Over 15% of children in the United States live with special needs. These amazing children are in our schools, families, neighborhoods, and churches. We can grow in our understanding about their unique needs and learn how to love them well.
One of our very own ministry wives, Susie Melnick, has a wonderful daughter with special needs. Susie shares with us this week about how her and husband, Mike, have journeyed with their daughter and how the church can better serve those in similar situations. Thank you, Susie, for sharing with us.
An Unexpected Journey ~ Raising a church and child with special needs.
Written by Susie Melnick
Brooklyn was 9 months old when we got the long-awaited call from the geneticist. I remember the day so clearly, because it was also my oldest daughter’s very first day of kindergarten. Life is like that, isn’t it? Layered with joy, wonder, new experiences, disappointment, and loss – all in one breath. On that day as we celebrated with our 5-year-old and her new accomplishments, we also mourned as we discovered our third and youngest little girl would be forever impacted by a disease that, up until that moment, we had never heard of.
HOW DO YOU COPE IN MINISTRY WHILE RAISING A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS?
We don’t claim to be experts, but here are a few things my husband and I have learned over the past ten years.
way to do that! Brooklyn is non-verbal, so we encourage lots of high fives. Sometimes she returns them and sometimes she doesn’t, but it gives our church a way to interact with her in a meaningful way.
Over the years, Brooklyn has attended church:
For us personally, in this season, Brooklyns’ needs are too challenging for a volunteer to handle. So, she either stays home with a paid caregiver, or comes to church with her caregiver. Brooklyn is 100% my ministry and my life during the week. For the few hours we are at church, these creative options allow us to focus on the task at hand. This might not be the case for you but be free to find creative solutions for the season you are in with your family and church. Remember your family is important, AND your church is important. I believe God will give you the wisdom to balance both, if that’s what you are called to!
If you need a listening ear and don’t know who to turn to, I will return every text, phone call, or email I receive at firstname.lastname@example.org, 765-430-6095. You are not alone!
Conversations with a Colleague.... The Retirement Journey by Elsa Siriano
How do we retire from serving the Lord who has called us into ministry?
After 45 years pastoring churches in New England and New York state, we shut the church door and drove away.
It is easy to feel forgotten when we retire.
The hard part is NOT being the pastor’s wife, not having the fellowship, not involved in the women’s ministries, the day-to-day operations of the church, or having friends in the church, OUR church.
We now attend Faith Church, in Rochester, NY, where our daughter and son-in-law, Darla and Steve Edlin pastor. In the past I was introduced as “This is our Pastor David’s wife.” Now it’s “This is Pastor Darla’s mother.” Sometimes it’s an honor and sometimes I wish simply to be known by my name- Elsa. I learned to spell it as a child when everyone called me Elsie. It irritated me then that people got it wrong. Yet it’s in those times I remember: My name is written in God’s Book of Life. He knows my name and all that it holds. He also knows my whole journey and where I’m at now.
So with the feelings of loss in our ministry role, how can we manage the transitions toward retirement?
Use the talents/giftings the Lord has given you - For the past 14 years, my husband, David, and I have traveled a new journey.
So, in retirement, continue to use those talents the Lord gave you. They will look differently than the church setting, yet this new season brings new opportunities.
Leave a legacy - I admonish women to be busy blessing others. I give a neighbor family pasta sauce when I make it once a month. Find creative ways to share God’s love. The world still needs a Savior, and YOU may be the one to share that word of encouragement or act of love with them in their day.
Be an intercessor – During our busy days of practical ministry needs being met, we didn’t always have time for deep intercession. This is a great time in our lives to be intercessors. We have time to pray and encourage those in need.
Don’t be the old person that is grumpy and complains about the food, about the new songs in church, or about how the young people dress. Remember all that God has brought you through and the lessons you learned.
Next up in our Journey series we are considering hospitality --- inviting others into our journey and what that can look like.
A large looming question many ministry women have is “Should a Pastor invite parishioners over to their home?”
I was asked that question while on a women’s ministry panel.
My 30 second response time brought out the quick answer of “Absolutely!”
Which in hindsight was possibly very discouraging to the one who asked the question.
My quick answer possibly annihilated and set her precious heart even more on edge with a sense of obligation and dread in having to open her home. And in that way, my heart hurts for her.
If I could roll back the clock and answer that question again my answer would be softer, kinder and more grace filled.
If I could sit down with that sweet friend over a cup of coffee I would listen better and hear her story.
I understand not everyone is ready to open up their home and let others in. I get that.
Our homes are a vulnerable part of us. It’s where we’re real. It’s where we throw our socks down and pile dirty dishes in the sink. This is where others see the me, we and us of our family. It can be scary and intimidating to open up our homes and invite others in.
My hubby and I have lived with our home doors pretty open. This hasn’t come without judgement, criticism and even sometimes unkind words thrown in our direction. So, I understand where fear of opening up can be scary. On the flip side, we have many wonderful experiences of friendship, laughter and deep relationship building because we opened our doors to others.
Here’s what I’ve learned from practicing hospitality.
1. No need for perfection– Two things happen when we strive for this standard.
2. Serve a family favorite meal. – This I have learned the hard way. I’ve tried new recipes out on guests, and they’ve flopped. I’ve tried to impress, and it doesn’t bode well for me. So instead, I stick with the tried and true. I prepare food my family loves and have prepared often. I’m comfortable in making it and I know my family will eat it!
3. Opening our home opens a door of conversation – Our homes invite others to see what’s important to us.
If the only time people in our congregations see us is on Sunday mornings, they get a false impression of how we live. They see us only in our dressed-up Sunday smiles with our handshake/hug greetings. Opening our home invites others to see us in our living space, they see a bit of our real life and how we live.
In ministry, we are called to journey with others through life. We live through job losses and transitions, weddings and divorce, baby beginnings and saying good-bye to loved ones. It’s a journey of life together.
Yet it’s hard to journey with others if we only travel together on Sunday mornings.
We can preach how to live on Sunday mornings but when we invite them into our homes, we’re showing how to live Jesus in our everyday lives.
My home is where I live real with my kids… live real with my spouse and live real with socks on the floor and food on the table.
This is how our lives show Jesus in our everyday world.
Opening our homes to others is about sharing time with them in the living room of our lives. Our feet rest casually on the coffee table, and we share stories and thoughts without interruption from a waitress or the noise of the restaurant. We simply enjoy the company of others and share our lives together.
As Pastors are we required to have parishioners in our home? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Do I think it’s a great way of inviting others in and living real with those we journey alongside? ABSOLUTELY!
We’re not called to live in a perfect house or be a perfect hostess. Instead, we invite others to live real with us as we journey life together.
Questions to consider:
I’ve always considered summer to be a natural and perfect time for rejuvenating the body, mind, and soul. The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and the schedules have potential for quieter days.
It’s the perfect time to consider some creative and even low-budget ways to spend those moments in rejuvenating your journey.
Need a place to get away but don’t have a lot of time or resources? Have you considered our Network’s Retreat Center?
As a credential holder of the NY Ministry Network, you get one FREE night a year at our retreat center ~ The HILLS of Windsor.
Need more ideas?
One of my favorite things about ministry life is the journey. My husband, Dave, and I often say, "We are meant to do life together." God created us for relationship.
A blessing of being pastors at our church for the last 19 years is the journey we have been able to experience with others.
After just a few months at our church, a young couple married. A few years later, we celebrated with them as their first son was born. Over the last 19 years, we have gone on family vacations together and my kids call this family, their family. We have journeyed with them through some fantastic days along with some rough days. We are stronger and better for those times together.
It's a blessing to journey with people. The journey holds opportunities to grow together and participate in what God is doing in their lives and ours.
Not everyone has stories like this. Not all of our relationships with parishioners will turn into lifelong friendships. In fact, few do.
Many of us have ministry journeys filled with rough roads and heartbreaking stories. We are in different seasons and on different highways, yet the faithfulness of God travels with us on all roads and in all seasons.
"I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken..." (Psalm 37:25)
At the beginning of this new month and the beginning of these amazing summer days, we will be diving deeper into our most current Encourager publication, sharing posts about our journey together. Join us in the upcoming weeks for tips on rejuvenating our journey, preparing financially for our journey, sharing in the retirement journey, and preparing our church for ministering to families and children with special needs.
Looking forward to having you join us!
Praying blessing on your days and our summer journey together.
~~ Rachel Q