I spoke at a Christian women’s conference last weekend. There were more than 600 women in attendance and as statistics would suggest, there were several women who parent kids with disabilities. We connected, we shared, we laughed, we cried together.
Every time I attend a women’s conference I walk away thinking, “There should be a workshop in all women’s conferences designed for mothers of kids with disabilities.” I suggested it once to the planning committee of the Women’s Conference in our former district, they said, “Thank you for the offer to speak at our conference, but at this point we do not think there is a need or an audience for that.” I was disappointed and quite honestly angry by their response. To me, it showed how ignorant the church still is when it comes to issues surrounding disability. It also reflects we are not even in their radar.
In my experience, mothers of kids with disabilities are desperate for events where they are spiritually fed in ways that apply directly to the challenges and intricacies of their life. And you know what is available to them? Very little. Often nothing.
Through Rising Above Ministries and Snappin’ Ministries I have participated in a couple of Mother’s Retreats designed for moms of children with disabilities. These retreats are geared specifically for them. It is an opportunity for moms to fill up, rest, and connect.
However, I wonder why it takes a separate event and a specialized ministry to consider and provide for the spiritual needs of moms of kids with disabilities.
When women’s conferences are planned, and workshops organized, why does “saving with coupons,” “fashion” or “creating delicious coffee drinks” take precedence over a workshop designed for moms of kids with disabilities? How can that be considered a greater need?
Or, what about a workshop that addresses mental illness? Because Christian women have mental health issues, too. Yet nobody is talking about it. It stays taboo. And studies suggest parents of kids with disabilities are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues.
What about having a workshop that helps parents of kids with disabilities handle chronic grief, an ongoing crisis, trusting in God in the midst of trials? Because these topics would benefit other people, too.
This I believe: if women’s conferences make it a priority to reach out to moms of children with disabilities, if they create workshops specifically for their needs, there will be a large number of women signing up. Women who would typically not make the effort to go because finding care for their medically fragile child is hard. Women who would typically find it exhausting to spend a day at a conference and would rather stay home and sleep-in (if it is even a possibility). Women who, perhaps, feel these conferences are not for them.
If you wonder if this is a need, it is.
If you wonder if there is an audience for this, there is.
I dream of a day when attending a women’s conference means there is an opportunity for mothers who parents kids with high needs to belong. A place where they can connect with other Christian women face-to-face. These face-to-face interactions are life giving, important and so needed! Many of us have to find these connections online, and we are desperate to connect face-to-face. We want to be a part of worship, of prayer, of love. And sometimes we especially need compassion.
So, if you are in charge of planning a women’s conference for your church, denomination or organization, please remember the mothers of kids with disabilities. Let your planning be the message that says, “You matter to us.”