-pharma autism mom right there in my very own church, and instead of us being able to come together in agreement to help our children be included, we are now divided and not speaking. Which is exactly what the enemy wanted! The issues of vaccines and pharma can be polarizing and be a barrier to worship. What helps me is to remember that I need to extend grace to those in church who do not understand nor believe what is happening…the same grace that God extended to me. It took me a long, long time before I understood what is really happening, and I have to admit, it wasn’t because I was smart enough to figure it out for myself or because I listened to the stories of of other moms or even because of what I witnessed with my own two eyes. It was a gentle, gradual revelation from the Holy Spirit that woke me up and helped me to see. Blinders were over my eyes that had to be removed. Because I once was blind, I am better able to understand and extend grace to those around me who still do not “get it”.

      I have learned that I can’t expect an entire group of people, like my church, to suddenly change what they have been led to believe for so long–that vaccines are a “gift”. Rather, what I think I can do, and am doing, is letting my light shine and letting God use my testimony for the immediate people around me–people in my Sunday School class who have gotten to know me. It can’t happen in a day, but I CAN tell you that there are several of them that are starting to THINK and QUESTION. I can’t control whether they vaccinate their kids or not, or even whether they think I am just a nutter. But by living my life out loud, sharing my testimony, and extending them God’s grace, I believe God is using me to speak to them. All I can do is what He has given me, and also pray for them. Then I have to leave the results up to Him. It’s going to take a divine revelation for them, just like it did for me.

      What is important is that we are all free to worship Him. That is what, I believe, church is all about.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. AmyFentonLee says:

    B.K. –
    It was an honor and blessing to meet you at OC12. I LOVE this post! And I love what’s happening in churches across America (one by one)… looking for help to include all these precious kiddos who are so gifted yet different. Keep praying and thanks for your cheerleading. It means the world to me! – Amy

  3. B.K. says:

    Thanks Momma T. That was a reoccurring theme at the conference…use your teens! And that was something that I was hesitant about before. But they said that often times, youth special needs workers find their ” calling” that way, and go on to major in special Ed. Good luck in your church!

  4. Momma T. says:

    Wow, BK- this post really spoke to my heart. As a parent to 4 medically fragile kids, with ASD… We haven’t been able to sustain any form of church attendance, yet my heart longs for this gift. For me, but even more so my kids.

    The point of those whom have fallen into the groups of supporters for their churches challenged population, unintentionally… Now that speaks to me. These are the people whom have literally saved our lives outside church, so why not the same within.

    I recently contacted our church youth ministry to develop a peer buddy advocate training relationship for the family support center we are rolling out. I think it’s so important to start building advocates and acceptance at a young age. That’s where we are starting now. We will get to grown ups from there on.

    Momma T.

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