The holidays present families with many opportunities to share the love of Christ. It’s a wonderful experience when a family can serve together, ministering to others in ways that are personal and meaningful. Some families make arrangements to minister together and enjoy fellowship as they seek to bless others. Having a child with special needs presents challenges for participation in some activities, but with a little advanced planning it can be done.
When a child has health issues, it may be difficult to commit to scheduled ministry opportunities. It is not always advisable to go out in inclement weather, and a child with asthma may not do well in cold weather. A child with a weak immune system may become ill too easily to risk exposure to many people. Even the presence of a new baby can make the thought of packing everyone up to pursue a ministry opportunity a bit overwhelming.
If this has you nodding your head or mentally adding your own list of hurdles to the ones I have mentioned, let me get you thinking in another direction. There are ways you can enjoy fellowship and bless others right from your own home. During this holiday season, your family might be better suited to invite other families to your home to engage in a ministry activity. One simple but much appreciated gift to others is to bless those in nursing homes, hospitals, or the military with notes and cards. Provide a stack of cards and blank postcards along with crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Adults and children can work on cards together, praying for the future recipients. Children who are not able to write could draw pictures or use rubber stamps to decorate the cards and envelopes. Some children could put the cards into envelopes and put postage stamps in place. Sing a few carols together and you may have the start of a new holiday tradition for your family.
Children can bless their own families by writing the addresses on the Christmas card envelopes. Besides helping to get the task done they will be practicing penmanship, learning how to address envelopes properly, and working on language arts as they apply rules for capital letters. Another child can apply the postage stamps, or sign the cards for the family. And yes, I’d count that as “school”!
For those who are able to venture out, look for volunteer opportunities that will allow everyone in your family to actively participate. My family has volunteered several times with the Salvation Army Operation Christmas Cheer. Since this program has a variety of jobs we were able to match up our children with a task appropriate for their ages as well as their personalities and special needs. My daughters each had a designated food item to hand to families as they passed by our line. Both of them were busy but not so pressured that they couldn’t smile and say “Merry Christmas” to those they served. They were right next to me so I could provide support as needed.
My son, Josh, loves to help others but has AD/HD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in addition to sensory processing challenges that made the noise level in the warehouse setting adverse for him after a few minutes. He and his Dad took on the job of helping people by pushing carts or carrying boxes out and loading them into cars. They could talk to and sometimes pray for the individuals they were assisting. Josh’s hyperactivity and willingness to work were actually applauded and Josh felt affirmed as he served others.
If your child has a wheelchair or other equipment it can be tough to navigate in some settings. Visiting a hospital or nursing home to deliver cards or sing carols is a great way for a physically challenged child to minister along with his or her family. Nursing home and hospital staff are used to medical equipment and these areas are disability accessible. When my family visited a nursing home, I saw tenderness revealed in Josh as he held an elderly man’s hand and helped him walk slowly back to his room. My hyperactive son was patient and attentive in ways I hadn’t seen in other settings. The blessings flowed across generations in that situation.
It may take creative thinking and problem solving, but there are many that families with special needs children can bless others in special ways during the holidays. Whether your family thrives on excitement or prefers to have a more low key atmosphere, you will be blessed as you allow the Lord to use you to bless others.