Are kids with disabilities more welcome at the Cavs' victory parade than at church?

The last seven days have felt like the best week ever for many in our home region of Northeast Ohio. Our Cleveland Cavaliers completed an epic comeback in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors to win the first major championship for a Cleveland team in 52 years. Given our city's history of soul-crushing disappointment in athletic endeavors - the subject of an ESPN movie - the celebration by three generations of Clevelanders of the end of "the curse" was truly one for the ages. An estimated 1.3 million people (including your author) descended upon the city last morning for what was for most of us a once in a lifetime victory parade.

One moment in the midst of the victory parade received much attention in our regional media. A nine year old boy using walking crutches as a result of spina bifida was attending the parade with his father and brothers when he was spotted in the crowd by one of the Cavs' most "colorful" players - J.R. Smith...

J.R. has a long and storied history of challenges with self-control. This interview with J.R.'s daughter on SportsCenter pretty much sums it up...

"I'm just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team"

The victory parade last Wednesday wasn't the first time that J.R. has used his celebrity to bring focus and attention to persons with special needs. Here's a video describing J.R.'s relationship with Brad Hennefer, 2014 Special Olympics gold medalist golfer and inspiration for the Golf for Life Foundation...

I had staked out a spot at the beginning of the parade route and made my way home to see the last hour or so of coverage on TV. I found myself pondering the similarities and differences between the worship of the team that ended our long championship drought and the worship our family experiences at church nearly every Sunday. It's a little disconcerting to realize that a far higher percentage of Northeast Ohioans were at that parade Wednesday morning than were at church this past Sunday. It's safe to say that the enthusiasm of the crowd at the parade was considerably higher than that of the typical churchgoer this past Sunday.

On the other hand, I found myself thinking that on any given Sunday, most churches wouldn't use the opportunity of their worship celebrations to intentionally welcome kids with disabilities and their families or to publicly acknowledge their value. J.R. Smith thought to do that for a boy with spina bifida on one of the biggest days of his life. Is it wrong to expect the same from our churches?


If your church is intentional in offering ministry to welcome and including families impacted by disability, we’d very much like to connect and and include your church as a resource to families from your area who connect with us through our website, blogs and Facebook communities. Tell us a little more about your church and and the ministry you offer if you’re interested in partnering with us in welcoming families impacted by disability seeking to connect with a local church. To learn more, click here.