Defying The Odds

jul 22, 2018

According to a recent national study published in June 2018 and reported on in Christianity Today, children with certain special needs are more likely to never attend services at religious communities across America. When compared to children with no chronic health conditions, the odds of not attending — much less participating — were higher for children with certain such conditions:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder — 1.84 times more likely to never attend
  • Depression and anxiety — 1.73 times more likely to never attend
  • Conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder — 1.48 times more likely to never attend
  • Developmental delay or learning disability — 1.36 times more likely to never attend
  • ADD/ADHD — 1.19 times more likely to never attend

Houston's First is intentional about defying these odds, making sure that families with loved ones who have special needs not only attend church but also participate and thrive at our church. Our Thru the Roof Special Needs Ministry at The Loop Campus is living out this desire to serve families looking for a place where the entire family can grow in their faith.

"Most of the new families who come to Thru The Roof tell stories about their home church simply not being able — or willing — to meet their needs," says Daniel Williams, Director of Special Needs at Houston's First. "Some of those churches have a heart for these families and were at least willing to try to accommodate them. But sadly, many families are simply told there is no place for them and are often asked to leave."

At The Loop Campus, a dedicated suite for Thur the Roof opened several years ago designed specifically with special needs children and adults in mind. Now, thanks to a generous donation, the suite is expanding into adjoining space and building off the strengths of the existing facility.

"This donation allows us to increase our footprint and expand both our classroom for medically-fragile members and our sensory room," Daniel explained. "Beyond that, we’re creating a more sensory-friendly experience throughout our suite by going to softer lighting, cooler colors, the addition of a sound system where each classroom can be independently controlled to meet their specific needs, and the addition of essential oil diffusers."

Daniel says that these factors will have a significant impact on the ability of special needs children and adults to feel calm, control their behaviors, and to enjoy coming to church.

Thru the Roof has always been about ministering to the entire family, not just those with special needs. "We are also including a gathering area for parents to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and connect with other special needs parents — an opportunity that many of them rarely have during the week."

The expanded and renovated space is just one of the exciting developments underway in the Thru the Roof ministry. In the coming months, special needs families can expect to find the following at The Loop Campus:

  • An additional Life Bible Study for boys with special needs
  • Thru the Roof Life Bible Studies on Sunday evenings for families wishing to attend the 5p worship service
  • The launch of "Raise The Roof" — a special needs worship hour for teenagers
  • A new Life Bible Study for parents of special needs children

To make all of this possible, Thru the Roof relies extensively on a team of dedicated and trained volunteers who serve on a regular basis. "We are building a community of special needs friends, parents, and typical siblings who love and support one another," Daniel says. "That community also includes our staff, adult volunteers, and our “Buddies” — the typical peers who connect with our kids like we adults never could. It’s a place where everyone is welcome and every member of the body of Christ is a valued part.."

When families decide to see what Houston's First has to offer their loved ones, Daniel says that he tells every new parent three things. "First, I tell them they will be safe — physically, emotionally and socially. Second, I tell them we will accept them just exactly as they are. They should free to be themselves and be authentic at church. We all have our challenges! Finally, I tell them their entire family will be unconditionally loved. They are all welcome in our church."

Next Steps

Daniel WilliamsVisit the Thru the Roof page to learn more about this thriving ministry, and be sure to follow them on Facebook.

If you have a loved one with special needs and you want to introduce them to Thru the Roof, complete our Guest Registration Form before you visit. That will help us plan for a great first experience for you and your loved one!

Finally, feel free to contact Daniel Willams with any questions you might have. Email him at Daniel.Williams@HoustonsFirst.org or give him a call at 713.957.7624.

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