6 ways special needs families can bless their church

June 13, 2018

My son has autism—the type that sometimes makes me want to show up to church at the very last minute and leave right after the sermon ends. He makes loud noises with his nose and mouth, pulls on me, and wants to run full speed in every direction.

While he is certainly a blessing to me, being out in public and being disruptive can sometimes be hard. As a family with special needs, it’s tempting to back down from visiting with people and serving in our church because of limitations that the disability can pose, the fear of rejection, or because we’re just plain tired.

From one family with special needs to another, however, I want to encourage you to use the unique situation the Lord has put you in to bless your church. Although your child’s disability may feel like a burden at times, I urge you to allow God to use your situation for his glory.

Here are six ways you can do this:

1. Don’t hide: Attending a small church often makes me feel like my son’s disability is amplified. It’s not quite as loud as a big church, and his movements are more noticeable. In the middle of a sermon, it’s not unusual to see my son’s feet in my face or for him to jump up in an instant to stand on his chair. His sniffling and humming make me paranoid because I don’t want to distract anyone from worshipping.

What I’ve learned, though, is that people are okay with us there. They love us. If he isn’t extremely loud, we can stay in service, and people are happy to see him bobbing up and down while singing. Even our pastor has occasionally mentioned his joy when Jacob claps at certain things said in the sermon.

It makes us so happy when people ask us if we were able to make through the entire service with him. They are cheering us on. I sometimes assumed people didn’t want us there instead of allowing people to be the church for us. Making the disability visible to everyone will help to increase awareness, compassion, and understanding. Don’t hide in the back. Allow the church to love you and your child.

2. Help start a special needs ministry: Speak to your pastor about the possibility of starting a ministry that serves individuals with special needs. The Bible calls us to share the gospel with all people (Mark 16:15), and families with special needs often have nowhere to attend church because they don’t feel that they can leave their child safely anywhere.

The compassion that people can learn through serving with special needs families is just the beginning of how you can bless your church.

Many pastors may already be considering this, so be ready with your ideas. And wait patiently if it doesn’t begin at once. The ministry can start small with a buddy system in which people volunteer to go alongside individuals with special needs to their Bible studies and let parents attend worship or a Bible study alone occasionally.  

3. Offer to serve in the special needs ministry: No one knows more about special needs than you. Special needs parents are often self-educated research experts who have learned how to change diets, adjust learning methods, attend special education meetings, use equipment, and more. It’s tempting to want to sit back and allow others to step up and serve your family.  

We want people to feel as passionate about special needs as we do, yet, people usually don’t know a lot about special needs or  just don’t know where to start. An “expert” like you could make a huge difference. Offer to be a buddy or to train buddies or volunteers.  Offer ways to adjust curriculum to meet the needs of your children. Parent involvement is more important in special needs ministry than in any other because each child’s needs are so unique.  

4. Join a small group or Bible study: Hiding away in the back of the church is appealing when life feels crazy. It’s scary to allow people in to see your “different” way of life. However, God wants us to live in fellowship with other believers. You must trust that people who love the Lord will love and accept your family, disability and all.

My husband and I had to offer to host a Bible study in our home due to my son’s constant elopement from safety. This has been a source of great encouragement for us.  People come to our home every week and worship God and fellowship despite my son’s frequent interruptions of song and humming. We feel connected in a deep and meaningful way. Being a part of a small group has grown our faith tremendously. In the same way, I encourage you to allow fellow believers to love on you and to learn from you as well as opening your heart to others.  

5. Don’t get offended easily: I’ve heard it said that people are often on edge when speaking to people about sensitive subjects because everyone gets so easily offended these days.  If you’re living life with other believers, remember that no one is perfect. It is inevitable that someone will say something offensive.

My rule is to always give people the benefit of the doubt (1 Cor. 13). If they ask you something in an insensitive way, instead of being upset, explain the better way to say it (Prov. 19:11).  If it isn’t a big deal, try to see the point they are attempting to make instead of pointing out their mistakes. Are they being inquisitive? Are they offering suggestions for help? Yes, you’ve probably heard all of the remedies anyone could ever offer, but remember to show grace because those people have good intentions with love in their hearts for you.

6. Serve in other areas: This is hard—serving in other areas of the church with a child with special needs can be difficult and messy. But, ministry is difficult and messy.  Since our church is a church plant, we set up and tear down the entire sanctuary area each Sunday. I help my son fold chairs and put away items that would take another person half the time. However, serving helps increase our family’s faith, and it helps us feel like we’re part of our church family.  

A church member told me recently that even if the church is gathering to do something that we could not do, they would love for us to simply be there with them. It had never occurred to me to just be as involved as we can. We don’t have to serve in the same way everyone else does, but we do need to serve for the benefit of the church and for our own hearts. It may not look like any other family, but it can still be a major blessing.


For a long time, I thought that our family couldn’t contribute to our church as significantly or meaningfully as other families due to our limitations. I have learned that God has called us not only to a different type of parenting, but also a different type of serving. Even though we cannot do everything that other families can, it is valuable to have many different members in the church that all serve in unique ways. The compassion and understanding that people can learn through interacting and serving with individuals with special needs and their families is just the beginning of how you can bless your church. Don’t be fooled in to hiding in the background, special needs family. Serve your church in the best way that you can, and bless them through your circumstances.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24