Sammy never let his paralysis due to spina bifida slow him down. He loved Sunday mornings when he greeted everyone at the church door with a big smile. Through countless hospital stays he kept a picture of Jesus by his bed. “Sammy dealt with suffering better than any of us,” said his dad. “Even at an early age, he seemed to sense that Jesus understood.” When Sammy died at age 10, his church family celebrated his life with colorful balloons soaring heavenward.
While some children with special needs may not grasp the theological concept of grace, they can all experience God’s love in unique ways. Yet, many churches seem to be confused about how to meet these children’s spiritual needs. Are they sinners in need of the gospel? Or do they have some free ticket to heaven because they are disabled? What we believe concerning their salvation is critical to how we minister to them. It isn’t necessary to fully understand their intellectual capacity to introduce them to Jesus.
Seven-year-old Kyle’s parents were Christians before he was born with cerebral palsy, and relied on the church’s prayers and support through tough times. “We believe Kyle knows Jesus to the best of his ability,” said his mother, Annemarie. “When you ask Kyle who’s in his heart, his whole face lights up, and he replies, ‘God.’ When stressed, he hums worship songs. Kyle is a huge testimony, especially to my parents, who don’t know Jesus.”
The key to sharing Jesus with kids like Sammy and Kyle is to build trusted friendships with them. As their teacher and mentor, you’ll open their hearts to God’s love. Children with special needs are often discouraged, tired, wounded, and isolated. They may feel like “spiritual orphans.” Tell them about times you felt these things and how God encouraged you. Rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to help you shape their concepts of faith and to answer their questions, including:
- Does God love me? 1 John 4:7-10, 1 Corinthians 12:4
- Am I bad? Romans 3:23; 6:23
- Can I go to heaven? John 3:16, 1 John 1:9
You can be a catalyst in helping a child with special needs experience God’s love in amazing, life-changing ways!
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