As parents and caregivers, we want to help our children eliminate fear and misconceptions about those who have special needs and emphasize the fact that every person deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. We should encourage children to ask questions and gain an understanding about their new friends with disabilities. We believe an open dialogue can help children replace harsh words and cold stares with honest questions and empathy.
We believe these four conversations are a good place to start.
1. Teach your children that regardless of our abilities, we were each created by God with special value and gifts to share within our churches.
In 1 Corinthians 12:20–23, the apostle Paul compared believers to the parts of a body that need each other to function properly. Paul summarized this message again in Romans. Review these verses to help your children appreciate their own uniqueness and see God’s plan to use every person’s gifts within their church family. We tend to recognize those who can sing, or preach, or serve in a high-profile position, but no act of service is “too big or too small.”
“Each of us has one body with many parts. And the parts do not all have the same purpose. So also we are many persons. But in Christ we are one body. And each part of the body belongs to all the other parts. We all have gifts.” Romans 12:4–6
2. Teach your children what the Bible says about God creating disability.
In the Old Testament we see that Moses had a disability. He was unable to speak clearly and may have stuttered. Because of his speech impairment, Moses didn’t feel confident that God could use him to help free the Israelites from Pharaoh. But God make it clear that he is our Creator and he would use Moses for his divine purpose.
“The Lord said to him, “Who makes human beings able to talk? Who makes them unable to hear or speak? Who makes them able to see? Who makes them blind? It is I, the Lord.” Exodus 4:11
3. Teach your child about how Jesus responded to those with disabilities.
In Luke 14:21–23, Jesus teaches that we are to intentionally include people affected by disability in our lives. He showed great compassion for their pain and struggles, and throughout Scripture we see him healing people with disabilities.
Matthew 9:35 says that as Jesus went through the towns and villages teaching and preaching, he also healed many people.
In John 9:1–7 Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth. He tells his disciples that the man’s disability was part of God’s plan because his healing displayed God’s amazing power.
4. Teach your child about how to be a friend to someone with a disability.
In biblical times many people saw disability as a curse or a result of sin. Sadly, many people still have wrong beliefs about disability today. You can help your child see that Jesus wants us to love each other as God loves us. We can express love through friendship by not using words that are hurtful or not excluding people with disabilities.
In Mark 2:1–12 Jesus healed a man who couldn’t walk. The man’s friends carried him on a stretcher to seek help from Jesus. They even tore a hole in the roof of the building and lowered their friend down. Jesus praised their faith and efforts on behalf of their friend.
On the Joni and Friends website, Kids’ Corner is Joni’s special spot where children can learn how to be a better friend to someone with a disability. It’s also a place where parents, teachers, and church leaders have access to free resources which help kids learn, grow, and serve. Both children and adults can learn about inspiring service projects, discover fun activities, and watch insightful videos, all to encourage relationships with those affected by disability.
Excerpted from God Made Me Unique: Helping Children See Value in Every Person ©2019 by Joni and Friends. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
God Made Me Unique
God Made Me Unique, a beautifully illustrated picture book, helps parents and caregivers teach children that God creates every person in the image of God and each individual has tremendous value, regardless of his or her appearance or abilities.