I would like to share four ways that people within the church can be more welcoming and accepting to families with differences.
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Happy Saturday, Amber.

Today I invited Amy Keslinke to share some heartfelt advice with members of our community who desire to make families with special needs feel more welcome in their local church. -Sarah Koontz

My 2-year-old son is deaf and has significant developmental delays.

Although we are new to this journey, we aren’t new to the dynamic that our family’s special circumstances bring to community settings like the church.

While I’ve learned that most people’s intentions are good, it’s also true that the traditional structure of the church and the way people interact in it can feel isolating to families who have different circumstances, like special needs.

With those good intentions in mind, I would like to share four ways that people within the church can be more welcoming and accepting to families with differences.

1 -
Don’t make assumptions.

As Proverbs 3:6 (NIV) famously states, "lean not on your own understanding."

Being a family with special needs is not a constant struggle, but struggles pop up in all sorts of ways without any warning to prepare for them.

So, even if I’m smiling and happy, don’t assume that everything is ok and I do not need encouragement.

At the same time, don’t assume that families like mine are too sad or find it too daunting to take part in the community.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul describes being given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him. He says, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ... That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:8-10 NIV)."

People often assume that families with challenges are focused on just trading them away. The beautiful truth is, many of us are raised higher by these circumstances, despite wanting better for our loved ones.

2 -
Ask questions.

Most families with special needs are not offended by questions; they appreciate them.

Asking questions shows that you want to understand rather than just pretend we are like everyone else because we both know that we’re not.

When people ask me questions, I feel something light up inside of me.

Everyone wants to feel seen, and being asked about my son’s prognosis and how it affects our lives makes me feel understood and accepted for the person I am right now.

Being asked about our lives, somehow, takes a little bit of the weight off of my shoulders. It helps me to know that someone wants to understand a bit better.

3 -
Remove the barriers.

If you do not yet know what barriers exist for families with special needs in your church, this is an excellent opportunity to ask questions!

Jesus said, "when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed (Lk 14:13 NIV)."

We know that it poses a bit of a challenge to make the church fully accessible for all families like us.

We know that it takes extra volunteers, who are already hard to come by, to run a room for autistic children.

We know that those volunteers need extra training.

We know that having a sign language interpreter requires an extra expense if you can’t find a volunteer.

We know it’s not easy. But so did Jesus. "Although they cannot repay you," He said, "you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Lk 14:13 NIV)."

4 - Step out of your comfort zone.

We know that reaching out to families with special needs often requires taking a step outside your comfort zone.

Trust us; we’ve been there!

If you think about it, every connection you make within the church, and every new thing you try requires at least a little bit of discomfort.

Just like the growing pains children have, growing in Christ requires that we experience some discomfort.

With a little practice, we can get comfortable being uncomfortable.

As much as I love my church community, we could do more to meet all people where they are.

I know it’s not simple.
I know it takes time and resources.
But I also know that it’s so worth it.

My challenge to you is for you to take this new knowledge and expand your vision of your church and the people in it.

Things may not be as you think they are.

As a family with differences, we often go unseen, and our needs go unmet.

Just because you can’t see us, doesn’t mean we’re not there.
And, if we’re not there, we probably really, really want to be.

"They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’" Matthew 25:44-45 NIV

- Amy Keslinke
Amy Keslinke strives to help women feel in control and show up as their best selves amid challenging circumstances. A mother of two young children, one with severe bilateral hearing loss, congenital heart disease, and developmental delays, Amy believes in sharing her story and yours as a way to bring freedom to others. When she’s not writing or teaching, you can find her reading, exercising, or playing with her kids in the Chicago suburbs. You can find her at and on Instagram or Facebook.

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