When Special Needs Inclusion & Safety are at Odds with Each Other

This past weekend I got a private email from Terri Mauro, the writer behind About.com's Special Needs Children.  The Special Needs Children sub-category of About.com has a sizable readership, primarily consisting of parents of children with special needs.  Terri Mauro had received a question from one of her website's readers, who was uncharacteristically NOT a special needs parent.  This reader was concerned that a child with special needs was posing a safety threat inside her church.  The children's ministry volunteer/parent/reader shared in her comment of several alarming examples about the child's behavior, including the fact the young student had recently brought a weapon to church.  The reader was disturbed that her children's ministry director was less concerned about safety than for making a child with special needs feel welcome.  It could be deducted from the reader's comment that her family was contemplating leaving the church over their safety concerns.    


Knowing that I address special needs inclusion in the church on my own blog, The Inclusive Church,Terri Mauro contacted me to chat about her reader's comment and question.  Terri invited me to respond to her reader and to weigh in on the subject of safety and special needs.  Today, About.com's Special Needs Children ran a new article all about my online exchange with this reader, Should Churches Have Zero Tolerance Policies?  What are your thoughts on this subject matter? 

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Comment by Erica Kimrey on October 10, 2014 at 8:47am

This is a complex dilemma for sure. I wonder if we are missing the point though in simply discussing policy and whether or not the child can attend church. What I mean by this is that those things are meant to fence the ministry and provide safety. They don't define the ministry that is happening overall.

In this case I feel a possible breach of policy is leading to a shepherding opportunity. The schools cannot speak into lives the way the church can. I feel like walking through life with this family and digging into what is really going on is first priority. The schools would simply suspend and ostracize them. We can approach it differently with hope for lasting change. Discipleship is what children's ministry is really about. A child bringing a weapon warrants more than a safety concern but an intense need to get into their lives quickly and deeply, especially if it is a child with special needs. Is this making any sense? I'll quit rambling now. =)


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