I recently read an article called #FAIL in youth ministry and how to deal with distractions while preaching (you can read it here). Students need to understand the rules and when they don’t follow them during service, a youth leader needs to come along side and correct that behavior.
The illustration that was used in the article turns out to be a special needs student who was the distraction. Granted, the youth pastor or the leaders didn’t know about this student at the time, but the lessons learned from this situation didn’t reflect that they were a special needs student who couldn’t control their actions.
So here are some lessons that could have been learned:
1. Our youth service is not more important than people. I don’t know of very many churches that accept special needs children and their families. If they do, they are very rare. My son, who has special needs, makes all kinds of noises in church that would definitely count as a distraction, but people have grown to accept my son and love on him every time they see him. ::You should see him worship God ::
2. We can use that situation as an opportunity to teach students to love and respect everyone. Teenagers love to be in their groups that are comfortable. Let’s get them to get out of the coziness of their friends to reach out in love to these students. This is not a one time love, but it has to be shown over time.
3. After knowing that the student has special needs, why not create a buddy system for these students where a student would be with them the entirety of the youth service. It would create a sense of peace in the parents to know that someone cares about their child, and buddy would be able to help curb the response of the peers wondering what is happening.
These are just a few suggestions. I am still trying to figure out how to minister to special needs students and their families. I know that it is a huge mission field for sure. If my oldest son didn’t have the needs, I might have reacted the same way. It is my world that I live in all the time, and for a church to rally around these students would shine brightly for Jesus.
Bill Peterson is the youth pastor of Crossfire, a ministry of the Worship Center in Leesburg, VA.