I received a message last Sunday that made my blood boil… Those of you that know me will appreciate that this doesn’t happen very often; I’m rather determined at times but rarely lose my temper. The message I received made me furious, absolutely mad as could be… Livid… I still am, and here’s why…
Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus is recorded as having said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) Now, whether you are a Christian or not, this speaks to me of acceptance, of inclusion, of belonging…
Jesus didn’t say “Let the little children come to me… except that one who can sometimes find things harder to follow and so needs extra support, can often struggle with lots of people and noise so needs help to cope, and can occasionally find it all overwhelming and so needs understanding at these times… that one isn’t invited…” Jesus didn’t say that at all, in fact, as he rebuked the disciples, he said “…and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” All of them, no exceptions…
So why, for the love of God, did I receive this message from a friend who shared the experience she and her family had at their church that morning (I’ve anonymised it, but it doesn’t take away any of the impact…)
“Hi Mark, I wanted to share with you what happened to my family today because I want you to know how much your work is so badly needed and I hope as a result of what you are doing that this never happens to anyone else. I always keep my children in the service with me as they don’t enjoy Sunday School at all. I take them myself as my husband is ill with depression and has not been to church with us for over two years.
Today one of the workers came over and asked my daughter if she would like to come to Sunday School as they were making cards. (She) said no but (my son) got off his seat and went through with the other kids. As I went to sign him in I was told by the Sunday School leader that he was not welcome in Sunday School and they would not take him. I had to try and explain to him why every other child in the church is welcome but he isn’t and try and get him back out the room and into the church service without a meltdown. That was a huge challenge.
I was delighted at (my son) finally wanting to go to Sunday School and while I understand he requires more support than others, I feel that the whole situation was dealt with badly and has put me off going back to church. This is an (denomination mentioned) church who have actively tried to include (my daughter) in things such as welcoming duties and taking up the offering. It sure seems they are happy for (my daughter) to be there but don’t want (my son). Sorry for venting but today more than ever I am so grateful for the work you are doing in churches and hope it prevents other parents being told their child is not welcome. Thanks for listening…”
I trust that you are now, like me, furious about how this family was treated, how utterly wrong the Sunday School leader was, and how much damage has been done as a result. Most of our human feelings and emotions come from a place of either ‘fear’ or ‘love’, and I realise that often reactions such as that displayed by the Sunday School leader come from a place of fear; fear of not being able to manage if things unravel, fear of not being able to cope and provide the support and help needed. I understand that fear, I recognise it, I see it often; it is a human fear born out of thinking that it is all on their shoulders, all their fault if it goes wrong… But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Firstly, and most importantly, this isn’t all down to us… The same Jesus Christ who said “Let the little children come to me…” longs to help us, to give us the same love to share that he has for each of us. To give us the skills and ability to cope and give unconditional love to each child in our care, whatever their needs. He does rather like to be asked… and we all too often don’t…
Secondly, he puts people around us to help… we don’t go on this journey alone. It is so important to learn from others who are a bit further down the road from us. They may be in the same church (parents/carers, people working in education or healthcare, etc.), they may be in a nearby church (other children’s/youth workers)… we rarely seem to connect with the other churches in our area to see what they are doing… but there may be a wealth of knowledge and support there just waiting to be tapped into.
Thirdly, there is wider support out there! My friend mentioned the work I do, but there are others who share the same passion to make a difference, to equip children’s and youth workers with the skills to enable them to accept, include and create places of belonging for everyone! Have a look at the ‘Partners’ tab of www.additionalneedsalliance.org.uk for a few examples of the services we offer, or search for Additional Needs Alliance in Facebook.
We can do better than the response that this family received, we must do better… Jesus didn’t just say important things, he did them; he modelled them in his life so that we could follow his example. He included everyone, no one was left out; in fact he actively accepted and included many that the world rejected… and so should we…
As I said to my friend on Sunday, “ …for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Rant over… work to do!
16th March 2017
Image rights copyright: The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
13 thoughts on “Let ALL The Little Children Come To Me…”
Love the post, but oh the situation.It makes me angry and sad and also makes me want to open my house on a Sunday morning for freestyle prayers, chat and coffee.I find the church model we are following can be very outdated(perhaps by 200 years??!)The reason I’ve been given in the past is that I have to remember that it’s just volunteers we’re dealing with-but I’m afraid I find that a poor excuses they are representing an organisation that should know better and does have access to some first class training.Tell her my heart hurts,I’m sending love,prayers and hugs, to her and her lovely family xx
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Thank you! I know she reads this blog so will be encouraged and supported by your kind thoughts! 🙂
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Reblogged this on includedbygrace and commented:
This doesn’t need to happen. Some thought and planning can avoid it.
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We are members of one of the largest and well known churches in the North West of England. I became a Christian there, got married there and had our daughter dedicated there.
When she was 10, she was repeatedly bullied by the son of one of the ‘popular’ families in Church, right in front of their Sunday School teacher, who did nothing. There was no point in saying anything as that would have caused confrontation and we’d have been seen as trouble makers. However the pastor knows.
Needless to say my daughter didn’t want to go to church any more and we haven’t been for years. Most of our Church ‘friends’ have fallen away, apart from the real ones but I feel let down by the promise the church made at her dedication, ‘We promise to provide an environment to nourish her and lead her to faith in Christ’.
Such a sad story… It just shows how much there is to do to change attitudes and help church to be the welcoming, inclusive, belonging place it should be for everyone… Thanks for sharing… Will keep on working to make a difference for all the daughters and sons out there who have been similarly let down by church.
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I’m afraid I don’t feel livid. Not because your story doesn’t warrant that response, but it’s not shocking anymore as it’s too commonplace. That’s incredibly sad. However, in our age of people being busy, compassion and care seem to be in short supply. I suspect that the children in the account was turned away due to a lack of confidence of people running the Sunday School. Maybe they were under staffed, not prepared or simply intimidated by what they see is a ‘challenge’. I think that many of us church going Christian additional needs families have experienced this, maybe with more of a subtle rejection, maybe just not having our children considered in Sunday School decisions. It’s hard, and I’m afraid that I’ve lost the fire that burns strong enough, to be livid. I do think that the church in general needs to face the way they deal with people who are not like them. It’s all too easy for ‘collective worship’ to be ‘done this way because the majority of people like it that way’.
Keep spreading the awareness Mark!
Thanks Helen… Will keep going for families like this one, like mine, and like yours… Hope and pray it continues to make a positive difference and that the message spreads that church needs to change to meet the needs of all rather than expecting families and children to change to meet the needs of the church.
I share the fury and the passion to share Jesus love to ALL!
To the mum in question- Jesus loves you and your incredible children with all his heart. I so encourage you to find a church where you can see that in practice.