When we celebrate that “he has risen!” we celebrate that Jesus has risen for everyone.
He welcomes those who would have been seen as the bottom of society, the least worthy of his welcome.
Jesus invites everyone to know him
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he models a way of being that turns culture on its head. He welcomes those who would have been seen as the bottom of society, the least worthy of his welcome. He welcomes tax collectors, women, children, and those with disabilities. He looks at those who society rejects, and loves and celebrates every person’s value.
It’s no surprise, then, that right at the end of Matthew, the resurrected Jesus commands his disciples to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” He doesn’t ask them to go to a few, he asks them to go to all nations.
God’s kingdom isn’t just for those who are similar to us, or those we easily relate to. God’s kingdom is for everyone.
Sadly, in our culture, however, people are often still pushed aside because of additional needs. Even within the Church, I’ve heard stories of children turned away from kids ministry, and adults turned away from small groups because of additional needs.
Additional needs are wide ranging, they can include physical needs, learning needs, mental health needs – anything which prevents an individual from being able to participate in everyday activities.
I have met children who cannot walk, talk, eat, or move themselves, and yet carry the most incredible sense of God’s presence with them.
While we may see this as a limitation, through my time as an occupational therapist and part of the additional needs support teams at New Wine United gatherings, I have encountered individuals who have taught me so much about living life in relationship with Jesus. I have met individuals who see the world literally and are not afraid to call out what they see, praying bold prayers. I have been a respite foster carer for an amazing boy with Down’s Syndrome who taught me what it is to worship with joy and abandon. I have met children who cannot walk, talk, eat, or move themselves, and yet carry the most incredible sense of God’s presence with them.
How can we make church accessible to all?
This Easter, let’s choose to remember that, Jesus wants every person to know him, and then be equipped to share the amazing love he has for each of us.
Let’s pray that we have God’s eyes to look beyond our initial judgements and see the value God sees.
We can do this by saying “hello”, actively welcoming people with additional needs into our church communities, even if we’re not always sure how they might respond. Rather than doing something separate for one individual, we can make small changes that enable everyone to join in more easily, such as having the opportunity to move around during the service, something to hold and fidget with, and multi-sensory teaching.
Not sure where to start?
At Easter, there are so many opportunities for us to make the story multi-sensory.
At Easter, there are so many opportunities for us to make the story multi-sensory. We can stand up and run on the spot when we think about the disciples running to the tomb, we could all hold cloth like the grave clothes, we could smell the soil in the garden. Think about the experience of seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, moving and give it a go – ultimately, all of us learn better when we do more than just listen to a story.
As we seek to share Jesus, we can also meet practical needs. For example, there are several toddler and parent groups which actively welcome individuals with additional needs. We could offer to have tea with individuals in a local care home. We could set up a befriending service for adults with mental health needs. I have just set up a charity called Growing Hope which provides free therapy for children and young people with additional needs through local churches. When I provide occupational therapy through KXC in our local clinic, we often offer to pray for individuals who come along to the clinic, giving them the opportunity to hear about Jesus and be welcomed as part of our church community.
It’s incredible to see what God does when we meet a practical need and share our faith at the same time.
It’s incredible to see what God does when we meet a practical need and share our faith at the same time. Could this Easter inspire you to start a regular project that meets a practical need and shares the hope we have in Jesus?
Easter is for everyone, so let’s respond to Jesus’ command to make sure everyone has the opportunity to hear about Jesus this Easter.