We Were Coming to Church But Then…


How many times as a parent of a child with Special Needs have you started this sentence? You woke up Sunday morning and had the best intentions of making it to church. You knew what you were going to wear, you had breakfast planned in your head, you knew what you needed to do to get out the door, “BUT, THEN…”. When my son was younger, I had so many of those “but then” moments. Sometimes they were even at the door going into church. My husband and I were so excited to go to church, but he wasn’t going to have it.

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes my son played me like a fiddle. He would cry and scream and I just didn’t want the volunteers to have to deal with that. I would say, it’s ok, we’ll just take him to church with us. Ok, mom and dad, get real with me right now. How many of you have really GONE to church with your child and left thinking, “Wow, I grew so much in my faith this weekend.”? Can I get a show of hands? Hmm, guessing not a one hand was honestly raised.

But I’m talking about the mornings when you couldn’t even get out the door. Maybe your daughter was having a hard morning and didn’t want to put on that certain shirt because of her sensory processing and it was just too itchy to her. Or maybe your son was overstimulated by your morning routine and just trying to get on his shoes was an ordeal. Or maybe your child, was so glued to his television program, that no amount of front loading them that you were going to turn in off in 1 minute was going to calm him down once you did.

We have all had these moments, so don’t think you are alone. I have great news though, the body of Christ is more than the building you attend. I’m blessed to have a church that has online services, and some weekends going to church means sitting on my couch and doing church. If your church doesn’t have online services, find one that does for that weekend and do church at home. Does this mean that you allow these BUT THEN.. weekends to pile up and become your norm? No way. Here are suggestions:

  1. Talk to the people that run either the Disability Ministry or the Children’s Ministry at your church. Let them know what is happening with your family. Together I’m sure you can come up with a game plan on how to deal with these difficult days and still make it to church.
  2. Create a social story for your child about going to church. Make sure to remind them of all the things they love about church and start reading it a few days before you go to church and especially on the day you are going to church.
  3. Have some type of behavior modification in place that entices your child to go to church. Maybe it’s going to a special place for lunch after church that they love. Or getting to play their favorite games after church. This isn’t something you do every week, but just when you are having trouble getting to church.
  4. Give yourself grace when you can’t make it to church and try again the next week. The Lord understands the desires of your heart. (Acts 15:8a- God knows people’s hearts)

I so want to tell you it will get easier, but some weeks it won’t feel like that. As a mom of a teenager now, I find it has gotten easier, and my prayer is it will be the same for you. So, when the BUT THEN…. weekends come to your house, take a deep breath, know we have a Savior that understands and take it one little step at a time. You got this!


  • Amy Kendall

    Amy Kendall is the Disabilities Minister for over thirteen years at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Before working at Saddleback, she worked for 10 years in the educational sector as a behavior specialist, specializing with children on the autism spectrum. Amy graduated from Pacific Christian College with her BA in Ministry and from Hope International University with her MA in Marriage, Family, Child Counseling. Amy also has a teenage son with multiple disabilities and believes that she is a better minister because she got the blessing to be his mom.

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