The Reality of Welcoming People With Developmental Disabilities

I am committed to welcoming people with disabilities, both physical and developmental, into the church. But there is a danger that we romanticize what this looks like. Sure I can share some beautiful stories but that is not all that there is.

I would like to speak specifically about those with developmental disabilities. I was thrown in the deep end as a youth pastor. I had no idea how to welcome a girl with developmental disabilities. She frequently asked all the same questions and there were times that I didn’t have patience.

Sometimes it is not enough to just believe in the importance of welcoming all people. Pastors lead a church that includes all people. But what happens when certain people want all your time and don’t understand boundaries? What happens when you are talking to a new visitor but someone else wants to dominate your time?

None of this makes me doubt the importance of welcoming people of all abilities. In fact, people with developmental disabilities, even or especially when they make things complicated, remind me of what’s important. Ministry is not about how smoothly things go but about God being at work in the midst of our activity.

I come at this not just as a pastor but as a father of two children with developmental disabilities. I recently wrote about our experience with our son. I’m thankful his church is working through this.

The truth is that all ministry is messy. And that is what makes it so amazing.

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