Including a Child with Autism in the Children’s Ministry Bible Presentation
I am thrilled to feature today’s guest post from the blogger behind Rhema’s Hope. About a year ago I received an email from Rhema’s mother. Somewhere along the way she had found this blog and had become a regular reader. Rhema’s mother had a specific question and reached out to me. We exchanged emails and for various reasons, I soon realized I was corresponding with an admirable mother and wife as well as a passionate Christ-follower. Rhema’s mother has on occasion blogged about that place where autism and church intersect. But this week she has written one of the most powerful stories about Rhema’s recent experience of participating in their church’s second-grader Bible presentation. I cried and cheered as I read this post.
This story is why I am so passionate about helping churches successfully include children with special needs. Join me in celebrating along with Rhema’s mother…that one more child has been welcomed and included, and more importantly, introduced to “the most important book she’ll ever hold.”
‘These words are spirit and life…’ (John 6:63)
I have long loved a tradition in our church of presenting Bibles to second graders. Each Bible has the child’s name on it, and it’s signed by the pastor. It’s a rite of passage, many of these children receiving their very own Bible for the first time. As the children stand before the congregation I believe they get the message that the entire church is supporting and encouraging them on their journey of faith.
Several weeks ago we received an invitation via e-mail for Rhema to participate in the upcoming Bible presentations. I stared at the e-mail suspiciously for a good ten minutes not knowing what to do. For a moment, I honestly thought I’d received the e-mail in error. I’d forgotten that Rhema would be a second grader now if she had been in a typical school setting. And it never occurred to me that she could or would ever be a part of the church ceremony.
For days I hemmed and hawed, rehearsing the can’ts and won’ts in my mind. She won’t be able to stand still. She can’t even sit in the sanctuary for 10 minutes. She won’t understand what’s going on. She can’t even read. Isn’t the whole point of this to entrust Bibles to children who can read and understand?
Finally, I mentioned it to Brandon. “Do we want Rhema to participate?”
Then I knew. Of course. Of course she would go to the front of the church and accept her Bible just like the others. It would be different for her, yes, but meaningful still. Her Maker, limitless, His imagination and purposes so much bigger than mine.
And this is what I’ve been praying for and talking about for years – to see a more inclusive Church, one that ministers to, embraces and celebrates people with special needs. I’m so thankful for the church communities of which my family is a part.
A Bible for Rhema. Who can say if she’s listening or understanding? Nevertheless, we’ll read it to her. While she’s running and spinning around the room. We’ll pray it over her as we tuck her in at night. We’ll write it out and post it on her door. We’ll say it to her in moments of discouragement and moments of triumph. Because no other word has power like this Word, to teach, heal, encourage, save. Because the word “rhema” means God’s Word spoken, revealed. Because words will come and words will go, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.
As it happens, I was out of town the day of the ceremony. But father, sister and grandmother were there. Brandon walked her to the front and sat with her on the front pew while the others stood and the Pastor said a few words. And then, at just the right time, Rhema received her Bible, the most important book she’ll ever hold. ~ Reposted with permission from Rhema’s Hope Blog