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Be like the Good Shepherd: go after the 1

We should do all we can to bring children and young people with additional needs into God’s presence and to rejoice with them when they make little steps of faith.

THE ADDITIONAL NEEDS BLOGFATHER AUTOR 242/Mark_Arnold 17 DE NOVIEMBRE DE 2023 10:14 h
Photo: [link]Kelly Sikkema,[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Sometimes I get asked why we should make the effort to reach out to children and young people with additional needs, when this sometimes means we have to balance their needs against the needs of the rest of the group.



I always say the same thing… Jesus told us to go after the 1.



In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus told the story of a shepherd leaving 99 sheep behind, to go and find the one sheep that was lost. Here’s the parable from Luke’s Gospel, taken from the New Living Translation:



“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’”  Luke 15:4-7



This parable can be used in many ways; Jesus uses it to explain how heaven rejoices over one ‘sinful’ person who repents and comes to faith, more than for 99 ‘good’ people who have never strayed.



I like to think it can represent some children and young people with additional needs too.



Children and young people with additional needs can be marginalised, on the edges, overlooked and ‘lost’ to the rest of the church sometimes.



They can sometimes even be sent away and excluded by the very people who should love them and care for them, their children’s and youth leaders.



I’ve heard harrowing stories of children with additional needs being told not to come back next week, or their parents told “this is not a special needs church”. I’ve even heard of children being excluded because “they might be a health and safety risk”… heartbreaking.



But Jesus said to go after the 1.



 



Value them



The Good Shepherd had to value the one sheep that had wandered off. In a way he had to value the 1 more than the 99, because he left the 99 for a while to go and search for the 1.



Too often, children and young people with additional needs are looked down on as the least important, of little value, including in our churches. We need to value them, prioritise them, love them as Jesus does.



Jesus said to go after the 1.



 



It took time and effort



The Good Shepherd had to search, to scour the wilderness looking for the 1. We need to invest the time and effort needed to reach the children and young people we are journeying with.



We can’t expect them to adapt, to change, to find the way themselves; the sheep in the story needed the Good Shepherd to find it where it was and bring it home.



Children and young people with additional needs need their leaders to do that too.



Jesus said to go after the 1.



 



Rejoice in them, and with them



The Good Shepherd brought the lost sheep back home and rejoiced because it had been saved.



All too frequently, we don’t think about the spiritual welfare of children with additional needs, their time in our groups becomes simply child-minding.



But heaven rejoices for each person who is saved, and we should do all we can to bring children and young people with additional needs into God’s presence, to show them their spiritual home, and to rejoice with them when they make little steps of faith.



Remember to be alert to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and how they might respond in small ways to these promptings.



Jesus said to go after the 1.



So, when someone next says that reaching out to children and young people with additional needs is too much work, or means that the rest of the group may get less attention, or that children and young people with additional needs can’t respond to God, remember the story of the Good Shepherd.



Sometimes we have to leave the 99 behind to go after the 1, and when we find them, and bring them home, the party in heaven will be spectacular!



Q. Who is the 1 to you? How will you go after them?



Q. What needs to change in you so that you value the 1 more?



Q. What do you need to do differently in your group to include the 1?



Q. How will you bring the 1 into God’s presence, and rejoice in them and with them?



Jesus said to go after the 1… Will you?



Mark Arnold, Director of Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints. Arnold blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. This article was re-published with permission.


 

 


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