We are reading through the New Testament in 2022. Find the reading plan here

The Body of Christ

By Shannon Pugh

If you’ve been around IBC for more than about two minutes, you’ve probably heard that our strategy is to grow in Christ, connect in community and join the mission. Every person who walks through the doors of IBC is encouraged to do these three things.

But unfortunately, not all families are welcomed at all churches. There are a variety of reasons that a church might be less-than-welcoming to a particular family, but probably the most universal reason is that they have a member with special needs. Even here in the US, even in the most loving of churches, it is still acceptable to turn away a family because they have a child (of any age) with autism, intellectual disabilities, physical challenges, etc. The excuses are polite, and often legitimate: “I’m sorry, we don’t have a special needs ministry here”, or “We’re just not equipped to handle his/her needs”. But the message (intentional or not) is the same, “you are not welcome here. You cannot join our community or our mission. You’ll have to go somewhere else.”

Think back to your first time coming to IBC, whether that was for a church service, an event, with a friend, etc. Were you nervous? I was! I wondered things like, “Will I know the songs?”, “Will anyone say hi to me?”, “Will I know where to go?” But it never crossed my mind that someone might stop me and say “I’m sorry, we are not equipped for your needs. You’ll have to go somewhere else.” Can you imagine? Sadly, families with special needs hear that so much that many of them just give up. They accept the message that’s been given to them over and over — a message that is certainly not in line with Jesus’ ministry and heart.

Here at IBC, we want to reverse that message. We want ALL people to know that they have a place here — that they are not just tolerated, or even welcomed, but needed and desired! God makes it clear that these are our brothers and sisters, created in his own image. They have gifts to share and a place in the body. Don’t believe me? 1 Corinthians 12:27 says it pretty plainly: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (emphasis mine) When we turn away families with special needs, we are cutting off hands and ears and lips!

So we are intentional about making a place for every single person who might walk through the doors of IBC. But that’s not enough! Because some families are no longer willing to take the risk to walk in and be rejected – again. Or maybe they don’t know Jesus at all… they have no idea that he accepts them just as they are and has a place for them in his body.

Our Special Needs ministry here is partnered with an organization called “Victory Flows” to put on Fun & Freedom events for families. As Jesus says in Luke 14, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town… to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” These events do just that! Families from all over the Metroplex come to IBC for five hours of relaxation, fellowship, and acceptance. The parents get a chance to eat a kid-free meal, get a massage, watch sports, pray, reconnect as a couple, meet new friends, or even take a nap. Meanwhile their kids (of all ages!) enjoy bounce houses, games, crafts, dance, music, new friends and one-on-one time with a loving volunteer. It is an awesome afternoon for everyone involved!

But the best part is the talent show. During our first Fun & Freedom event in October 2015, participants flooded the stage to show off their talents. One young man stood up and recited the Lord’s Prayer. His volunteer was shocked, as he had only said a few words all day! Another stood up and sang a beautiful song about Jesus, as he signed every word. Others did special dance moves or “gymnastics”. No talent was too small, and every single participant left the stage with a huge grin! It was truly magical. As I often do in my line of work, I found myself thinking “This is a little taste of heaven.” If only every church would open their arms and get that same glimpse into eternity.

Victory Flows has been doing these events for years all around the Metroplex, but their largest turn-out ever was the first event at IBC in October 2015. We are expecting another large group, and are so excited to see what God has in store. Come join the fun – you won’t regret it.

If you know a family that would like to participate, or if you would like to volunteer, please contact Shannon Miller, or register hereAbsolutely no experience necessary to volunteer, and all ages are welcome! We need lots of buddies, and a group to serve lunch to our parents.

To learn more about Victory Flows, and the Fun & Freedom events, check out victoryflows.org

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