By Not Known
Time passes quickly. I have been serving in ORPC for three and a half months now. By God’s grace, I am knowing more members and visiting the sick, as well as managing the challenges of ministry work.
One of the challenges is managing regular worshippers with special needs. I got to know one of them quite well and even spoke to his mother and his counsellor to understand more about him. He is an autistic young man.
People with autism lack social skills. They may not be able to interact well with others. For example, they would focus on topics they are keen on. Social norms are a challenge for them, and they may not realize that it is not appropriate to stand or walk around during the worship services, interrupt someone’s conversation or to get someone’s attention inappropriately. Due to the lack of social communication skills, a person with autism may be more easily provoked to anger and may use aggressive language or words of threat. They may have a desire for friendship but their approaches could come across as inappropriate or ill-timed.
Personally, my experiences with them tested the limits of my love and forgiveness for another person. I reckon that when God allows people with special needs into our midst so that we will depend on God’s love to help them and to accept them. We need godly wisdom to keep a healthy boundary instead of giving in to all their requests. I believe that Proverbs 15:1 has an encouragement for us: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. I thank God for these “Dos” and ‘Don‘ts” from a counsellor will help us:
– When giving instructions, be patient and believe in them that they can do it.
– Praise them when they have done well or followed instructions. Be specific with your praise.
– Acknowledge the efforts that they put in, affirm or encourage them.
– Be sincere about receiving calls and text messages when you decide to give your contact number or address. Communicate how frequently you would like to receive their telephone calls, for example, just once a day or once a week.
– Do not use degrading or vulgar language.
– Do not administer any disciplinary action. Let the Leaders manage the situation.
– Do not buy gift items or give them money except during festive season (it may seems cruel but it becomes a big problem when the church becomes a begging ground)
– Do not give your contact number or address if you have no intention to communicate with them during the week. Say no politely but firmly.
Finally, pray for these worshippers with special needs. Pray for ourselves to have compassion, understanding and wisdom how to befriend them. Pray for us, Pastors and Leaders in setting healthy boundaries with them to be included in our community. Pray that they will be receptive to our advice and to experience the great love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”