The Sunday Morning Dilemma

By Mary Tutterow
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Adam Record
By remaining in community, those of us with kids who have special needs can inspire others.

One Sunday morning, I came downstairs, collected my Bible, purse and keys, and left for church . . . alone. This wasn’t my idea of a perfect Sunday morning, but I just felt too tired to drag my family to church with me.

Caring for my 19-year-old daughter, Mary Addison, who has special needs, takes a lot of effort. She is mentally and physically challenged and has an active seizure disorder. Feeding, dressing, bathing and medicating her each morning is a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong — life with Mary Addison has been a marvelous blessing to our family. Her innocence and joy have enlightened us. Her courage and perseverance have inspired us. Her weakness and dependence have taught us how to love each other with deep, sacrificial love.


But, how many times have we gone to the effort of preparing for church, only to be called out of the service because Mary Addison is having a problem (or the Sunday school teacher is having a problem with Mary Addison)? It’s exhausting and, sometimes, embarrassing.

So, why fight it? Quite frankly, I was glad to go to church alone that Sunday morning.

As the greeter handed me a program, he asked, “Where’s Mary Addison?”

“She’s at home taking it easy,” I said.

“I hope she’s feeling OK. You know I love that kid. Seeing her each Sunday makes my week.”

“I’ll tell her you said so.”

Part of the body

The lights dimmed, and the music began. The song spoke of God being drawn to weakness and humility and loving those who are broken. Tears flowed as the words penetrated my heart. It was the perfect segue into the pastor’s message from 1 Corinthians. He talked about how we all have different gifts and how all the parts of the body are necessary, but the weakest parts are the most important.

As we filed out, I noticed one man waiting to speak to me. I had seen his face before but didn’t know his name.

He introduced himself and said, “After today’s sermon, I just had to tell you what your family means to me. I watch you, and I can only imagine how hard it must be. Sometimes, when things get hard for me, I think of you. I think of Mary Addison and, well . . . ” He choked up. We embraced.


Those of us who have children with special needs can use a reminder that our entire family is essential to the faith community. The extra effort it takes to participate is worth it. And by remaining in community, we can receive encouragement and affirmation — and even inspire those around us.

Ways to Connect

Here are some ideas to help you more fully participate in your faith community if you have a child with special needs.

Meet with your pastor or family ministry director.

Help him understand your child’s particular challenges, needs, personality and abilities. Share information on organizations that can assist the church with program development and accessibility issues. One excellent resource is

Arrange for reserved seating

Knowing that you will have access to convenient seating arrangements when you arrive can relieve stress on your family. It may also help those willing to assist during the service to know where to sit.

Seek involvement from youth ministry

Young people are usually thrilled to be included in meeting a need. Responsible teens make excellent “buddies” for kids with special needs.

Connect with other caregivers

Find out whether your church offers Bible studies or support groups that focus on topics relevant to caring for children with special needs. Receiving support from others who understand your circumstances will remind you that you’re not alone.

Allow your family to be profiled in church communications

Churches often feature families and exceptional individuals in newsletters or on websites. Give others the opportunity to grow from and understand your experiences as they get to know your family.

Copyright © 2012 by Mary Tutterow. Used by permission.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.